Letter to Lucy

Darling Lucy,

How are you? Hope you are feeling better! I am missing you a lot! It has been two long days since you left us. I did n’t expect you to leave so suddenly when I was not home. Your absence is so strong, palpable in the air around me. At the same time I didn’t want you to suffer so much. I understand that you were having such a terrible time in breathing. You felt so in restless that you ran from the front door to the back door and to the front door again. Do you remember that? It was Thursday, March 29th when Lasu dropped his dog Milton here with us. I bet you were thrilled to see him around. That afternoon you even eat a little food from his bowl. Everyday, I used to give the same food to both of you,but you thought that Milton’s food was more special than yours. You are silly! It is the opposite. I used to sneak a piece of chapati, spoonful of Basmati rice into your food bowl, so that you will finish your food without any fuss. I am not sure what happened that night. I noticed you ran towards the front door and then to the back door. Dad thought you wanted to go for a walk and I opened the front door and called you to follow me without the leash. You leaped forward,sniffing the whole front lawn eagerly, but decided to come back inside and followed me to the kitchen. It felt like your heart had jumped through a hundred hoops.Your eyes were begging for something and maybe I did not understand properly. I gave you two pieces of the lemon bread and you ate them all,you licked the bowl clean and even licked the floor. Did you really like the bread or wanted to  make me happy?    

Hope you are having fun- enjoying your time in taking longer naps, smelling beautiful flowers and walking around. I have read in books that heaven is the most blissful place. I would love to know how you are passing your time. You are always shy at strangers at first but slowly warmed up to them. Make more friends and enjoy each bit.

 It is hard to come home without you following me around, dozing at my feet while I was reading a book or watching Netflix. Yesterday I warmed up two rotis for you and some steamed broccoli. I sat at the dinner table and pretended that you were standing there very close to the chair and begging for food without blinking your eyes. In the night I woke up three times to check on you; to make sure if you are breathing fine or if you want to go out. You were in deep sleep on your navy bed with two white pillows at both sides. You enjoyed leaning your head on the pillows. I did not hear your click-clock sound on the floor so I went back to sleep. But it is not that easy! I can still feel your presence. I assumed you were standing besides my bed and staring at my face. Your beautiful eyes with long white,expressive eyelashes. You knew very well how to tell a story through your eyes. That must be a god-given quality of yours!I  I am confident that you are an angel in the form of a dog.

You always wanted to go on a long drive like Milton does with Lasu. In the middle of March, during my Spring break, you were not feeling well; had a cough and lost your appetite. Dad was thinking of leaving you with Chad for a few days until we return from a trip. This is Covid time so we couldn’t fly, so I thought you may enjoy the ride with us rather than staying back here in Kingwood. A car ride! You came to the car wagging your long bushy tail and with a buzz of excitement. It made me excited, too.Three of us in our Toyota Rava left for Zion National park. It was a pretty long drive but we stopped time to time to help you in eating food and water. While I was driving, I noticed how occasionally, you lifted yourself from your dog bed, leaned on the back window and watched the scenery passing by. You stuck your nose out the window, drinking in the smells that rushed pass.Remember how windy it was while driving through the national forest and you wanted to drink water. We stopped the car on the roadside and opened the trunk to help you. I gave you a few pieces of the potato fry and insisted you to eat your medicine. You were so stubborn to eat the medicine that I had to wrap the medicine in a piece of bread to help you swallow it. It was not that bad. Was it? I bet you didn’t know that you eat the medicine. You looked outside and was surprised when the whole bag of fry flew out from my hand and the bag rolled over towards the other side of the road. You didn’t know that it was the wind and you thought I threw it. Right? We started driving. You sat there and watched the magnificent desert sunset with us.The sky was tinged with color, a motley jumble of pink, purple and yellow streaks that bore down from the west. It was so pretty!You lifted your head. A moment later, as if the two actions were secretly connected, a shaft of light came slanting through the clouds. It struck the sidewalk an inch or two from your right paw, and then almost immediately, another beam landed just to your left paw. As you turned your head towards me, a great bucketful of light poured down on your face, crashing against your eyelids. You blinked and I laughed. “It’s okay Lucy, go back to your sleep.” You lowered your head. As it got dark, you took a nap. I could tell you were weak and tired-too tired to finish your food. We were a little relaxed to see you enjoying all the food like lemon bread, pound cake, cheerios in warm milk. I was so grateful to you for giving us the company and your love.

We will be always grateful to you in bringing joy to our hearts. You reminded us to slow down and enjoy life around us and taught us to be calm.Every thought, every memory, every particle of the air and earth is saturated with your presence. In the morning when I eat the oatmeal I look around, expecting you to appear in front of me and beg for a spoonful of oatmeal. You always appear at the door when I leave for work and when I return and now I am looking all over for you. Fifteen years is a long time and you have given us so much happiness and love! Today I am wishing you all the best and praying for you to have a smooth transition to your next life. If you see us anywhere then please give us a hint or run towards us and give us a tight hug.I will even welcome you in my dream.

Until we meet again- bye for now

Yours loving


Haikus during my last drive with Lucy

“A long drive

She watches the scenery drive by

Beautiful national forest”

“ Cotton puff clouds

Dancing sunlight on the tips of the mountains

Her eyes at beautiful Zion”

“Vermillion cliff

Dazzles in sunlight in a stretch

Watching together”

Haiku after Lucy passed away

“A lonely home

My eyes search for her everywhere

Now she has wings”


A recent Photograph

“ Can you feel it mom?”

“ Yes, sweet heart, I can feel your hug. Thank you beta.”

“ I will call you again at the end of next week. And mom, please make sure not to go outside.Not even to uncle’s house. Instead, call all our relatives and talk to them on the phone. We have so many family members that a month will not be enough!” Anika says.

“ Read some magazines or reread some of your favorite books. Okay mom, bye, take care.”

“ I will.Bye beta,take care.”

Anika logs out from her Zoom call and closes her laptop. As the corona virus made its rapid advance across the country, forced sweeping closure of schools, workplace and businesses with millions of people self-quarantine, Zoom has become a way of life.Anika had a plan to visit her mother in May, but now there is no hope to travel anywhere and God knows when. She pushes her chair back to stand up.


Her daughter Sinchan stands at the door holding her coloring book. “ Are you going back to work tomorrow?”

Anika hugs her daughter. “ No, I will work from home. And you can play in my room. How come you are not in bed?”

“ I should color one more page before I sleep.” She replies sitting on the floor. “ Yesterday dad told me that coloring relaxes your brain and helps you to fall asleep.So you should color with me to take away your stress from work.”

Anika chuckles pulling her daughter closer. She doesn’t want to miss this opportunity to spend time with her daughter. Bonding is good! Who knows what will happen in this pandemic time! ““come! Let’s color together.” Sinchan opens her coloring book and the box of crayons. 

Next morning, Sinchan wakes up early. She has not seen her friends for a long long time! She counts with her fingers and nods. “It is a very long, long, trillion years! Yep, that is correct.” She walks into their living room and pulls a chair close to the front window. She climbs on a chair and opens the blind to check if any of her friends are there on the street. She finds a few cars parked outside. One black cat is crossing the road with her tail straight up in the air as a flag pole. Sinchan glances to the front yard of their neighbor. The old lady of the house is calling her dog Shi to come inside. Sinchan laughs as she watches Shi running around in the yard and tries to hide in the tall grass in her lawn. Shi does not want to go inside! “ I wish to play with Shi. Mom will not let me go anywhere except to walk with her on the trail. Then we have to wire the mask covering half of our face. I don’t  like it at all!” But her mom tells her dad that the face mask is like a special bar of gold and they laugh. Sinchan walks away from them. Suddenly, Sinchan’s eyes fall on a fat brown squirrel in her front yard. It is running down from the tree with two nuts in its mouth and stops at the middle and then runs faster. Sinchan tries to trace the squirrel. Her face is pressed flat on the glass of the window. “ Where did it go?” She could not find the squirrel and nor any of her friends. She climbs down from the chair. 

Sinchan decides to play with her imaginary friend Reema, a chimpanzee.She walks into her room and there on one side of the bed her friend is still sleeping. “ Good Morning Reema!” Sinchan pulls out the blanket from the top of Reema’s body. “ Wake up! Come,let’s play hide and seek.” Reema pulls the bed cover up to her chin and closes her eyes. 

“ Reema! Come! Let’s go outside and play!” Sinchan shouts. “We have so many nice hiding areas and you will love it!” She begs her friend to play standing at the doorstep.Reema somehow understands her,she stretches her hands up, yawns and slowly sits up on the bed. She climbs down from the bed and rushes to the bathroom to wash her face. Reema slams the door and  runs past Sinchan to their backyard. “ Now we will have tons of fun!” Sinchan follows her friend. Reema runs towards a big tree and hides behind it expecting Sinchan to look for her. Sinchan runs after her, giggling. It lasted for a while until they were bored. So they started a different game- Reema would dip a branch of the tree and Sinchan would jump. If she touches her feet, she wins. They are not keeping score, but are pretty happy.Once Reema gets tired of the game, she wouldn’t come down, only laughed and dropped leaves and twigs on Sinchan. Reema bounces off with her usual feckless joy and signs ‘ chase me’. Reema- she shouts. “ Come, let’s go inside and play something different.”Reema follows her friend.

Inside the house,Sinchan’s mother has almost done with reorganizing her closet. “ Hi, guys did you have lots of fun?” She asks folding a blue dress and arranging it nicely on a hanger.

“ Yes, mom” she replies leaning on to the bed. “ Now we are hungry, hungry like a hippo.”

Her mother laughs. “ Go first wash your hands, change the dress.And remember to count one to twenty while washing your hands.”

“ Mom, my hands will get very dry so I will count up to ten not twenty.” Sinchan says leaving the room.

“It has to be up to twenty dear!” When Sinchan comes out from the bathroom,her dad has switched on the TV to watch the current news. She doesn’t understand why her dad likes to watch the same stuff again and again- stuff on the crazy virus and people protesting on the streets to respect them and treat them equally. She runs to the sofa where her dad is sitting. “ Dad, remember that you watched this last night. Why don’t you watch a story, a happy one?” 

“We need to know what is going on in our city, in our country.” her dad says.

“ But if it is the same stuff going on,then we should watch something different.” Sinchan demands.

Her father switches off the TV,sends a few texts to his brothers and says,

” How about we play Mancala together?” Sinchan claps. “Yeah!”

Briefly Noted

 Today, the air is strikingly clean.The rays of the morning sun fall on the white blooms of the pear trees.Outside in my lawn, squirrels are hopping around on the grass.  l leaned closer to the windowsill to get a better view,-some are looking for food and the others just playing around.In every day of working life, I miss the opportunity to look at nature so frequently. Now I have plenty of time! 

 If I step in to the living room, the news channel that my husband loves watching, is now making me crazy. So I have decided to spend some time recounting the small stack of toilet paper in my bathroom closet. Last time, two weeks back I went to three of the local grocery stores, and all of them were completely out of toilet paper. In one of the stores, which I remember clearly carries its toilet paper and paper towels in aisle number 8. That day that isle was crowded and the shelves were empty.One couple with two small kids had one cart full of twenty four double count of scott toilet paper rolls and another family had six packs of Viva rolls. I stood at one corner of the isle and looked up and down for toilet paper and hoping to get at least one- any brand will work.The isle was crowded and noisy. A few other customers are complaining,arguing and asking not to hoard all but leave some toilet paper rolls for them. One of the angry customers, a tall man with a blue mask on his face, pointed his finger to make it clear and shouted, “It is called sharing!” Another lady pushed her eyeglass up on her nose, lifted her mask, and said, “ Hey,I understand that you have kids, but take three packs and leave a few for us.”  She paced back and forth with frustration and walked back towards the couple and stood in front of their shopping cart. She said, “You know perfectly well that the store may not stock them back for a while. Don’t you know? I need to have one pack.” The couple with the majority of toilet papers in their carts, waved their hand in the air in disagreement and left. Bitter argument, shouting are the last places one should be, so I turned around. I was mad too for not finding any toilet paper,and I picked up some unnecessary, unhealthy items like brownie mix, ingredients to make carrot cake but a few green vegetables to counterfeit the sweets that I will eat for several days of my quarantine. 

 I entered the house with the load of groceries in my hand. As I was washing them and cleaning with clorox wipes,I overheard my husband negotiating airline refund for our international flight to India. We had a plan to take two weeks off in Spring break and visit our families back in India. But now we have to plan for next year. Hopefully this virus will be long gone at that time. After ten minutes of all the cleaning and wiping, I decided to change my clothes and wash my hands for the tenth time. 

It is almost five o’ clock in the evening. I walked into the living room to relax on the couch. If you will look down,you will notice how the beautiful hardwood floor is now full with dog hair.My twelve years old dog Lucy is a mix of German shepherd and boxer and I know perfectly well that she sheds in every spring . But If you are home all the time,then you should clean it. Now that I have washed my hands, I don’t want to touch the vacuum cleaner. I saw that my husband had finished talking with the airline and jolted down something in his notepad. I cleared my throat. “Wow!” Didn’t I vacuum the hair yesterday!” I said. He lowers the volume of the television and stops writing.

 “Yes, what happened?” he asked. I pointed at all  the dog hairs on the floor. “ I vacuumed the floor yesterday!” He smiled calmly and reminded me that it is early Spring, then he said, “ You don’t have to vacuum everyday, and instead just use the broom.” 

“Isn’t it the same thing?” I looked at him to hear his reply, but he had already started typing in his laptop. After vacuuming the whole floor, I washed my hands and decided to take an evening walk. I venture out from isolation, alone for a peek around, filling the stillness with my own narrations on a city’s mood. “It is a beautiful spring day,” said one lady walking with her dog. 

“We’re just not able to really enjoy it.” I smiled, nodded my head as she passed me keeping her distance. After twenty minutes of walk, my eyes fell on the face of a woman in her sixties sitting on a wooden bench talking to her small dog sitting on her lap. She wore plastic gloves and had a scarf wrapped around her face. I stopped a few feet away from her and with a big smile said, “ Hello! You have such a cute dog! Hi!” I waved my have at both of them. She looked at me. “ I’ m so isolated now that I have started spending time talking to my dog.” She cleared her throat. “ Everybody is freaking out. It’s a completely different way of living.” she said.

“I understand, I was so suffocated at home that I decided to take a walk.” I said.

She leaned forward on the bench. “I clean my house, work on the yard, but I miss talking to my friends.” A small smile appeared on her face. “I don’t mind being to myself but mind being forced to be by myself.” She kissed her dog.

“ Do you talk to your friends on the phone?” I asked curiously.

She nodded. “I do, but it is not the same at all. I liked to eavesdrop on people in museums and go to the theatre with friends- and now all gone.”

Her sadness and loneliness touched me and I understood that completely. “ It will pass soon.” I told her in assurance. I waved my hand in the air to say bye and started my walk. As I was walking, the famous poem of Emily Dickinson started playing in my mind. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 

That perches in the soul 

And sings the tune without the words 

And never stops – at all ….”


“Up,” her mother says, pulling on her arm, hard. “Get your rubber boots on.”Ann couldn’t really figure out what is going on, so she stands up and starts to arrange the yellow coverlet on her bed, but her mother shakes her head. “Now,” she says.

Her mother has two rules: don’t leave the room without making your bed and dress before you leave. Today Ann is leaving her room in her pajamas, her bed all tumbled, so she knows that something is not right. Ann glances at her mother’s face to figure out a reason and she could see clearly the two lines on her forehead and lips, a thin line. No smile there, no good morning wish. All she could hear is the sound of the rain. It sounds like a truck is dumping a load of gravel on the roof. It has been raining hard for two days, but nothing like this.

The front door is open, and just outside it is one of the volunteer firemen. There are a couple of inches of water in their front hallway, and to Ann, it looks like the magic carpet in the cartoons, where you can float up and away.

“Hurry up,” her mother says, handing her the boots. And to the fireman, “My friend’s back in the house at the end of the street.”

“She ‘s up in the attic, and when I stuck my head up those stairs she let out a scream. I tried to calm her down but she says she’s not leaving her house,” the fireman replies.

Ann comes and stands in the middle between her mother and the fireman. “Let me try,” she says. “Go ahead,” her mother says, “Be careful, it is water everywhere.” She bends and zips her rain jacket and pulls the hood upon her head, the way she sometimes does when she is heading to the school bus. “It is not safe to stay here,” the firefighter shouts over the sound of the rain.

“We’re fine,” Ann says as she holds her father’s hand and climbs the small flimsy boat in their front lawn to rescue their neighbor. “Just give me a chance to talk to her,” Ann says as they row off into the darkness. “She always listens to me.”

But nothing like that happened. Ann shouts at the top of her lungs to get her neighbor out from her attic but she wouldn’t.  She enters into her front room, the door is not locked and the flood water has started to fill the space. It is a one-story house, and the ladder to the attic is down. She is up there sitting on a stack of two huge suitcases, her legs pulled up under her nightgown. Ann wonders why she has those suitcases. She has never gone anyplace. Maybe she has some important or special stuff inside the suitcases.

“ Just go back down there, Ann,” she says sharply from the half dark and for just a moment she sounded a lot like her mother.

“Come with me. The water’s getting really high.”

“It won’t ever get up here. This is the highest place on the whole farm.” Ann thinks she is almost right about that. “Then I’ll stay here with you,” Ann says.

“We need to get going,” calls the fireman from below.

“You go with them,” she says. “Don’t worry about me. Leave,” she says sternly.

The water is deeper as Ann climbs back into the boat and they sail, like a dream, down their underwater driveways, and onto the water-filled road. It is hard to see much, no lights, no moon. The fireman maneuvered the boat around powerlines that come up suddenly like snakes skittering along the surface and pieces of things, of roofs and fences and strange brown chunks. They float past one of her friend’s barn where the cows are standing and mooing loudly. Ann couldn’t control her sob. “ Let’s help the cows, they are desperate and scared to death,” she begs.

“We will. But first we need to rescue the people, afterward, we’ll come back to rescue the animals.” the fireman says loudly. They stop by another house where Ann’s class teacher Mrs. Quindlen is standing at her front step with her shepherd dog.

After a while, they reach the church and they climb down from the small boat. Her teacher has a plastic bag full of knitting supplies. “ I can’t stand the boredom,” she says. Inside the building, Ann spots almost all her neighbors and they are all talking about the destructive flood.

Ann finds one of her friend sitting at a corner with her backpack and eating a sandwich in her hand. She waves with the sandwich.

“Were you scared?” she asks.

“Yes. But I pretended that I wasn’t.” Ann says.


“ My mother doesn’t know swimming and she doesn’t like to sit on the boat,” she says with a smile. “So I pretended to be brave to make her feel safer.”

“Even if I know swimming, that’s not the kind of water I can swim in. The current is too strong enough to suck us under. I was really scared.” her friend says, stuffing the last corner of her sandwich into her mouth. Ann walks around to look for her mother. Her mother is talking with one of her friend who is wiping her tears with a cotton handkerchief. She has the biggest ranch house with columns in front, a huge living room and a big kitchen. Everything is gone in the flood. She starts to cry again. Ann’s mother puts her arm around her friend’s shoulder and tries to comfort her. Ann turns around and walks over to the big glass window. There is nothing to see outside, except for water everywhere. She stands there, thinking of how to rescue all the cows and dogs from the barns. Hopefully, the fireman has already done that.

  • Midwest flood

The Tango

The silence is unusual and we aren’t entirely sure how to talk about it- not because it is too grave and not because it is too trivial, but because it seems grave one moment and trivial the next. No one could remember such a thing happening to the entire country before. The incident has now lasted for more than two weeks. A few days have passed and it is too grave now.

A stand up comedian performing on one of the late-night talk show is the first to broach the subject. She waits for a moment in his act when the audience has fallen completely still and the halted in mid sentence, raising one of her index fingers in a listening gesture. A smile edges its way onto her lips. She gives the pause perhaps one second too long, just enough time for a trace of self-amusement to show on her face, then continues with the joke. It is the joke on the president’s speech on wall. But some people prefer to stay silent.

The silence has been siphoned out of the city and into our ears, spilling from there into our dreams and beliefs, our memories and expectations. In the wake of each fresh episodes a new feeling flow through us, full of warmth and a lazy equanimity. The truth is we enjoy the silence- sometimes we find ourselves poise in the doorway of our homes in the  morning or on the edge of our car seats as we drive to work. Surya wants to scream,her heart cries out for the people who are suffering because of one person’s demand.

There are many lovely, pensive girls and the landscape is cluttered with them. Most of the time nothing out of the ordinary happens to them and then they get older. In a painting Surya has been gathering wildflowers, though in real life she rarely does anything of the kind. She is more than a little odd-lacks caution or just because she always says that “ love is giving, marriage is buying and selling. You cann’t put love into a contract and there is no marriage in Heaven.”

She keeps herself busy in charity work and she doesn’t care about love or marriage.Shlok,one of her collegue doesn’t care what Surya thinks. He has seen her helping an autistic boy who was provoked to fits of punching by the tone of her doorbell devised an instrument that raplaced the sound with a pulsing light. She says that the autistic boy loves to sit on the floor watching now as she presses the button again and again, a wobbly grin sperading over his face like a pool of molasses.

The silence is plain and rich and deep. It seems infinietly delicate, yet stragely irresistibe. Every so often the character of the silence would change slightly, the way the brightness of a room might alter, and gradually we get used to the stillness.Surya loves it. She doesn’t mind staying alone and doing her own things in the weekends. She settles into the couch and continue reading her novel “ The Baron in the Trees”, holding the pages up to a patch of sunlight. A fire truck begins whirring its siren somewhere, but she barely notices it. She reads the story of an eighteenth century Italina nobleman- Cosimo Piovasco who spends the whole of his adult life in the trees surrounding his village. From the branches of various oaks,elms he is able to educate himself, conduct his long romance with his childhood friend Violante.She carries the book and walks to the dining table and sits on a chair with a cup of hot tea in her hand.

Shlok is determined to break the silence. He takes the oblique route, making a loop through the plant nursery at the west end of the plaza. By the time he reaches the end of the lane, one of his palm is coated with the scent magnolia, the other with the scent of pine. He knows that surya loves the scent of magnolia. A song has broken out on his tongue. It takes a moment to recognize it as “ Somewhere over the Rainbow”, the melody that floats effortlessly. He stands infront of her house and knocks at the door.She doesn’t hear the knock at her door. Shlok opens the side door and walks in, he is determined to break his silence. He finds Surya sitting in the kitchen, at the small round table with a book in her hand.

“What are you doing here?” she asks closing the book.Her voice sounds flat.

Shlok pulls another chair and settles himself. “We need to talk.”

“On what?” She has known him for so long that  she doesn’t have to finish the thought.

Sometimes we become more headstrong, more passionate. Our sentiments are closer to the surface, lives seem no less purposeful than they have during the silence.We come to know ourselves better after the great stillness. A muffled noise of understanding escapes from her throat, just loud enough for him to hear.He nods,laughs and nods again. They both promise to open their mouth and stand strong for the others.

Lost girl of Sanaa

People everywhere- skinny, skeletal people, in front of her, behind her. In the thick crowd, Maysun loses the grip of her mother. Someone bumps into her; she stumbles forward and almost fell. Only the thickest of bodies in front of her save her from going to her knees in the dust and dirt. She shoves her way around to the other side of the road, crying out, “Mama! Mama!”

There is no answer, just the ceaseless pounding of feet on the road. She calls out for her mother, but her cry is lost in the thud of so many feet. People bump her, push past her. She can’t stop in the middle. Her mother told her that the only way to survive is to flee the village, away from the soldiers, from the bumps. Her feet aches, a blister burns with every step. Hunger walks beside her, poking her insistently with it sharp little elbow. She tries to look back to trace her mother but the crowd push her forward. A woman limps along beside her, crying , her tears black with dirt and grit. The sun is growing stronger, become stiflingly, staggeringly hot. The acrid, stuffy scent of body odor and sweat fill the air. At the top of a small rise, she comes to a stop. Moonlight reveals thousands of people walking beside her, jostling her she has no choice but to stumble along with them. Hundreds more have chosen a hillside as a resting place. They have left their burning homes, bummed by the cold,heartless soldiers. Some have lost their parents, some their children. Maysun peels away from the crowd heading toward the collection of moonlit gray stone building in a distance and picks her way carefully through the valley. After a mile or so a trail leads her into a copse of spindly trees. She is deep in the woods- trying not to focus on the pain in her toe, the ache in her stomach, the dryness in her throat. Dehydration gives her a terrible, pounding headache. Dust has clogged her throat and eyes and made her cough constantly.She couldn’t walk any longer so she sits leaning against a huge tree. Instead of her effort not to sleep, her eyelids closes.

Maysun is in her school, a small building on the far edge of the village. The open windows and thick stone walls help to keep the sun at bay. Maysun loves science and when teacher asks her, she answers in all smile, “ When I grow up, I will be a scientist.” Mayson glances at her friend Hamida,who sits beside her, looking fearful. She whispers. “My mama says we should leave before the war gets worse.”

Maysun closes her notebook. Her eyes widened. “ I should tell my mama”

“My uncle says it is very bad in the nearby town. The soldiers have burned down the houses.”

The bell rings and students popp from their seats like springs.Maysun gathers her books in her bag and runs home to give the news to her mother. Her mother is in their garden. “Mama!” Maysun calls her mother throwing her bag on the kitchen floor.

“What happened?” her mother asks wiping her forehead, aware that she is smearing black dirt across her skin, and she stands up. She rises to her feet and moves toward her daughter. Before she reaches, a trip of women appear, as if sculpted out of the shadows. They stand clumped together in their front pathway. An oldwoman in rags,holding the others close to her- a young woman with a baby in her arms and a teenager. Each looked feverish, sweaty and tired. The old woman helps out her empty hand. “ Please spare some water.” she begs.

Maysun’s mother opens the small wooden gate. “Ofcourse. Come in. Sit down on the front porch.”

The old woman shakes her head. “ Just give some water, please.” Maysun runs inside and brings a jug of water and a glass.

“Drink.” The old woman says, holding the water to the young girl’s lips. The young mother makes a moaning sound and tightens her hold on the baby, who is so quiet-and her tiny fists so blue- Maysun’s mother gasps. The baby is dead.

“Go inside,” the old woman says. “Lock the doors.”


Then they see the mass of black shapes moving across the field and coming up the road. Dogs bark and babies cry. They come forward through the field and up the road, relentlessly moving closer, pushing one another aside, voices rising. Suddenly the world becomes pure sound: the roar of airplane engines, the rat-ta-ta of machine gun fire, people screaming. Bullets ate up the grass in rows, people scream and cry out. Trees snapped in half and fall over, people yell. Flames burst into existence. Smoke fills the air. Maysun watches a man fly into the air like a rag doll and hit the ground in a heap. Her mother pulls her into her house and tries to lock the door behind her. The house begins to shake, the windows rattle, the shutters thump, dust rain down from the exposed timbers of the ceiling. Maysun hugs her mother, uncertain, her heart pounding. Suddenly the house shakes violently. “Let’s run!.” Maysun’s mother runs outside clutching her daughter’s hand. Outside in the dust, they continue running. Suddenly Maysun loses her mother’s hold in the crowd. “Mama! Mama..” Maysun opens her eyes. She tents a hand over her eyes and stares up into the bright and cloudless sky.

Shifting Sea

Jane can see a shimmering aura surrounding her, setting her apart from others. She feels uncomfortably distinct from the other students in her class. Sometimes they are friendly, more often they are not so friendly.Jane’s mother has told her many times that she is special. She understands that she has no choice in the matter. Jane is a shy girl, too shy even to turn away quickly from a rude stranger. She is almost twelve. She is thin, underdeveloped for her age.Medium height-but with narrow shoulders, bright almond-shaped eyes, thick curly hair.

Every Morning after Jane’s father leaves to work, her mother brushes her dense, dry curly hair,  with a half-broken hairbrush and reminds her to brush her teeth before she runs off to the nearby school. Much of her waking life Jane is with her books that she gets from her school library. The actual world is blinding to her. A maze. But if there is a way to be memorized through the maze, she will memorize it. The great adventure of Jane’s young life until now : reading books, drawing pictures and taking care of her four younger siblings. She cares less on her dress, her food or how they live.

Her mother is always proud of her when Jane shows the report card from her school, but her father is different. When he returns home from work, he asks Jane to stop wasting her time in reading, instead she should work with her mother in the kitchen,or take care of her other four siblings. “Jane, stop reading books,books are useless.” he says haltingly, awkwardly, taking a sip from a glass bottle. “ Learn cooking, cleaning the house which will be useful in future. In his aggressive barking voice he accuses the girl.Jane leaves that part of the room to the other end because their house is just one long room. She doesn’t like the smell of the liquid that her father drinks, nor his voice.She hides her books under a bed cover and dashes to stay with her mother.Jane’s mother pinches her mouth, refuses to utter much, the unspoken words become a din like nocturnal insects in the dry heat of summer. She doesn’t like to argue with her husband but she couldn’t stop. “ Let her do what she loves to do.” she says, “ Now a days girls are going to college, working and I want Jane to finish her school.”

“Stop the nonsense!” Her father screams slapping his palm on the floor. “ Jane is a girl and girls don’t need to go to school.She needs to do only the household chores until I find someone for her.” Jane’s mother serves him food in a banana leaf and sits there quietly. She understands that there is no use in arguing with her drunk husband.

After Jane’s father asleep,her mother lays down on the floor with Jane on one side and the other four of her children on the other side. “Not to worry dear,”she assures her. “ You will finish school and go to college.”

Jane smiles and whispers. “In that case, I want to be a scientist.”

Her mother doesn’t understand the word, but pulls Jane closer. “ Sure,if you set your mind, then you can achieve it. Come, let’s sleep.” Jane’s mother has never gone to school but she has taught herself to read and write. She is determined to send her daughter to school. Jane lays awake for a while thinking about her dad’s anger.Whenever her father drinks the awful stuff,he shouts and get angrier. It seems like his face starts to change shape and swims and a little bit of space opens up between her parents.  It is almost midnight, when moonlight shines diffusively through the filthy window.Jane stops thinking,turns her head toward her mother and closes her eyelids.

Days pass. One late afternoon,after school, Jane memorizes her timetables on the front veranda, when she spots her father at the door with a stranger.Jane glances at them as they approach.Her father clears his throat. “Jane,come meet my friend Mr. Roy.” he says. “Come.” Jane closes her notebook,takes a big step,and folds her both hands. “Namaste!” The man is old, short and skinny. He runs his hand over his bald head and a fake smile flashes on his lips. His head shines like the glass balls people place in the flower beds around their houses. It looks like it might shatter the instant her bangs into something. He winks at Jane. Her father walks forward. “Go, ask your mother to make a cup of tea for our guest.” he says. Jenna scuttles inside to call her mother. Her mother is sweeping the kitchen floor. “Mom, dad wants you to prepare a cup of tea for the guest.” Jane’s mother stops sweeping. “ Your father came early today!” she gives a surprise look and asks, “ Who is the other man?”

Jane shrugs her shoulder. “No idea mom.But for sure very old.” she says, “Can I sit here and memorize my timetable?”

“Sure but first finished sweeping the floor.” Jane’s mother walks out of the kitchen with a chipped white cup with black tea: the only cup they have.Jenna could hear them talking for a while and her mother comes back inside and starts to switch on the stove. Jane is surprised to see her mother cooking so early. “ What happened mom?” She asks.

“Nothing dear.” she says. “The guest will stay to eat dinner. We have only one potato and a handful of rice.” Jane closes her notebook. “I can get something from the nearby store.” she asks, “ Would you like me to get something?” Her mother shakes her head. “We will cook what we have but get one or two green pepper and a bunch of spinach from our backyard.”

“Sure.” Jane leaves.

After the dinner,her father and the old man drinks from a bottle, Jane sits there with a book on her hand and her mother sits quietly. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above his head. It settles on his arm, he tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of his neck, he swats again. The fly escapes and perches on the broken window frame. A twinkling laughter escapes from Jane’s mouth and she quickly covers her mouth.The old man looks at Jane with long, narrow eyes, fixed so hard the corner looks like keyholes. He purses his lips, whistles and beats out on the bottle in a rhythm.He comes toward Jane and spins her around. “ I like your sweet daughter.” he laughs, running his hand into her hair above the temple, twisting her hair around his index finger. Jane snatches her hand free from the old man and runs to her mother.  Inside her head is buzzing with scary thoughts, on top her scalp feels loose. He tongue is licking her brain, it tastes sickly salty.Her mother wraps her both hands around Jane. “ Get out from my house.” she screams. “ My daughter is not in a marriageable age and you are like her grandfather! Shame on you!” Jane’s father springs from his seat with a raised hand.His eyeballs glistens and turn into little squares. “ Don’t utter any word. If he wants to marry our daughter then it is perfect.” he says. “ There is no age barrier for a marriage.And he will keep her happily.” Then her father turns toward the old man. “Sorry for all these.” he folds his hands. “ We will be happy to give our daughter to you.Please come and sit here. Come.” he requests. Jane and her mother sit there dumbfounded with tears in their eyes.

Next morning,sunlight comes slanting through the gaps between the wall of the room. Jane opens her eyes to find the sun round as a ball and is ‘wrapped in a cotton wool. Birds are squawking, who knows where they are hiding, there are none in the air.The old man and her father are sitting on the front veranda.The old man’s shoulder is hunched,his collar bones rounded.They are busy making deals on Jane,the old man is ready to give lots of money in exchange to marry Jane who will be his third wife and in promise to give him a son. You could see the gold and black molars,the worn down stumps and gaps between his teeth. Jane looks for her mother. She sits in one corner of the kitchen with her youngest son on her lap, her legs are stretched out into the aisle. she is feeding milk to the little one. Jane sits there leaning against her mother.Her mother doesn’t say anything and Jane starts the conversation. “ So what will happen mom?” she swallows her tear and continues. “ I am just a kid. I want to go to school, I want to be a scientist.” She glances at her mother. “ Why are you so quiet today? Are you not going to help me?” Her mother pulls her closer and tightens one hand around Jane’s shoulder. “Your father is a crafty bastard. He has taken money, cows and a few goats as a bribe from the old man.He wants to buy a small store and start his own business and that way he will be able to take care of your four siblings.”

Jane pulls out from her mother’s embrace. “ What about me?” she asks. “ What about my dream? My life?” she shakes her mother in her small hand. “You want to sale me to the old man in exchange of money and goats? Really mom?” Jane covers her face and cries. “ You promised me that I will continue my school. You lied to me!” Jane’s mother looks up to the ceiling and back to her daughter’s face. Her beloved daughter whom she has promised to fulfill her dream. She has to do something but what. She leans her back against the wall and searches for a way to set her daughter free.

Image result for quote of child bride


Laughter too depends  upon memory a memory of previous laughter.

“Grace – not Gracey?” – That is your name?”

At first she can’t comprehend this. He takes out a little notebook from his pocket and painstakingly inscribed in it what appears to be a diagram in logic. “My days of mastering symbolic logic seem to have abandoned  me,” he says pleasantly, “but I think the situation is something like this..”

Grace is uncertain how to respond. It is fascinating to her that Dave has language skills, mathematical abilities  but he can’t retain new words, concepts or facts even if they are embedded in familiar information. Like many brain-afflicted individuals he carries with him word books, crossword puzzles. His knowledge of world geography is still impressive.Grace is speaking carefully to him: “Mr Dave- let me explain to you again that I am a Professor and has been working with you for a while. You have met me before.”
Dave  nods vehemently, even little impatiently. “ Grace- yes, doctor Grace.”

“I ‘m not a doctor I’m a professor. Please just call me -”

“Professor Grace.” Yes..” Well that makes two of us. I’m not a clinician either.” he laughs. He listens to Grace as she explains to him on the tests they will be doing on him. He listens politely at first, then becomes bemused and beguiled by her. She is wearing a pink wrap around skirt with black tights beneath, a black jacket over her thin frame tightly and not the crisp white lab coats of the medical staff, there is no laminated ID on her jacket to inform him of her name.

“ Why you are here, doctor and why am I here?”

Grace stares at him and then says, “ We are hoping to establish some facts containing memory.” Dave is eager and hopeful, cooperative but as the tests become more complicated and accelerated, he is thrown into confusion. He seems to be failing about like a drowning man. Restless, exhausted, without knowing why, he stands at a window and stares outside. He may be trying to determine where he is. But he is a proud man, he will not ask any questions. Like an athlete too long restrained in a cramped space or like a rebellious teenager, he begins to circle the room. He stretches the tendons in his calves, reaches for the ceilings-stretching vertebrae, mutters to himself.Grace would like to clasp his hand to comfort and encourage him

Grace walks toward him. “ Would you like your sketchbook?” She hands him one. He is pleased to see his sketchbook. He pages through it growing, holding the book in such a way to prevent anyone else seeing its contents. Then he discovers his little notebook in his pant pocket.He opens it eagerly, records something in it and slips it back into his pocket. Grace glances at Dave and thinks how sad, how exhausting, the amnesic can’t remember anything. His brain resembles a colander through which water sifts continually and never accumulates; those years before his illness, resembles a still, distant water glimpsed through dense foliage as in a hallucinatory landscape.

Dave looks worriedly at her as if he can read her thoughts. Grace feels her face burn like one who has dared to touch another intimately and has been detected. With an uplifted finger, to retain Grace’s attention, he leafs through his little notebook in search of something significant. In his bright affable voice he reads: “ There is no journey, no path, only emptiness.” He pauses to add, “Maybe this is the wisdom of Buddha.” he laughs with inexplicable humor. Grace smiles with him remembering how he used to explain to her the views of different teachings. He is always good in teaching and explaining. It is almost seven-thirty in the evening when she leaves.

Next day the test is on counting ability count as high as you can without stopping. He begins counting and continue for an impressively long time, then suddenly stops,distracted by Grace’s earrings.  “Looks like a pyramid upside down or may be pineapples?” he laughs.

“Please continue counting.”

“Counting’- what? What was I counting?”

“You don’t remember the count?”

Dave stares at the illustrated cards. His finger twitch. He looks blankly.

Grace leans forward. “You are doing fine, please continue.”

Dave looks at her again. She is a pretty woman with light brown skin, straight black eyebrows, dense wavy hair. The dimple on her cheek deepens while she smiles. Who is she? He has seen her somewhere? He thinks in a school where he used to teach? He extends his hand and shakes the woman’s hand.

“Hel-lo! I think we know each other we met in a school-did we? In a high school?”

Grace hesitates. Then gracefully she slips her hand into his with a smile.

“Hello, Mr Dev I’m Grace- whom you have never met before today.”

 Just after the rain,Grace knocks at the door before entering the room. “Good morning!” she smiles. “ I’m, Grace.”
“Yes, welcome.” Light coming up in his eyes, a slight leap of hope emerges.

“Welcome, Grace!”

Her hand grips in his, a clasp of recognition.

Grace thinks He does remember me. Not consciously but he remembers. Well there is no scientific data to prove. The amnesic will discover ways of remembering sometimes it bypasses the conscious mind altogether.

Suffused with happiness, Grace feels like a balloon rapidly, giddily filling with helium. Eagerly he smiles at her, leans close to her  to shake her hands. In his strong hand,Grace’s small hand. “We have met before?” he smiles gallantly.

“ Do you have an idea how long we’ve been working together?- Grace asks.

His smiles wavers. He speaks thoughtfully, gravely. “ May be two weeks a month? May be less?” He is still gripping her hands; gently she detaches. Grace has volunteered to take Dave to downstairs to the first-floor cafeteria, for lunch, sometimes for his medical tests or to the garden downstairs.She has become lonely. Work has become her addiction, her salvation. In human relations you never know where you stand.She is determined to help Dave in each step of his recovery. She has high hope.

It is a bright, sunny day when Grace returns to Dave’s room. “ We have some very interesting tests for today, Dave. I think you will like them.”

“Tests- yes. I’m good at them.” His smile is anxious and hopeful. Grace shows him the brainteaser puzzles consist of numbers, varicolored squares of plastic which you move around your thumb until there is an ideal conjunction of numerals and colors.Dave takes it from her with a bemused chuckle “Excuse me! Like this.” And within seconds, he has lined up the squares to perfection. His smile is that of the triumphant. Grace laughs – he used to teach the children the same way, the tricks to solve the puzzles.  After two days Grace returns to check on Dave.

“ Hello!”

“Yes- do I know you?” Dave asks, “I can hardly remember you.”

Grace is little frustrated. “Yes, we are.”

He gazes at her plaintively.

“ Are you my wife?” he asks anxiously, “ Or may be a lover?”

A twinge of excitement sparks in her. She wants to say yes I’m your wife, but she stops. He walks over and takes her hand in his strong dry fingers. She has been anticipating this she doesn’t pull her hand away from his grasp so quickly. They stand their clasping hands.

“Do you remember me?” Grace asks.

“I think I met you in your school am I correct?” Dave asks carefully. His hairline is receding from his forehead and his dark hair is fading to a beautiful shade of gray, his forehead is slightly creased with bewilderment or worry that quickly eases away when he smiles. He looks handsome in a neatly pressed khakis, a striped shirt.Grace still loves him dearly.


His memory is like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces that has been overturned, but these countless pieces might be fitted together again into a coherent and illuminating whole.

Dave drops her hand and moves back to his chair.  “ I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you Nobody – Too? ”He recites the lines with a chilling sort of merriment, the poetry of Emily Dickinson…

Cheer Up A Lonely One

It is a  Saturday afternoon.  A few white clouds suspend idly over the horizon.Outside it is still warm and a few bees drone in the honeysuckle that run wild over the side of the house.Peony is almost done with her sketch. She decides to take a break and walk in the nearest trail. After one mile, the path huggs a ravine, and she trotts to the edge of the embankment to look down the stream below. The water move sullenly; only the light coming through the trees and glancing off the stream’s surface indicates the direction of the current. She inhales the moist, spoiled odor of the rotten leaves. A rustle in the dry grass makes her turn her head to check the sound. A black dog stands there, wagging its long tail.The dog barks at her and its face seems so familiar. Now she remembers that she has seen this dog last week in the school playground chasing the squirrels. The playground was full of parent and children so she assumed that the dog belongs to one of them. Peony crouches down on the grass. “Come here! Come!” The dog wags its tail slowly at first, then faster as if something long held motionless inside it has gained momentum enough to break free. The swing of her tail rocks its chest. The dog leaps toward her and licks her face.

“You are friendly! Aren’t you!” She tries to keep the dog still to check its collar. But the dog doesn’t have a collar. “What happened to your collar?” she pats her. “ Are you lost? Are you?” The dog licks her again and follows her to the embankment. Suddenly the dog jumps down. She screams. “No!” It is too late. But there was no rustle in the bushes to alter the dog to a skunk or gopher, no distant bark to set her hair on the end. There was no food below emitting its siren scent. Well now she can’t leave her there. She looks down in bafflement. The dog tries hard to stand up, but could not. She looks around and there is nobody to help her.It is a quick judgement to leap to. She slides down the embankment on her backside to rescue the dog and carries it to her car, straight to a vet’s office.

While the doctor operates, she sits in the waiting room, paging through limp pet magazines, inhaling the ammonia scent mixed with disinfectant. A steady parade of sick animals and solicitous owners come in and out of the office. She knows she should coo at the pets or inquire after their maladies but she is worried about the stray dog. Two hours later, the vet appears from surgery and informs that the dog has broken her one back leg and cracked a rib but she would cover fully, and return to her ‘old dog self’ in four to six months.

“Old dog self?” she asks.

“You know,” the vet says, smiling a beat too late as though she has to remind herself to do it.

“This is not my dog.” she says, “She followed me in the trail.”

“Well, pick her up in two days and keep her until she recovers. Then we will help you in finding a new home for her.” he says, “ Or, if it is a lost dog, then we will take a picture of her and leave it on the front desk,for the people to see. If someone recognizes the dog, then we will call you immediately.” He smiles. “Does it sound alright?” He asks again.

“Sure, I will keep her until we find the owner or if someone decides to adopt her.” she says. The vet walks back inside to his office. She calls her husband at his office to tell the surprise event. “What?” her husband says, adjusting his voice.

“She followed me and suddenly jumped up the cliff,” she says.

“You mean she fell?”

“She leaped, Carter. She just leaped!” When she said the words, she felt something open up inside her. “ I followed my heart Carter. It is not fair to leave the dog in that condition.”

“I Don’t understand,” he says carefully. He is silent for a moment. “We will talk about this when I return.” He says finally.

“Of course,” she says putting the phone away in her pant pocket. She walks into a room to see the dog. She has splints on her hind leg and lays in one cage. “ Oh, I’m sorry sweetie.”

“It is normal,” the vet says, “Not to worry. Pick up the medicine from the front desk, and she will be fine in a couple of weeks.”

“She just looks so helpless,” Peony says.She feels great affection to this poor dog.

For the first two weeks after the surgery, the dog couldn’t move. Still she tries, staring at the hysterical yips of the neighbourhood dogs greeting passing trucks or the sound of mailbox squeaking open and closed, her instinct trumping the pain of her broken body. Peony has to lift her and carry her outside to do her business. Afterwork,she returns home and sits on the floor next to the dog bed and stares into her large, wet eyes, wondering what has drawn the dog to her.In the meantime she has named the dog ‘Destiny.’


Peony loves volunteering in the Senior Care home. Mrs Smith is same age as her grandmother yells at a ghost. “Get out of here right this minute!” Her accent is always thicker when she is torn from her dreams. She hurries into the bathroom to turn off the faucet. Peony walks behind her. “What happened?” she asks.

“The ghost is running up my water bill.It has to stop.”She shakes her head ruefully.

“Peony smiles. “I don’t see anyone or if the ghost comes then he may be thirsty.”

“He’s a she, and ghosts don’t drink, darling.They have no bodies. She just plays with me.” She yells, shaking her fist in the air, as if the ghost is hiding just out there. Her upper arm wavers and Peony remembers how she had played with the loose skin as a child. And her grandmother used to laugh at it. Peony walks closer toward mrs Smith.”Would you like me to sit here with you?”


Peony looks at Mrs Smith’s hands. Arthritis, that devious sculptor has taken its shape and it must be painful for her to do anything in her hands. Mrs Smith brings a two cups of green tea and sets them on the small coffee table. “ I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night. I’m too old for it.”

“ You shouldn’t.” Peony says sipping the tea. “There is no such thing as ghost.”

“How dare you say that?” Mrs Smith screams and Peony almost spills the tea on her dress. She puts the cup back on the table. “I’m sorry, it is just my believe.” Mrs Smith changes the subject. She pushes the chair back and walks toward her closet. She brings out a small sewing machine to the table, with it a ivory silk material and a pair of scissors. “ You are coming to give me company so as a gift I will make a nice dress for you.” She shows her the material. “Do you like this one?”

Peony touches it. “O’ I love it.But you don’t have to do anything. I just come to spend time with you, that’s all.” she smiles.

Mrs Smith doesn’t say anything. She takes her measurement, cuts the material. He hands shake as she cuts. She struggles to thread a needle with fingers that are beginning to bend at odd angles like old trees.

“Want me to do it?” Peony offers.

“I can thread my own needle, thank you. Been doing it more than half my lifetime.” She is stubborn.” She is watching me again.” she mutters.


“The ghost.”She gestures at the empty room. “Honey, I’m still trying to figure out the reason people do what they do when they’re alive.” She finishes ripping out the stitches, sighs audibly and fits the material to the machine again. The stitches are uneven but she continues. Peony feels her heart rises in her face as she watches Mrs. Smith’s awkward, determined work.

“Who is this ghost who bothers you all the time?” Peony asks gently.

“ She doesn’t bother me. I don’t have patience for her.”

“For her?”

“Yes, she is my darling friend, used to be my neighbor. It has been a few years that she passed away.” A deep sigh. But she loves to come here everyday to bother me.” Mrs Smith lifts her eyes from the sewing machine. “ You know how friends are.” she smiles. Peony sits there nodding her head and listening to Mrs. Smith.

It is almost September when Destiny returns to normal self, bouncing and happy. Her hair has grown back in the places where she’d been shaved for the surgery. She goes for a long walk in the trail; Destiny with her gimpy legs and peony with her heart. And nobody called her to get Destiny, so now they are enjoying each other’s company.



The astrologer, a new age woman who sounds like the type to wear crystals and carry tarot cards, asserts that the people themselves have created the problem out of a need to get in touch with their places in the universe, their spiritual selves. The person standing next to her doesn’t agree. “ It is linked to spirituality, yes, but not the kind you speak of.” he shrugs his shoulder. “This is a wake up call for us. Soon we will be doomed.”

Megan returns from her morning walk and her way out of the trail she spots them at the side of road.Out of curiosity,Megan holds the dog leash tight in her hand and walks closer to check what is going on. On the edge of the narrow street, a pink bleeding heart, its soft fern like branches out stretched in five foot arcs. From the underside of each branch, the blossom dangle in perfect shape of hearts. It looks pretty big.The gentleman scratched his head. “We have a big problem!” He points at a seventeen foxglove Their blossom which ordinarily look like upside down thimble, large enough to find one’s thumb are now the size of small drinking cups. It is a strange sight, but without saying anything to them Megan nodded with a tiny smile and left. She thinks if God want to end the world, He should start from the regions that are notorious for sin. Well, all these may be totally superstitious.She could imagine the deep, measured voice of scientists, “ There is no evidence or real scientific explanation to these incidents.”

It is a pretty Saturday morning; bright and sunny! Her next door neighbor, Mrs Smith discovered something intoxicating. Megan waves at her as she is ready to open her front door of the house. She calls out, “Megan, have you seen these tulips?” She points at the plant.

Megan turns and walks into her front yard. She is standing next to a blossom that matches her in height and is roughly the same size as her head. Megan glances at it again.It is straight from a fairy tale; vines running here and there, foliage twisting around foliage, arching above the fence, the mailbox. And next to it, in a few feet the rose plant is almost dying. It used to be full of pretty white roses, but now the branches are deep brown and black, they are wilted and dry.Mrs Smith nodes in disbelief. She brushes her hair nervously from her face. “ Something strange is going on!” She wipes the sweat from her forehead. Humidity was hovering over. She continues. “It is a freak circus show! But clearly I think the universe is not happy at all.”

Megan glances at her face. “Why?”

Mrs Smith straightens her back and adjusts the straw-hat on her head. “ Soon something will happen, I can sense that.” She opens the cap of the water bottle and takes a few gulps. “This year it was not only Harvey, but so also so many devastating things going on around us!  Remember, how we use to see rabbit or a dog on the moon’s surface?” A deep sigh. “Yesterday,I noticed a completely different thing on the surface of the moon; A swiftly running lion, its mane flying backward with speed.It is terrible.”

Megan gives her a surprise look. But she does’t tell her anything. She must be watching the current news. Her dog started to pull, he is getting restless to go inside. It is the heat, gathering around tightly. A pregnant pause. “Mrs. Smith, it may be a mixed signal. There is always a mixture of both good and evil. We will be alright. Don’t you worry! Lucky is getting impatient so I had to go. Take care.” Megan leaves.  

That evening, she walked out to the deck still thinking about what Mrs Smith told her in the morning. Lucky follows her behind, waging his long bushy tail. Megan lifts her eyes to the sky. The face of the moon looks like the profile of a majestic woman. She could see her pointed chin, her salient brow, bright, omniscient eyes, nothing else.Megan smiled. The moon looks perfect to her eyes. This is so crazy! We are the silly, silly people.

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Megan has a strong sense of loss over something after a nasty stomach flu . A stab of Pain courses through abdomen and down her groin and she decides to visit the doctor. She is lying on a table counting ceiling tiles, when the doctor, a robust man in his mid fifties with dark hair, dramatically removes his glasses and tells her the facts. He kindly points at the telltale bean shape on the x-rays and says it is the kidney problem,and we have to do more tests. She feels like crying while she fills the saucepan with water and dumps the oatmeal for her husband, she sobs while moving her pots of marigold, each one just on the threshold of blooming, to the front porch.  She scrubs the whole kitchen counters, cleans all the drawers, she vacuums every floor of the house,knowing full well, too, that her husband would repeat the task.She wipes her tears and watches her daughter dancing around the room on her tiptoes, pretending to be a ballerina. She reads her favourite stories and colors with her sitting on the living room floor.After tons of x rays and doctor visits, she was lying on the hospital table eyes closed, cold and unmoved as bookends when she suddenly notices a smile on the doctor’s face that appeared at the end of his sentence. “Well, the good news is that you appear to be pregnant.” She kept her eyes closed, because behind them she could see what the doctor must be seeing on the screen: a shape, a pulse.


Their Gifts


One bright Saturday afternoon in May, Hans leans over his desk, neck craned, eyes blinking and takes note of everything his teacher Ms Wilson says. Besides him friend Lora and Doug are staring straight, vacant eyes. Liz on the other side sits silent. Dan is nodding his head as if he understands everything that Ms Wilson says. In the middle of the lecture, Ms.Wilson stops at Hans’s desk, smiles. “ Only take note of the important points.”

Hans stares back. In his mind this is funny, in English everything is random. In the preparatory class sometimes his teacher would say, “Here are the rules about preposition,” and then,three minutes later, “But remember when it comes to writing there are no rules!”

The contradictions are slowly driving him crazy. He has to prepare for the fill-in the blank of the critical reading section, has to memorize the vocabulary list, make flash cards.Then Ms. Wilson walks over to the chalk board and writes, “Follow the grammar questions.”

Hans sits with his mother at the dining table and vocabulary swims in his brain, letter jumping in and out of line.

“What are you thinking.”his mother says. “Be in the moment.”

“I am too tired.”
“Why?” She lays the spoon on her plate. “ Hans, You are not doing anything wrong, wrong things or wrong crowd of friends? She asks pushing her loose curls out of her eyes.

Hans laughs.

“Be respectful!Do you know that you have to score real good to get into a good university?”

His father who was listing to the whole conversation in the living room appears at the dining table. He pulls a chair and joins them. “I studied hard, got scholarship to go to Standford. It is not that easy.” He takes a spoon full of lentil soup. “ So concentrate on your studies.So how is your practice classes going?” he takes a gulp of water from his glass.

Hans finishes his vegetables and raises his head. “ Ms Wilson is good in explaining everything. I am thinking , may be I should take a gap year first before going to college.”

His mother chokes on her food. “ Gap year! From studying?” she asks.

“I heard some of my friends take time off, like travel, or think, whatever.. He regrets of saying wrong words although he meant something different. He is waiting for his father to shout at him. But instead his face brightens. He laughs hard. “Your whole life is a vacation. You have not done anything like the other kids in your school. We have worked hard our whole life to provide you all the comfort,best education,tennis lessons, violin classes, boy scout..” His father pushes the chair and leaves.

Hans sits on his chair. He likes science, good in literature, history but he is the average student. His report card always stays on B-plus. He finishes his dinner and retreats to his room. The room has baby blue walls and the walls have pictures of him playing violon, or tennis.His desk is full with books and binders, papers tumbled, school pictures. His mother knocks at the door and walks in. “ Hans, what is going on?” She arranges herself on a chair, her knees towards the bed.

“ You are special kid.” She says carefully. “ If you try, you can do much better. You have all the talents in yourshelf.Confidence is very important!” her voice is now firm and emphatic.

“What do you mean? I am just an average student.” he asks.

“ It is fine but if you work hard, you can get good scores too! Now go to bed early and early morning you can practice for your test.” She pushes the chair back to leave.

In the following week, on saturday, Hans was the first one in the class. He approaches Ms Wilson’s desk. “Excuse me. Ms Wilson,” he says. “ I would like to know the tricks to master the SAT score.

“Tricks?” she puts down her pen and looks up, blinking behind her glasses. “ Well, you have to know all your stuff or at least try to memorize them or have a sense for it.”


She leans forward in her chair. “ Today after the class I will look at your practice answer shit and after that I will be able tell you how to proceed further.”

“Thank You.” Hans says.

He is happy to see his friend Meg next to him in the class.She has an oversize pink shirt and big hoop earring. She is always very confident. Hans decides to ask her on some tricks to improve his test score. “Sure, I will tell you if you come with me to our temple.”



Hans meets his friend at her temple.He removes his shoes, socks and sits besides Meg and watches as she places her palms on her knees and closes her eyes.

“There is nothing but this moment,”the guru said. “We will close your eyes and feel the universal love move through us. Let go of all your worldly thoughts, just observe them coming and crashing in your head one after another.”

Hans squeezes his eyes shut. The rug they sit on is old but has beautiful oriental patterns all over it. Hans listens to the silence. All his anxious thoughts on different subjects appear one after another in a long line, sometimes they even cut the line and appear on the front.He oserves them in his mind’s eyes. After twenty minutes he hears Namaste. He opens his eyes. The people bow and stand.

“What do you think?” Meg asks him as they walk into the open air.

“ Very relaxing! The thoughts of scoring high is still there, but it is not that stressful anymore.” he glances at Meg. “Thank you for the tip.”


Unique but Delightful Universe


Life appeared to be vastly calm as they started the train ride. Toby loves the sway of cars on the tracks, the blur of trees and towns on the other side of the window. Lillian glances at her four-year old son; wide smile and bright eyes. Suddenly happiness bubbles inside her. Toby will love her friend’s farmhouse. The train arrives at Albarracin , a small town. They descend from the train. Outside her friend Jenna is waiting with a big stuffed bear.

“Welcome! How was the ride?” She asks as she takes the bag from Lillian’s hand.

“Wonderful! Toby loved the ride.” Lillian replies.

“Come, let’s get in to the car.It’s little bit of a ride.” They walked towards the car. Inside the car Lillian settles herself with her son in the back seat while her friend drives.  Toby insists Lillian to honk the horn.

“We don’t need to but I will do it for you.”Lillian smiles and honks softly. Toby claps his hands. “It sounds like the SeSame street blue monster bobbing its nose. Right mom?” He asks leaning towards her mother.

“Yes, it is.”

The house sits at the edge of an expanse of water, clear and blue like the robbin’s nest. Toby jumps out from the car as Lillian opens the car door. Lillian follows her son. Toby stands there mesmerized. His eyes follow the beautiful yellow ducklings as they waltz on the muddy shore. Toby sits there at the edge of the water, sticking smooth stones. He seems quite contented. Lillian chats with her friend as her son stacks the stones and stacks them again and his posture relaxed, at ease. Jenna watches Toby and looks back at her friend. “So how is it going with Toby?”

Lillian sighs. “ Well, you never know. Sometimes he is so calm and other times he turns everything upside down.”

“Did you check with the doctor?”

“Yes, last friday he had an appointment with dr. Robertson.” Lillian smiles. “It is funny when Dr asked him to draw a road runner from a picture book. Then he said “Beep, beep.” Lillian tries to remember the funny picture. “ Toby did. He is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His roadrunner looked like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. But I liked it because he gave it a try.”

“ Does he have any friend?”

“ There are two boys of his age group. Sometimes they come to play with Toby.” Lillian glances at Toby. He has made a tall shape with the  wet rocks. Toby looks at her mother. “Mom, look they look like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers! Looks delicious! Can I lick to taste it?”

Lillian laughs. “ No, Toby. Don’t lick the rocks. They don’t have any taste but we will have a real wafer.” Lillian walks towards Toby. “Let’s go inside.”


In the living room Lillian sits with her friend on a couch. Two cups of green tea sits on a tray in front of them on the small table. Toby quickly gathers up all his cars, brings them to the couch. He begins lining them up in rows. But the rows are different than usual, the colors all mismatched . Yellow meets red meets green. He is trying to express something, he doesn’t know how to. Lillian leans over towards him. “Toby, would you like me to play with you?” She puts her hand softly on his shoulder. He ignores her and becomes more anxious. He rearranges the cars without any order and move them frantically so they are crashing into one another, tiny toy accidents.

“ Let’s go and play outside on the trampoline.” Lillian says with concern.Toby puts his thumb in his mouth and walks outside with her mother. A bright smile flashes in Toby’s small face. He bounces on the trampoline like an elephant crashing from side to side. Lillian laughs and giggles  with her son.





Bright and early Anna wakes up on her bed. She is determined to buy the book with her stored fortune. So, she brings her glass jar stuffed with dollar bills and coins, her saved money and spills them out onto the off white carpet.She is in the middle of counting when her father knocks at the door and before she answers, the door opens in a soft click. He glances at her counting the coins piled high.

“ Good morning Anna! How much have you got there?” he asks sitting at the edge of the bed.

“ Fifteen dollars and ninety two cents.” she keeps her smile tight to hold back her pride and sticks all her fingers between her toes for the low pull of pleasure. Her father takes his glasses off to polish them on the bottom of his gray shirt, the held them up for inspection. Still dirty- he never manages to get them completely clear. “What do you want to do with your money?” he rests his glasses on his face, pushing them up snug against his nose.

“ A book fair is going on in our school and I want to buy Winnie the Pooh, The story of Babar and books on Amelia Bedelia.”

“Wonderful! Wait, wait.” he disappears. Anna sits with her high spirit on hold. Her father reappears with two dollar bills and hands her. “ Go ahead and add this to your savings.Last week you helped me in walking the dog.” he says.

Next day after school Alina returns home from school and runs to see her father. In the living room, her father reads a newspaper on his favorite couch. Alina settles herself close to her father. He returns his gaze from the newspaper to Anna’s face.

“How was the school today” Did you buy the books?” he asks.

Anna opens her backpack and shows him the books. Then she holds her hands out, palms up. “ I spent all the money. Only a quarter left.”

His father laughs. “ Start saving again.” he says folding the newspaper.

“ I meant to say that there is another book fair coming before the school closes for summer.” She says with a candy filled smile. She opens her fingers and shows two fingers to her father. “In two months.”

“Well, we can always get books from the library.”

“But dad.” she protests. “ It’s not same as collecting books. I want to have my library like you have yours.”

“ Well, I understand that.” He thinks for a moment. “ You can help me in watering the plants in every week and I will help you in buying the books that you want.”

“Sure.” Anna claps with both hands with excitement.

Her mother’s room has a wooden multi tiered riser holding all her spools of threads, organized by hue, cotton, metallic and silk threads. The drawer is full of various notions: needle, thimbles, tapes, glue, yards of elastics and velcros. And fabrics! Big square wicker baskets lined up on deep wall shelves and full of solids or printed cottons, silks- you name it, she has some. Her mother loves quilting.Anna enters to her mother’s room. On her table there is a cobalt blue fabric with peacock prints at the edge,- standing still, some with their wings thrillingly outstretched.Her mother cuts the fabric, it sounds like symphony. It conjures an image of a head bent over a machine, the feel of fabric slipping through the fingers.

“Hi, mom! Look what I bought today.”

“What?” Her mother sits straight and glances at Anna’s face. Anna shows her three books.

“ Exciting!” she smiles leafing through the pages.

A huge smile flashes on Anna’s face.“Yes mom. Today I think my world is a beautiful Fabric!”  She says.



No way! Really! What a surprise!!”
Gabriella makes a 360 degree turn holding her cellphone.She leans against the dining chair and reads the current weather again “ Winter storm warning in effect until midnight..A strong arctic cold front has pushed through…Temperature will continue to fall across the area with most of Texas below freezing  already and freezing rain will turn into sleet and snow. University and most of the offices are closed today due to this inclement weather.”
Her overly excited legs pad on the cold tiled floor towards the kitchen window.  She opens the wooden blind.
“O,My!” Her voice an octave higher.
Outside, the flurries of snow has been roiling in the air and dancing in perfect synchronization, thudding against the ground. The morning light struggles through the murky cloud and dazzles on the snow. The tree branches hang low with the weight of snow. A thick white comforter of gorgeous snow covers the rooftops. All the  brown and golden fall leaves on the deck look exquisite.

“Is it a fairyland!”  A loud clap of laughter bursts from her mouth.Her eyes dancing now. They go wide and shiny and bright again. Her eyebrows are so high, the’re nearly hidden beneath the long bangs on her forehead and then, in an instant she takes a decision.

There is no point of wasting time. She loves winter and her favorite is a day in snow! Robert Frost’s poem A Winter Eden flashes in her mind
A winter garden in an alder swamp..

As near a paradise as it can be

And not melt snow or start a dormant tree….

So near to paradise all pairing ends:

Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,

Content with bud-inspecting…

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.

This Eden day is done at two o’clock…”

It is too exciting for Gabriella to stay inside. After bundling up in jacket, woolen hat, scarf and glove, she opens the front door and steps out to take a walk in the green belt trail. As she takes a turn towards the trail, from the trail of her eye she glances at the older couple standing on their  front porch. They wave their hands with a smile. Gabriella stops at the curb.

“ Good morning Gabriella!” Mrs.Bezos wraps her grey and white shawl around her exposed neck. “Are you going somewhere?”

“ Morning!” Gabriella waves her hand. She points at the trail. “ Yes, to take a small walk in the trail.”

“ Are you crazy?In this weather!” The small smile is still in tact on her face but her eyes widens for a moment and her mouth slightly ajar. She gives a quick shake of her head. Her husband steps in.

“ Sweetie, the roads are now very slippery so don’t venture too far.” He thrusts both his hands in his jacket pockets.

“I know.” Gabriella nods her head, “ You stay warm.” She continues her walk. The native Texans don’t like the snowy weather. They enjoy more of a clear, sunny weather.It is extremely cold with icy rain and slippery concrete sidewalk, but it is perfect for Gabriella.  Her breath is pale against the numbing air, she blinks as the ice perfectly touches her face and dust her eyelashes. The wind whispers as the snow falls like confetti on her deep blue woollen cap.It is almost forty-five minutes of walking, there is not a single soul in the trail and her mind is completely enveloped in Percy  Shelley’s poem on snow –

        The cold earth slept below;

        Above the cold sky shone;

            And all around,

            With a chilling sound,

From caves of ice and fields of snow

The green grass was not seen;

            The birds did rest

            On the bare thorn’s breast,

Whose roots, beside the pathway track,

Had bound their folds o’er many a crack

            Which the frost had made between…

Her cell phone lights up in her jacket pocket. She adjusts her footing on the icy road and stops.

Her husband is in the phone.

“ Where are you? In a venture?”

Before Gabriella answers he says, “ The roads are so slippery and it is extremely cold! You

should not have gone out.”
“ I am returning from my walk and not to worry. It is getting very slippery but I am careful.”

“You are really crazy! Who takes a walk in this type of weather? Okay walk slowly and come home.” He hangs the phone. Her husband likes the cold and snow, but he prefers to stay inside and enjoy scenes from the living room window with a cup of hot cocoa or read his newspaper sitting near the fireplace.

 As the icy rain falls harder and faster, Gabriella decides to turn around and return home continuing with Shelley’s poem on her head  
“The wind made thy bosom chill;

            The night did shed

            On thy dear head

Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie

Where the bitter breath of the naked sky

            Might visit thee at will.”




Funny but memorable


You must be Clara,” a woman says when she approaches the main desk in the middle of the library. She has wispy salt and pepper bangs and a lined face, very thin.

Clara nods her head in response.

“ Welcome to our library,” She shakes her hands. “ I’m Jennifer, director of this library. I am glad that now you will be an important part of our library. “ Come, I will show you everything. Clara follows ms. Jennifer.

“You will be in charge of the circulation desk, but usually you also collect late fees, take care of the frisky printer, check in the books. Remember, always assist our patrons with a big smile.”

“Thank You, I will.” Clara steps in behind the desk and grabs the edge of the mental cart for support. Today is her first day in this job. At the end of the day, the director says, “Don’t forget to wear a Halloween costume tomorrow. It is storytime for the children.”

Next day, Clara finds a long white gown in her mom’s closet and decides to wear that. Instead of a tight bun, she keeps her hair loose. She glances herself in the mirror one last time. It is perfect, she resembles Emily Dickinson.

When she walks into the library, Jennifer looks at her. “Oh dear, did you wake up late?”

“ No, Clara says. “ Usually, I wake up very early.”

Jennifer frowns. “Why are you wearing a nightgown? Did you forget to wear a costume?”

“ This is my costume.” Clara replies and glances at her own white dress to check if anything wrong with that.

“Are you the pop singer Lady Gaga?”

“ No, no, she smiles. “I’m Emily Dickinson.”

“The poet!” Jennifer adjusts her eye-glass on her small nose and tries to check the costume again.

“Yeah.” She still tries to figure it out.

“Towards the end of her life, Dickinson was kind of hermit and only wore white.”

“Huh.” Jennifer turns her attention to the paperwork.

Around one fifteen, Jennifer comes running to Clara’s desk.

“Ian isn’t coming in today.” She gasps for air. “You’ll have to do the storytime for the kids.”



“But, I’ve never done this before, Clara says,her head spinning.

Jennifer frowns. “ It is easy, just pick up a few Halloween story books for the children, read the stories, sing one or two songs and at the end give them the candies. It will be over is thirty minutes.”

“Sing songs?” This is getting worse by the second.

Clara grabs the story books from the book rack, a special Halloween display, picks up the big  ceramic candy bowl and runs to the kid’s section.

Clara steps in to the overly decorated children’s room and smiles at the kids. Her heart stops to gallop.

One small girl in a Medieval princess costume stares at her.

“Did you forget to comb your hair this morning?”

“She is the girl from a TV serial.” Her mother says to her daughter.

“She’s not, her daughter says, rolling her eyes. “She’s lady Gaga.”

Clara shakes her head. “No..I..” Her cheeks flares up.

“Lady Gaga doesn’t wears pajamas,” a tiny voice says, cutting her off. “ I think it is the pirate.” A boy in Star War Yoda costume comes forward.

Another boy in a Spiderman costume walks towards Clara. “She is the ghost of  Christmas past?”

All the sixteen kids turn back to stare at Clara. Clara shifts herself in a small chair. This is much worse than she anticipated. She takes a deep breath and claps her hands together.

“ Let me sing a beautiful song before I proceed to a wonderful ghost story.” She offers them her friendliest smile. The kids lean forward on their seats. Parents take a deep breath.

“Hope- Hope is the thing with feathers.

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without words..” The poem hangs in the air and the kids just stare, silent.

“Are you a ..bird?”

“Hush,one of the parent asks the boy to be silent.

Clara glances around at the tiny faces. She guesses they’re a little young for this type of poem. “Okay let’s get started. I will read you the story of White dog.” She holds up the book.

The air erupts in cheers and shouts.

Turning World


Last two days it has been raining cats and dogs.The thunder and lightening lasted for long rumbling low and long. It was not normal to have this type of rain at the end of October.It is hard to tell where water ends and where the sky begins. Today the sky is clear and the bright sun is washing over the door steps. It seems like today colors wants to take on their old vividness; things have points, edges and have outlines.

But Isaac leaps into thought, stretching his tired legs, pushing the chair back against the wall. He is in touch of grief just like his whole family. Sometimes you try to hold on to something so tight but it somehow it slips away! His laughter has a desolate edge. He somehow feels a need to pray, he wants to fall on his knees and pray, but what would he pray for? To bring back his mother? The reality of life does not work that way! He sits upright, legs drawn in. Isaac glances at his watch.

“Where is she? It is getting late.”

He watches from the small window at the maple tree, the branches holding two slightly yellow leaves with apologetic gentleness and how have they held on until the end of October? Right behind it is the light, generously the color from the setting sun sprays upward over the open sky. Issac puts his large hand to the side of his face and thinks about his sister who is almost fifty, but because of brain injury sometimes it is difficult for her to understand the simple things of life. A soft knock comes on his door.

“ Hello, brother.” Sheba, her sister appears at the door in a long pale green dress, a little dusty at the corner. She smiles, her eyes warm as she walks past him into the room holding a few shiny rocks on her right hand and a small chips pack on the other. She moves to the couch and sits down. Sheba arranges all her rocks in a circle on the small  the coffee table and the shiniest one in the middle. Issac sits slowly in the  armchair in the corner and watches her.

“I have not seen you the whole day? Where did you go?” Isaac asks carefully clearing his throat. He does not want to upset her.

Sheba scoots her feet under her, leaning down to push aside her black sandal. “ Today I met one of mom’s friend. Remember Diana?”

“ Wow, you saw her. How is she. I have not seen her for ages.”

“So I was sitting under a big tree and watching the children playing soccer. I wanted to play with them but then I changed my mind. They are too young and I bet they do not play by the rules. So I decided to just sit and watch.” She giggles covering her mouth.

“ It was so funny that me and the tree looked the same; still and quiet.” She giggles again. Yes, a lady with nice looking gray hair in a navy blue saree was standing patiently and watching the game. At the end of the game she walked towards me and said, “ Hi, Sheba, is that you? O’ my you have grown so tall and pretty!” Her voice sounded so familiar. I glanced at her. “Diana!” Then we hugged each other and she told me all her stories; her children, her husband, a lot. But I did not have patience to hear such a long story. Do you know it is like the book says Never ending story. Yep, just like that. So, I waved my hand and left.”

“ It is wonderful that you met her. Did you invite her to our house?” Issac leans his elbow on the table in front of him.

She crosses her arms. “ No,next time.” She uncrosses her arms and runs her fingers through her hair, which parts towards the front and to her long braid. “So, where is mother? She told me that she will come back from the hospital and I have been waiting for last three days. It is hard to fall asleep without her on her bed. I stare at the objects, to the ceiling and let my mind go blank and when my tears dries I blink.” Sheba looks down to the floor.

“ First I thought she could not come because of the heavy rain and storm, but today the sky’s so clear and bright!” Sheba leans on to the open window to make sure that the sky is still clear.  She nods her head.

“ Well, it is dark now, but still a clear sky.” She returns her gaze towards her brother.

And there is a silence that went on for a little while. Isaac is used to silence, but this is not a nice one. He leans more against the cushion thinking how to answer his sister’s question. He sits straight.

“Remember, last time I told you that our mother is a star now, he points to the sky through the open window. “ There, I can see her clearly, just in the middle.”

Sheba cranes her neck and looks upward. “There are millions of stars in the sky, so which one is mom?” She consoles herself. “ May be the brightest one. You are right brother. It is the middle one.”

Isaac stands there with her sister. “She is the brightest one because she was the kindest, warm,loving woman. Everybody liked her.” Isaac returns his gaze. “ Show me your rock collections and I want to see the shiniest one.”

Sheba’s eyes are moist. She is still glancing at the star studded sky. Her mind, which has been spinning, rearranges itself. She feel herself again.

“I will,but you have to give two big half a dollar coins.”


“ Sure.” Isaac laughs. His eyes begin to break into a tenderness around their corners as he steps back from the window.



Meeting an Angel


The truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will. She presses one hand to her heart again and wonders if  she has made a mistake. Closing her eyes she thinks of her grandfather, grandmother, her parents, their love, affection. She could not meet their expectation! Sigh. Countless thoughts and questions envelop her mind. As Lekha leans against a soft pillow on the narrow bed, the thick printed curtain parts. Lekha sits straight. A woman in middle forty enters in a navy blue saree with gold border. Her black hair in a loose bun, small gold earrings on her ears, deep red bangles on her  both arms and a big red dot on her forehead, in between the brows. She appears to be a simple and friendly lady. Sometimes you meet someone and suddenly your heart sings. Yes, it is something like that. But who is she? May be a relative of my boyfriend .Out of courtesy, Lekha gathers her lilac colored silk saree from slipping and climbs down from the bed.

 “ Good morning! She smiles, pursed lips, raised eyebrows. She points at the bed. “ Please sit.” Her bright big eyes settles on lekha’s face for a while.

“ I heard from my son and sister about you. Is it true that you like my son?” She looks up at the ceiling, then to the wall.” A small sigh. She shifts and leans gently against the bedpost.From the trail of her eyes Lekha notices a slight similarity between mother and son, same nose, oval face, big brown eyes. A voice distracts her.

“ I understand completely. In our society we have to think hundred times before taking this type of decision.” Her eyes fastened on lekha.

“ Your parents love you so much and you just left them! She nods her head in disbelief. “ Sweety, if you want then I will arrange someone to drop you at your house.”

Lekha sits quietly. Her head down. She has no answer.  The stubborn nineteen years old girl is there to stay.

It has been a month after that incident. Now she is married and stays with her in laws.It is bright Sunday morning Lekha comes out of bathroom with a wet towel and pauses as her mother in law calls her. Lekha looks towards the veranda. Her mother in law sits on a wooden chair with a small white teacup. Without raising a hand from her lap, she offers a narrow smile.

“ Darling, today is a very special day.” She takes a sip from the hot tea.It is a special day for the new daughter in law to cook lunch for everyone and usually the neighbors come to taste the food. You can cook whatever you want. A big smile flashes on her face. She pushes the chair back and takes the cup to the sink. “Let me know if you need anything special for cooking and I will get those from the neighborhood store.”

The wet towel  slipped from Lekha’s hand when she heard about cooking. It is a grave situation. She can prepare special tea with ginger and cardamom. What else? She knows how to make chapati. Well it may not be quite round but it may work and rice is the easiest. In her parents home the cook does everything so she has no idea how to cook. She always thing cooking is boring, wastage of time. Instead read book, write or explore nature. But somehow she gets the confidence to do the task. Her father always says confidence is the key to success.  Lekha walks into the kitchen. “Oh, no! There is no gas stove here”. You have to use kerosene to light the woods which she has never done before. “Well, I will try.” Lekha pours a little kerosene on the dry woods and strikes the match. Yep, it works, the flame starts.She looks at the pots to cook rice but they are not the stainless steel or brass small pots, instead they are huge clay pots. “ Wow! It is even hard to lift the pots when is full with water.”Rice is almost done. She has to remember how to prepare the potato curry. Which one goes first? She stands with six big raw potatoes in a container and spices in a small bowl.A long deep breath. Lekha sits on the kitchen floor and peels the potatoes. One end of her light pink cotton saree is towards the other stove. Her mind replays a few scenes of the kitchen but the there is no clue to know the steps of the cooking. It feels real hot in the kitchen. Lekha wipes the sweats and suddenly hears her husband’s voice. “Take off your saree, right now. Take off.”

“ What? Here in the kitchen?” A shy smile hovers on her face. But she feels very hot. Must be the humidity. Then her mother in law comes running with her husband and both of them pull her saree fiercely.

“ Fire on your saree!”

She pours a bucket of water on the saree to diminish the fire. All the faces are white with fear. She hears the soft voice of her mother in law.” Sweetie, are you okay? You should be more careful while cooking. Do not worry, you go and change. I will ask someone to help you out.” Lekha walks out of the kitchen to change to another saree. She returns back into the kitchen. There her husband’s youngest sister has started to  peel the rest of the potatoes. Inside the kitchen her mother in law is mopping the water. She stands straight as Lekha steps in. Lekha is scared that she may say something.

“ Lekha, do not worry about cooking.” She points at her daughter. “ She will finish up and if anyone asks then let them know that you have prepared everything.”

Lekha looks at her face.She is so nice just like my grandmother or  my mother! I am so lucky to have her in my life.

It is the second week of wedding, a pretty spring morning. The sun is resting on the mailbox when Lekha opened it to pick up the mail. It is a letter from her grandmother. She walks to the backyard and settles herself on a wooden bench to reads the letter.She reads and reread each sentence. All of a sudden he face falls slightly. All the sweet memory of her grandma comes live.  She starts to sob.

“ Morning!” Her mother in law walks through the back gate. “ What are you reading that makes you cry?”

Lekha wipes her tears in the back of her palm. “ It is grandma’s letter. I miss her so much. I wish I can go back to her, see her, hug her and spend time with her.” Her mother in law sits down next to her on the bench. They sit silently. The air is thick with the scent of  honeysuckle, white and yellow blossoms dotted the bushes.

“Smell that?” She asks.

Lekha lifts her face from the letter and sniffs. “ I do not want to. I want to go back to my grandmother.” Her face is down. Her mother in law’s hand touches Lekha’s shoulder softly. A tear falls from the corner of her eyes leaving a trail down her cheek. She put her arm around Lekha. “ I understand your emotion and I can feel your sadness. But you made this decision of marriage. The only way is to wait for a miracle to happen, so that you can meet your family again. Give some time.”

Lekha looks at her. “She is so kind, warm,compassionate! She is the  sweetest person and the greatest gift in her life!Time will heal this.”

“Thank you so much Mom!” says Lekha folding the letter in her hand.

“ What for? She smiles. “ Come let’s go inside.

Two days back my ninety-three years old mother in law  passed away.

Her motherly affection, love, kindness will always stay with me. It will be perfect to say that she was an angel not only for me but to all others in her family, her neighbors,to strangers!


Life from different angles


Her quiet and lonely life  has lasted for almost a year. One foggy week goes by, then another. One silent evening is followed by another silent evening. One cloudy day, after visiting the last patient, Liz drives to a nearby town to meet her friend Mei, a writer. Mei opens the front door holding the I-pad in one hand. A warm smile flashes on her small round face.

” Liz! After a long time! It is so nice to see you. Come in.” She closes the door from behind  and Liz takes off her shoes before walking into the living room. On the rectangle coffee table there are magazines and books are in a big pile. A few candles on one small table in one corner of the room. As Liz sits on the beige couch, Mei glances at her face.

” How are you Liz? I tried to call you so many times and even e-mailed you but I never received any reply! You need to let it go and move on with life.” Mei touches her shoulders.

” It is not that easy, not at all. But I am keeping myself busy in the clinic.” Liz replies slightly touching her ring then she pauses. ” How is your Novel coming?”

Mei brings the i-pad  and opens the goggle drive. She lets her friend read the story while she walks into the kitchen to prepare some tea, something to calm her friend. It is a pretty long story. Mei is almost forty and has been working on the novel for the two years now. she is a great believer in revision and revises each section on the novel six or eight times before she goes to the next chapter. Each time Liz comes, she reads hundred pages more. In many respects it reminds her of Henry’s screenplays. In one sentence the story might leap thirty years ahead and then in the next leap sideways two thousand miles across. But she loves to read her friend’s novel. Mei comes back to the room holding a small tray with two beautiful floral tea cups.

“This will help you relax.” Liz lifts the cup. The aroma of the tea wraps her as she sips the tea. Mei takes the I-Pad and starts to read her own story for a minute or two. She turns her head towards Liz and starts to talk on editing her story.  She concentrates more on her writing. After an hour or two of flipping a few magazines and reading the new edited lines of Mei’s story,Liz decides to leave.

” It is not nine yet. Stay a little longer and I will be done soon. Afterwards we can talk and watch a movie together.”

” It is fine Mei. But I have to leave. Tomorrow I have two meetings between eight to ten in the morning. Good night!” they hug each other.

After one week,on a partly sunny day, just after the announcement of a upcoming hurricane, Liz flies to Chicago to meet her friend Adel, a wonderful artist and her college friend. It is late afternoon when Liz reaches in Adel’s house. They sit in his dining room and talk for a while touching different events of their lives. On the table lay one or two sketch pads, sketch pens and a few almost completed sketches on one side of the table.

“The light is fine today,” he says “It seems to melt a little around the point where the water met with sand. Not at all like yesterday.”

“It was too bright Yesterday?”

She grimaces. “Too flat?”

” How is your clinic and the new patient?” Adel asks.

” It is very busy in the clinic and the new patient is getting stronger. she is seventy five but the surgery went well.”

Liz appreciates him as a kind and thoughtful man but does not like him when he is totally engrossed in his art! Liz leans over from her chair and touches his arm, and he stops sketching the dog until she moves her hand away.

” I came to see you after a long time and instead of talking to me you are concentrating on your sketch.”

” Sorry!” he says lifting his eyes from the sketch, then he frowns on the dog. ” I haven’t figured out the light,” he says. ” If I can’t understand simple light, forget about the stone sculptures.”

“It is the same light wherever you are, only your angle changes.” She shifts her chair closer. One of the cook places two cups of coffee between them on the table.

” We are good friends,” she says.

“Indeed, you are welcome to stay here in my home until you decide something else to do.”

Thank You for the invitation but I am needed in the clinic. I can’t leave it in short notice.”

Adel gives a short laugh that sounds precisely like the first abrupt sounds of a boiling kettle. ” You need someone to be with you and about the clinic. you can open one here and start your practice.”

Liz is surprised. ” It is not that easy to close one and open another in a completely different city. ” She glances at his face. ” Also what is the point of moving here? I will be busy in the clinic and you will never have time to spend.”

Adel sketches an errant line in the  dog’s tail and rubs it with his thumb. Then he stops.

” We are friend Liz. I will stand by you and give you company whenever you need. You have to make a decision. You have to be brave like Jules Verne who went twenty thousand leagues in search of the vastness of the sea.” He tosses his head back. “It is impossible for you to understand.”

” Now a days I stand alone in the early morning hours, where there are no foot prints besides my own behind me and I can feel a stark of emptiness in my heart. I understand everything very well.” Liz reaches right over and takes a sip of the hot coffee. Adel shakes his head and looks at Liz. ” He is gone Liz. You need to get over it and start a new life. I am serious.”

Liz glances at him. He starts to fidget with the sketch book like a young boy in school. She wonders how long she would have to sit with him before she could reasonably escape. Liz thinks of all the people she has met. She wouldn’t miss any of them and none of them would spend even a moment wondering of they would miss her. Each of them would fade in the other’s mind like paper dolls in a sunny window.

Over the Moon


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Thorofare Pass – Meadow Summit, Eielson Center- Denali National Park, Alaska

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful country in the world.”- John Muir

A simple postcard with the stunning picture of mountains from a National forest and under it a famous quote of John Muir,an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness  appeared in my mailbox from Arbor Day Foundation. I have kept it carefully on my desk. There is something splendid about those words.That gives me motivation to explore Alaska. In every year our family take vacation to different National parks to be in the nature, mostly to do hiking on the mountains; the fun and experience are priceless! We have been trying from last five years to visit Alaska because of its uniqueness; It is 663,268 square miles, ½ the size of the rest of the USA, it has the largest and magnificent mountains in North America, has more coastlines, stunning aurora borealis,volcanic valleys, jagged sea cliffs, have half of  the world’s glacier, tundra,3000 rivers and lakes, two largest coastal rain forests; Tongass in Southeast and Chugach in south central. It has Denali, once called Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America. Located in south-central Alaska, the mountain’s peak is 20,310 feet (6,190 meters) above sea level, also making it the third highest of the Seven Summit. Imagine the breathtaking beauty of their wilderness!

One evening in February. I was returning from a long walk in the trail when my daughter called. “ Hi Mom! How are you?”

“ I am fine. Just returning from my walk. Are you back from work?

“ I am early today. But guess what mom. Are you ready to hear? Stand still.”

“ Is everything okay?” I asked with concern standing in the middle of the trail.

“ We are going to Alaska in July.”  Her voice was full of excitement,enthusiasm.

“ What? I have not made the ticket or requested for vacation. Are you kidding?”  An eyebrow lifted. My lips gave a slight twitch.

“ Not to worry mom, I have taken care of everything, so on the first week of July we will be on our way to the dream vacation. Are you excited mom?Mom?”

There were no words for this unexpected news! Just nodding of head in disbelief. Tears choked voice of thrill and joy. A sudden flash of a  big delightful smile.

Day 1-

On the first week of July,on a mild sunny day, suitcases were packed with rain coats, winter jackets, hiking boots, hiking poles, backpacks with jingling bells to alert the bears, sun block, mosquito repellant ( Alaska has at least 27 species of mosquitoes) and all other necessary items. On a refreshingly bright Saturday morning, happiness and excitement gathered tightly in our hearts as we drove to the airport. The four hours, twenty eight minutes long flight landed at Seattle airport in late afternoon and in fifteen minutes we rushed to board the next flight Alaskan airline. Inside the flight, my husband leaned comfortably against the seat, the tips of his feet were crossed. He was reading the New York Times newspaper. My daughter took a long nap; a nice break from her intense work load and my son continued his work from his laptop. My eyes wandered outside through the small window, far to the beautiful snow-covered mountain range of Alaska,the way I have seen in the documentary.The book Second hand Time stayed close on my lap for a long time until  I heard the sweet voice of the nice, friendly air hostess.

“ What would you like to drink?”

“ Water without ice is fine. Thank You.”

I sipped the water from a small plastic cup and opened the first page of the book. I was almost in the middle of the book when the announcement in a shrill voice echoed “ Hello! We will be landing shortly.Please switch off all your electronic devices and buckle your seat belts.” After two and half hour our flight safely touched the heart of Alaska’s, “ Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport”, located 5 miles southwest of downtown. We picked up our luggage and the rental car. The rental car lines were very long. It took almost one hour to pick up the car.Outside the weather was sixty-seven degree, sky was running by plump, cushion clouds and the road sides were full of pretty lipstick red flowers, small yellow as marigold and blue clustered flowers. Just above the bowline of the horizon, faint as a watermark on pale blue paper if the wavering tracery of the mountains! The smile on my face was wide open, sunny without a doubt on the world that this week of adventure in Alaska will be wonderful.It took us only fifteen minutes to drive to the Home2 suites in downtown.

Day 2-         Around eleven in the night the lights of our room were switched off. But it was difficult to sleep when the heart is swelled with excitement! “Excitement is a crossroad which runs in all directions.Criss Jam

It was almost two o’clock in the night, when I woke up to drink water from the water bottle that was on the small table close to the big window facing the parking lot. I took a few gulps of water and glanced outside, gently moving the heavy curtain from the window. “What?” outside there was light in the sky! It was not that bright but like the soft late afternoon sky. “No way!Out of curiosity, immediately I turned sharply from the window and looked at the small table clock which clearly showed the time 2:15 PM. I slowly pulled the curtain across the window. “ It is so cool! No sunset!” I laughed on a high prolonged note and then my lips closed slowly not to disturb others. But it was too late.

“ Mom,go back to bed. We have to wake up early.”

“ Sorry. Good night!’’ I went back to the bed and tried to sleep.This time I had to meditate to fall  asleep.

A bright and lemony morning fell across the rectangle wooden table, touching a brass vase of plastic flowers and scattered on our opened luggages.It was almost 9 am. After breakfast, we arranged ourselves in the car and drove on Seward Highway south for about 47 miles past Girdwood  to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation center, on the right side at Mile 79. The view is spectacular on both sides of the road; the shorelines of Turnagain Arm,the magnificent view of Cook Inlet and  jutting peaks of gorgeous Chugach mountain.You can pull over along the side of the road to snap a few pictures.Each turn on the road reveals another scenic wonder. There is freshwater marsh, nestled between the foot of the mountains and Turnagain Arm where the Seward Highway leaves urban Anchorage behind, offers intimate views of migrating and nesting birds, spawning salmon and browsing moose. On the sides of the road there are lots of sky blue color,flowers with five connected salverform petals,that are a quarter to a third of an inch wide, have a white inner ring and a yellow center. We checked all the flowers of Alaska in a magazine that my daughter picked from the hotel and it is the“Forget-me-not”, Alaska’s state flower.

There is a beautiful poem by Esther Darling on this flower. One stanza is

“ In the land that God forgot,

We’ll recall Alaska to them

With our blue Forget me not.”

We reached our destination around 10 am. It is a slightly cold morning the sun looks like a little white button stitched tight to the sky. My son  stopped and read loudly the mission of the Wildlife Center which was posted on a  board at the entrance; The mission of the Wildlife Conservation Center is to provide  extreme care for sick,wounded and orphaned animals year-round. Most of the animals they rescue become permanent residents. The Center maintains over 200 acres of large spacious habitats for animals to feel at home and display their natural “wild” behavior. After we purchased the entrance ticket which was $ 12 for adults and free for the children. We walked around on a wide gravel glittered road, the 1.5 miles of enclosed area. There were four brown bears, one red fox, white mountain goats, lots of moose, musk ox, bisons, porcupine and elks.Visitors may see brown bears cooling off in the water, a bull moose strutting, wood bison roaming on pastures and more.Most striking, though, were the brown bears, lumbering and quite intimidating from an open, winding boardwalk above the bears’ habitat. It’s safe — the bears can’t get you — but thrilling, too since there’s very little barrier separating you from the animals. I managed to snap a pretty decent photo of one of them, but it didn’t do justice to the excitement of seeing these huge animals up close.There was one red fox, white mountain goats, lots of moose, musk ox, bisons, porcupine and elks. They have a beautiful gift shop as neat as a pin.The contribution by the visitors in the form of admission fee, donation, gift shop purchase are a big help for the center. I noticed a fat black bird in wedge-shaped tail, heavy bill, on top of a small bush and it was overly articulated. I asked one of the forest ranger. “ Hi! Is this a crow?”

She laughed. “ It is a raven, a very smart bird! They are capable to make 50 calls of their own and mimic almost any sound they hear.”

“ Really! Unbelievable!” My eyes turned to the talented raven.

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Anchorage, Alaska- Wildlife Conservation Center

The mountains are calling and I must Go.” John Muir

The sun was close to the edge of the clouds and one half of the sky was bright blue.From there we drove 15 miles in Chugach state park to the famous Flat top mountain. Flattop Mountain is located on the southeast side of Anchorage, just slightly above a residential neighborhood with some of the city’s best views. From Highway 1 on the south side of town, take the Rabbit Creek Road exit and head east.  Rabbit Creek Road turns into Hillside Drive, then turn on Upper Huffman Drive, then Toilsome Hill Drive, which will then turn into Glen Alps Road.  At the end, you’ll arrive at a large, and likely very crowded, parking area. There is a parking fee of five dollar.The mountain is total of 1,260 feet from the parking lot trail head.  The high point of the mountain – 3,510 feet  Ascend the 1.5 – mile, 1,350 vertical foot trail to the rocky, football field-sized summit in about an hour.The trail starts from a wooden stairway in the parking area and the path makes its way through the scattered trees, heads up hill over several switch backs and moderate sottish hike. My husband was singing a few lines from Robert Frost’s poem “ Stopping By Woods in a Snowy evening

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

The mountain was completely enshrouded in low clouds.  There were periodic bouts of clearing, leading us to hope that perhaps we would get lucky along the way.A light rain started, the weather cooled down a lot. Like a glass of ice water with the ice just taken out, I announced. “My favorite weather!” The cloud covered most of the mountain tops, so it was hard for us to navigate although the scenic beauty was mesmerizing. We spotted Bunchberry  which is an evergreen groundcover that grows up to 8″ tall. It has an erect stem topped with 4-7 leaves in a whorl. The leaves are oval with a rough “dogwood” texture. Tiny flowers cluster at the top of the stem atop 4 white modified leaves, which form a structure that looks like a white flower. While I was in the height of exploration I heard my husband’s voice from my back. “ We should go back. It is hard to navigate in the fog.” He did not want to face or surprise any animal.

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Anchorage, Alaska- Flattop Mountain Trail i the Chugach Mountain Range (Chugach State Park)

“ I understand but can we hike a little more? I don’t want to go back.”  My stubborn mind always takes over on mountains. But there is no point of argument, so we turned around to climb down. Although I was not in a mood to leave the place. The view from the top is amazing! A panoramic view of Anchorage; of the neighboring valley, looking back into Chugach State Park, and the Chugach Mountains. Our eyes lingered on them, taking everything greedily in. After the long day of adventure and sightseeing we eat in a Thai kitchen. The price was reasonable and we ate delicious steamed spring rolls, yellow and red curry with tofu and lots of vegetables. Around eleven in the night the sunlight was still lingering outside when we returned to the hotel room to take a good night’s rest.

Day 3 –

It was a  splendid morning! After breakfast we headed out to our next adventure to the Wolverine Peak Trail. From the new Seward Highway we drove east on O’Malley Rd for ~4 miles at which point the road bends sharply left.  Immediately after the bend, we turned right onto Upper O’Malley Road. At the “T” intersection, turn left onto Prospect Dr. One mile further, bear left where Prospect Drive intersects Sidorof Ln and continued .1 miles to the Prospect Heights parking area.  We reached a small parking area after one mile. You pay $ 5 dollar fee. The trail starts there. Upon starting we turned left at the T path leads to Powerline pass, followed the trail around the hillside until reached a wooden bridge crossing a pretty creak. The trail makes its way out of the surrounding forest. Along the side of the trail there are 1 to 4 feet long beautiful clusters of white five lobed flowers with long stamens shooting above the petals. A few western Hemlocks, leaves are wider, thin light green than the spruce, pointing down,Their cones are dark brown and the bark is gray-brown.The trail is a gradual slope for first few miles, trail gets steeper through the brush. It narrows and veers up and out into backcountry. After a couple of miles along a very well maintained flat trail, crossing Campbell creek, the trail forks uphill towards the peak passing through the spruce,black and paper birch forest.  The trail was a bit muddy and slick from rain and lots of mosquitoes. There are beautiful springs flow on both sides of the trail.A ridge will be reached after a long trek uphill, marked by a large pile of rocks. We were hiking up and the bells in our backpacks jingled all the way.My son was hollering “ Hey, Bear” in every twenty minutes or so. We are supposed to talk or sing when hiking in the wilderness to alert the wildlife and not to startle them.From now and then we had to stand still and look around to check the surrounding. That is a bear country for sure! It is a 8.6 miles out back trail and the elevation is 3,550 feet. Towards the top of the  valley the tundra stretches ahead and on the ground there were recently bloom white flowers, red flowers .pretty pink five petal roses and patches of eight-lobed flowers with a yellow center.Gorgeous all along!  

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Anchorage, Alaska- Wolverine Peak Trail, Chugach State Park 

A high alpine wonderland. We stood there and looked around.On a distant valley we spotted two moose grazing and on the opposite side, two white dots.

“ Must be the Dall sheep!” I said snapping a few pictures. Then I asked my family if we could climb a little further up to the top but they did not agree.

“ Mom, last month there was a bear attack in one of the trail here in Anchorage. We should climb down from here.”

As we were climbing down we saw a young man in a navy blue short and a white t-shirt taking picture of the Dall sheep in his professional camera.

We greeted each other and I asked him. “ Are you taking the picture of Dall Sheep’s?” I pointed to the top where the dots were moving slowly.

“ O’ they are not the sheep, but brown bears. I am a research student and trying to observe and study the bears.” He answered smilingly.

“Really!” We looked at him then turned our heads towards the mountain top. I could not resist.

“May I look through your binocular?”

We took turns to look through the binocular. The white dots were two light brown bears! We were glad that we did not climb up towards the bears. From there we went straight to Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria to eat.We had a great server who was efficient and prompt.Helpful with the menu, patient with our questions, and still had a sense of humor.Pizza was amazing and the atmosphere was cozy. It was almost eleven Pm and outside it was like an early evening sky! That night my husband and children were very tired from hiking. My husband asked me. “ You must be real tired too.How is your right heel?”

“ Nothing, no soreness so feeling fine.” I answered honestly arranging my pillow to a perfect position. I could see the astonishment in his eyes. Even I was surprised too. I had sore knees from the kickboxing class and Plantar Fascisti on my right heel. It was real painful for couple of weeks before I ventured out.But there was not much pain after two days of hiking, just a little soreness on my heel. My daughter overhead and smiled.

“ Dad, I think mom’s excitement has taken away all the pain.”  All our heads nodded simultaneously and laughter echoed in the room.

Day 4 –

A bright slice of sunlight moved slowly across the wall and when it reached the top of the clock on the corner table, we checked out of the hotel.Another gorgeous, lovely morning! We drove almost five hours on AK-3N to Denali. Mirror Lake is the first of many, located just a short drive from Anchorage, and a few minutes from the highway. Surrounded by the untouched wilderness of Chugach State Park, this lake is known for its flawless reflections of the mountains behind it. There are picnic tables and hiking trails, but we could not stayed longer as the sunny day turned into a cloudy and rainy day!  It is a two-way road and speed limit changes either to 60 or 50. We passed Reflection Lake, Eklutna lake,Talkeetna on our way. When you arrive at the entrance to Denali National Park, this is when your journey into the gorgeous, untouched wilderness will begin. Depending on how much time you take to reach Denali, it’s feasible that you will arrive late. After driving through the breathtaking view we were already fallen deeply in love with Alaska. We drove north on the Glenn Highway (AK-1), took the interchange north on the Parks Highway (AK-3). At mile 238, there is a signs for the beautiful Grande Denali Lodge on the right (east) side of the road. We drove in a zigzag road to the top of Sugarloaf mountain and checked in there.Their staffs and service were perfect! It has easy access to guided Denali activities,spacious rooms, Alpenglow Restaurant with local cuisine, peak Espresso in the main lodge and courtesy shuttle service.The view from the restaurant window was spectacular! It offers a panoramic view of the entire Denali Canyon, located less than a mile from the entrance to Denali National park. There in the  restaurant we eat black bean burger and chicken sandwich. In their Peak Espresso cafe they serve Alaska’s very own Kaladi Brothers Coffee and a wide variety of specialty coffees and teas.  The delicious pastries are a perfect way to satisfy a light sweet tooth craving.The place was beautiful, and the restaurant staffs were outstanding – food was terrific.

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On the way to Denali National Park – On the right is Mount Denali, seen only by 30% of the visitors to Denali NPS.  We saw it!

It was almost five fifteen in the evening and there was no sunset, so we decided to check the visitor’s center and go for an easy hike. We turned onto the Park Road at mile 237 of the Parks Highway. Just up the road on the left there is the road to the post office, Riley Creek Campground and the store.There is also the Wilderness access center where you can park.

The Denali Visitor Center is just up the road has information about the Park.Near the visitor center, there is a bookstore and cafeteria.Denali rangers repeated this message–run from moose, don’t run from bears.Of all the park’s critters, moose and bears are the two most likely to charge and injure a human if encountered at close range. “Stand your ground and talk to the bear. And wave your arms slowly above your head.Never run from a bear; that’s the worst thing you can do, because it could trigger the bear’s predatory instincts.” My son walked to one open corner of the room to rechecked his backpack to make sure that we have the bear spray.The hazards of surprising a grizzly are well documented, but moose can be nearly as dangerous.If you encounter a moose, get out of its way as quickly as possible. Run away from it. We thanked the ranger for his advice and left the center.

Dad and mom, both of you make sure to walk jingling your bells and do what the ranger told us to do if we encounter any animal.”

“ Sure, we nodded our head.” We smiled. It was so much fun to hear when the children act like your parents! After checking the map for nearby trails we decided on Horseshoe Lake trail. The popular trail begins at Mile 9 on the Park road near the railway tracks. It is 3 miles roundtrip, elevation gains 200 feet. We walked leisurely on a developed trail.The trail takes us into a forest of spruce, aspen, birch, poplar trees and  tall fireweed a  common plant with a tall stalk, long, willow-like leaves and fuchsia-colored flowers, the fireweed blooms from bottom to top. Looking around, we see that many of this forest’s aspens have had sections of their bark stripped away. After the overlook bench, there are lots of wooden steps to go down, the trail drops steeply. Along the way we had a panoramic view of the Nenana River, passing the impressive Beaver dam. We stood at the edge of the calm and serene beaver pond.  A steep slanted flash of sunlight was falling along the water, and the reflection of the sky and the trees and the mountains on the clear water were absolutely stunning! It is funny to see the teeth marks of the beavers on lots of trees surrounding the dam and surprised at the intelligent engineering skills of the beavers.We walked along the pond towards the Nenana River, the water flow out of the Nenana Glacier and runs south then west into a wide glacial valley.The Nenana River is a tributary of the Tanana River, approximately 140 miles long. It is the most popular river rafting destination and also a favorite whitewater kayaking destination for boaters throughout the state.It has an annual Nenana Wildwater and Slalom Race each Fourth of July. We watched the amazing whitewater rafting from one side of the river. The side of the river is full of rocks and pebbles. On the shore there are a few small white and purple flowers hugging close to the ground .Beyond the river is a heavily commercialized stretch of Parks Highway, with hotels, restaurants, and other tourism businesses. We could see the Denali lodge up in the mountain, the train track, the bridge and the surrounding mountains. The view is dazzlingly beautiful! While we were busy in looking at the rafters, we heard a very distinctive sound. We looked down and there on a small rock stands a cute yellowish-brown, gray-flecked arctic ground squirrel.It was persistent in chatter. It face was lifted up towards us.

“Begging for food?” My son asked him mischievously.

“Let me feed him a nut.” I opened my backpack.

“No.Mom. You can not feed any animal.”

I closed the zipper of my bag and watched the cute and intelligent behavior of the squirrel.

The squirrel runs to the other side and chattered again. In the Visitor’s Center they have asked not to feed any animal so we could not offer him anything but enjoyed its company.The squirrel left with disappointment. For dinner we went to The Black Bear restaurant.Amazing food with fresh ingredients, good size portions and very filling.

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Denali National Park- Horseshoe Lake Trail, beaver dams and arctic ground squirrels

Day 5 –     And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”

Early morning around seven-thirty we drove to the Wilderness Access center. We parked the rental car and rode the Denali park and preserve transit green shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor center with our carefully packed hiking backpacks; sandwich, power bar, mixed nuts,water, mosquito repellent. The weather is extremely variable and changes without warning so we had both the rain and winter gears.Shuttle buses run frequently all day, making wildlife sightings and letting off park visitors along the park road and it’s an inexpensive wildlife safari.It is almost 3 hours to the Eielson Visitors Center via Park road. You have to purchase the ticket and make a reservation.The bus was packed. People were courteous to let others look out their side of the windows. The bus driver stopped for restroom breaks every hour or so, usually at some scenic spots. The heater was on during the whole trip, but the windows can be opened at will.The restrooms are outhouses with no running water, but are very nice and well maintained. The friendly driver asked all of us to shout if we spot any animal so that he can stop the bus. The other thing is we can take pictures but have to stay quiet so that we will not disturb the animals.On our way we stopped to see a brown bear resting on grass, a few caribou grazing on the field, state bird of Alaska ‘ The willow ptarmigan, a medium to large ground-dwelling bird, generally stands 14 to 17 inches high, has a wingspan ranging from 24 to 26 inches. Their plumage changes color from light brown in summer months to snow-white in the winter. In addition to color-changing feathers, another distinctive feature of the willow ptarmigan are its feathered toes. We saw Grizzly and cubs in an open field. The view of the snow-covered mountains and streams from both sides of the bus are impressive beyond words. They say that only about one-third of visitors ever get to see the  Denali mountain. There were lots of cloud that day and we could only see the tip of the mountain.Once arrived at the Eielson Center, there was a 50 min break before the same bus makes the return trip. The landscape was partially hidden by low clouds and fog, but gave a different feeling than when sunny. Just imagine if the sun comes out with blue sky and what more can we see!The Eielson Visitor Center is a large, shiny, modern facility in a gorgeous location packed full of people during the tourist season and fits into the surrounding landscape beautifully. It has limited displays & exhibits, allowing Mt. Denali and the surrounding vistas to be the focus of your attention during your time there. The Park Rangers had an exhibit set up to discuss animal identification. There is a small gallery of art inspired by Denali wilderness and wildlife are on display inside the Center and it is well worth viewing. Below Eielson there is a short walking loop which is a good option to take if after the long drive you need a few minutes to enjoy the peace and tranquility in the shadow of North America’s tallest mountain.  Outside the Center, there are plenty of benches and tables to enjoy the views from while eating a snack that you packed.

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Denali National Park  – Eielson Visitor Center, Alpine Trail

We could have signed up for a ranger led hike but preferred to hike at our own space. Another Indian couple joined us in our hike. We crossed the road to go to the Eielson Alpine trail head.The Alpine Trail is a popular one. It’s steep, well maintained, and gains about 1,100 ft. of elevation through serious switchbacks.We started up a narrow side trail that merges with the main trail after a hundred yard.It’s a single-track trail that winds rather steeply up the mountain on the other side of the road for about one mile. It ends a thousand feet higher in the tundra, where hikers can strike out on their own for as far as they want to go.Our elevation ranged from 3,766 feet at the trailhead to 4,883 feet at the peak. Reaching the top was breathtaking. We saw dwarf shrubs, sedges, mosses and tundra on the top. The tundra has bearberry to arctic rose, yellow marsh marigold,fireweed, dwarf dogwood Fuchsia flower at the top of the stalk and a family of cute arctic squirrels, very articulate.

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

  It was very windy at the top. We hiked a little more on the top and walked around, snapped a few pictures. Suddenly the partial clear weather turned into light rain and clouds covered the mountains again. We had to climb down to the visitors center to catch the bus back to the Denali Visitors Center.  We reached at our hotel around seven in the evening. Surprisingly, a little colorless sunlight forced its way around the hotel building and lay exhausted across the floor.

Day 6 –

It was a bright sunny morning, another magnificent day!  We were on our way to hike Mount Healy. It is a ridge system and reaches up to 6000 feet and the summit is 1500 feet higher. We drove to the Denali Visitor Center to access the trailhead easily. We followed the Taiga loop trail about 3 miles crossed the second service road. The stretch of the Taiga trail is relatively easy and with minimal elevation gain. Once we reached the trailhead, Mt. Healy Overlook trail begins going up immediately.The trail rises steadily through the forest of pretty Paper Birch, White Spruce, Alaska Birch and lots of pink five petal rose plants. Around half point, we reached at some wooden bench, took a little rest, snapped some pictures.It was a little hot that day so we had to reapply the sunblock, put on our hats before climbing up. The climb became steeper, rockier and trickier with lots of switchbacks and unsafe footing on the loose gravel.I have hiked before and on the same time I am scared to heights! When fear takes over I cry a little, but move on. So at the point when the trail tuned into loose gravel and real narrow, without any trees on the sides, I stopped and looked down. I should not have done that mistake! I started to cry and murmured to myself. “ I am really scared now, kids will you wait. Let’s go down. Kids!” No answer. They have moved ahead of me. I held both the hiking poles real tight, head down,eyes focused on the gravel trail and started to climb up. I don’t want Fear to win. But really it was very scary on those narrow turns!

On the top it was very windy!The breeze was strong enough to lift a ball cap off your head and send it flying,if you don’t grab it.But the breeze felt good, serving as a built-in air conditioner as we worked up a sweat, climbing the steep ridge. I stood with my back straight, took a deep breath and adjusted my hat. It took us almost a little over two hours to reach at the top.The actual summit is 1500 feet higher on the mountain. What a hike! “ Mom, we made it ! High five to us!” That was my son’s excited voice. We high-fived. On the top,the alpine tundra was stunning, dotted with patches of tiny, blooming wildflowers of all colors — yellow, white, purple, red, blue, white. Some flowers are densely packed like thickets hugging the ground, there are pink dandelions. They provided a stark contrast to the rock and talus-covered landscape.The views got more impressive the higher we climbed. The ridge we followed dropped off thousands of feet into creek bottoms on both sides. There were mountains stretched out as far as the eye could see to the east, west and south. Patches of white, creamy snow still littered the north-facing slopes while occasional patches of green grass dotted the south-facing slopes.  The top of the ridge was dominated by prehistoric-looking rock formations,and loose rocks with jagged peaks. We sat on two big rocks and eat our lunch. My son spotted a family of marmots.Near the top, the ridge turns to the south and you follow it to the top, which is marked by a rock formation consisting of four spires called “The castle.” The pucker factor increased the higher you climbed. There were several steep, rock formations and bolder fields to negotiate, some of which involved scrambling and climbing on hands and knees.We stopped at the bottom of the castle, which requires about a 50-foot climb up a steep crack in the rock wall. My children and husband went ahead to explore more. I waited for them and snapped some pretty pictures. From the top it was a beautiful 360 degree view. Below we saw the Nenana river, the Denali Lodge, visitors center. On the top surrounded by mountains in every direction. We did not spot any bear or moose. After one hour as the rain clouds started to move, we decided to descend back.

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Denali National Park- Mt. Healy Scenic Overlook Trail – We explored the entire ridge for ~6 hours.

Even though it was faster, the climbed own seemed harder than the climb up.Picking your way down through the rocks and talus slopes required more mental energy than climbing up. Our knees ached and our thighs burned as we made our way down the mountain toward the highway.It was our last day in Denali. We did not want to leave. There are so much to explore!

Day 7 –

After dinner we packed our luggage and drove back to Anchorage. Our last adventure was a journey in Kenai Fjord cruise to see the wildlife and glacier. Around 4 am we were on Seward Highway. It was the only highway to get between the two cities. The first stretch of highway is known as Turnagain Arm as it winds along the dramatic shore of the gorgeous bay. On one side there are the magnificent mountains  and the other side offers the gorgeous view of the alpine tundra across the Turnagain Arm. On the side of the road there are lots of dark blue flowers in long thick spike, bluebells and pinkish ¼ “ clustered flowers.We passed the Potter Marsh, a coastal wildlife refuge area for migratory birds including Trumpeter swans, red necked Grebes, pintails. But we could not stop as we had to catch the cruise at a certain time. The time plays a big role here. After two and half hour we reached at Seward, a scenic port city in southern Alaska, set on an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. The majestic Fjord is a geological formation that has been carved by 38 glistening glaciers, and Kenai Fjords are massive stone monoliths and islands that sit on the edge of  great Alaska.It’s a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, where glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into coastal fjords.To the west, a trail leads to the summit of Mount Marathon.Seward sits on the edge of this fjord that is surrounded by steep mountains that come straight up from the ocean. This geographical formation, fjords, brings together two of nature’s most magnificent creations, mountains and oceans, in a very dramatic way.  A very striking landscape! We parked our car in a free parking lot and rode the shuttle across the road to board the cruise.

This family owned tour operator has distinguished themselves with their great Seward-based cruises into Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park: they were the first to get National Park Service Rangers on board We boarded the 95 feet long luxurious cruise around eight am. There are almost one hundred passengers. You can sit inside the heated viewing area with giant picture windows, or stroll the large viewing decks. We preferred to stay outside on the deck. There were benches to sit. It was chilly and a little windy.  But the air was alive with chatter and laughter and enthusiastic discussions.Also a wonderful time to meet and greet lots of international travellers. The boat was very clean (even the bathrooms). Breakfast and lunch were also decent. There is a galley on board where you can get snacks and extra drinks but you are also more than welcome to bring your own food/beverages on board as well. The staff was enthusiastic to fill your water bottle for you. The tour began with a narrative speech of the captain. Time to time the he narrated during the cruise, sharing some of his deep knowledge of the Seward area’s history and terrain. Captain was on the lookout for wildlife and stopped the boat to drift along when something’s been spotted. He maneuvered the vessel so that we could see, hear and sometimes even smell all of the wonders around us.  He had a great speaking voice and was very knowledgeable about the area and the history of what he was showing us.

Our captain cruised out to the Cape Resurrection. The east side of the Resurrection Bay presents a massive sheer cliff to the pounding waves. The captain explained it as a pillow basalt, a type of igneous rock. It gets its name from the bulbous, pillow like shape which forms as the hot lava underneath the water cools rapidly. The bubble texture of the cliff is an ideal habitat for thousands of nesting Alaskan seabirds like puffins, kittiwakes, and cormorants. The captain stopped the boat close to the seabird nesting areas, providing great photo opportunities.  Everyone scrambling to get their shots.There were the cutest Horned Puffin  and Tufted Puffin. Both birds have bright orange beaks, webbed feet with black and white coloring. The Tufted Puffin has yellow tufts of feathers behind each eyes and fully blackbody, bold white face mask. They can dive  deeper than 24 m to catch a fish. Also the captain was describing that they can also hold 62 fishes in their bill at one time! They can fly beating their wins 300 to 400 times a minute, speed up to 64 Kph. It was so cool to see those pretty birds!  

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Kenai Fjords Day Cruise – Out of Seward – Puffins, whales, sea stars, and more!

On the opposite side of the bay, the shore is eroded into cliffs and coxes, dark-colored stones. Mud transformed by heat and pressure becomes a fire grained dark stone with lots of layers and hardens to slate in time.There were very porcelain white, the black-legged Kittiwake, a smaller gull on exposed rock ledges. I heard that they are unique with three toes rather than four. Our eyes traveled to a small rock where one bald eagle was trying its best to catch a big fish but could not. It was either too heavy or too big.On a big rock ledge there were the Common Murre, a deepest diving seabird and it can fly too. The captain was telling that this birds do not build nests, but instead lay their eggs on bare rocks, typically in horizontal cracks or crevices.There was red-faced Cormorant paddling on the water to eat fish.  The Black Oystercatcher with bright red and flat bills, have their nest among the pebbles in shallow, rocky depressions on the beach.

Moving to the west, there is Cape Aialik juts into the tumultuous water. The rock her is granodiorite, a lighter color than the ocean rocks. Glacier has covered the bedrock into steep cliffs, the slate crumbles once the ice melts away. It’s sheer surface is draped with waterfalls. It was packed with tens of thousands of Puffins, Murree.

“ Birds must have an affinity for granite as we love that in our kitchen.” I whispered to my husband. Both of us chuckled.

On a triangular-shaped large rock with lots of small rocks to its right in the water which is the Stellar sea-lion colonies, where they gather on the rugged, rocky coastline. This area of water is called “Haul-out.” The forest ranger who was standing with us pointed out to one Sea lion. “ Look closely in your binocular. The one with thick enlarged neck is the male and the ones half the size or smaller are the female.” They were basking themselves on the rocks.


There are lots of starfish, Harbor seals on a huge rock formation. My son rented one binocular, which was so much better to see the pretty,dazzling starfish clinging to the side of the rocks. I love the cute faces of the Harbor seals, as they pop their beautiful round heads quietly above the water surface and their curious eyes fall on the surroundings.There was red-faced Cormorant paddling on the water to eat fish.The cruise went close to the beautiful Fox Island, Pedersen glacier and Addison glacier.  Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge is the only accommodations on remote Fox Island. The waters surrounding it are a rich blue-green color that reflect the weather lapping upon the shore.. The air was getting colder. I walked down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Holding two cups of hot chocolate I climbed up to the outside deck. Me and my husband leaned back,stretched out legs and enjoyed the ride. “ Isn’t the sea wonderful?” says my husband rising from a long wide-eyed silence.  I nodded and pointed towards the sea-gulls. “ It will be nice to wake up at sunrise, swoop down over the water and away out in the lovely blue day!”

“Really, they are so lucky!” he replies looking at the birds through his binocular.

It was fun to see Orca or Killer Whales, member of the dolphin family swimming together, where the mother and the young ones were in the center and the male Orcas surrounding them.  They have pretty jet black bodies and white patches over their eyes, under the jaw.There are three different types, but I think we must have seen the Resident Orcas. They are highly social and travel in family groups. The curious and intelligent Orcas made a beautiful show for us  for half an hour,by coming out together from water then diving into the water. Their tall fins stacked up out of the water as they were swim close to the surface. It’s just incredible. You can see the whites of their faces glistening in the sun as they rise out of the water. I was thinking to just relax and enjoy these views. Then we heard over the loudspeaker “Well, we’ve seen a lot today. But…. there’s one last thing. Your wish has come true”. Suddenly you’ve gained the energy back, your fingers are somehow working after 7/8 hours of pressing the shutter down and you’re back in the game. , the captain asked us to look to the right side of the boat. There were two or more Gray whales standing on their heads in water with their flukes above the surface. They fall back at an angle creating a loud noise and a big splash, stayed underwater for fifteen minutes then dived up again. After half an hour, in a distant there were Humpback Whales with a distinct hump in front of their dorsal fin and large wing like flippers. They were swimming on their back with both flippers in the air. It was so cool to see when they raised their tails and slapped on the water surface as if performing a beautiful show to entertain us. There were a few black and white Dall’s Porpoise with small pointed flippers and triangular heads, swimming erratically, zigzagging in the water very rapidly. It was hard to snap their pictures. The captain made us laugh when he said that the Dall’s Porpoise get a free ride on the bow-wave of the boat. It was almost one, our lunchtime.The weather was perfect chilly weather! It was gorgeous – low clouds and mist created a primordial scene with one awesome view  after another!

The cruise boat travels approximately 100 miles round-trip through Resurrection Bay into Kenai Fjords National Park. It cruised through the protected Resurrection Bay and continued around Cape Aialik (pronounced “I-al-ik) into Aialik Bay to view Holgate Glacier, an active tidewater glacier. It was the highlight of  the cruise.After couple of hours we reached in Kenai Fjord.The  Kenai Fjord park covers an area of 669,984 acres on the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska, near the town of Seward.There we spotted a few playful, cute sea otters swimming in the water. As we cruised into Aialik Bay we had our first glimpse of Aialik Glacier, an active tidewater glacier. We stopped in front of the glacier and watch for calving, where large chunks of glacial ice break off and crash into the water. Our next stop was Holgate Glacier, a 400 feet of high colossus of snow and ice that moves at four feet per day into the sea.  Standing outside on the front deck we looked at the glacier. We could feel the cold wind around us. It was freezing cold. Our captain took the boat as close to any glacier as safely possible—typically between a half mile and a quarter-mile. And because big-time calving happens almost every day. We heard a sound like the crack of a gunshot, then watched as a huge chunk of ice splinters off the glacier to fall hundreds of feet to the ocean below. The glacier is constantly shedding its ice from its edge in order to balance itself as it ever so slowly moves forward toward the Gulf of Alaska.The ice that falls does so in massive chunks that become the icebergs spotted around the sea.Some of the icebergs can be incredibly large, so seeing one of those icebergs actually fall into the water is a sight to behold. The whole boat quiets while you’re just listening to the amazing sounds of the ice cracking, water streaming down the rocks, and yourself: in disbelief of where you are at this current moment in time.

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Vibrantly blue pieces of the glacier break off and go crashing into the sea below, rippling into a wave around it. It will sound like you’re listening to a thunderous large waterfall as the ice breaks apart and descends.The forest ranger scooped up one large piece of ice from top of the water so that we could touch and feel the ice. It was breathtaking to see the glacier from so close.We stood there silently holding our hands,with an awe to the nature. At the same time a strong awareness for Global Warming wrapped tightly on our heart. Of the more than 100,000 glaciers in the state, 95% are currently thinning, stagnating, or retreating.The gray clouds started to roll over and the captain slowly turned the boat back to Seward.

Stand Tall


One bright Saturday morning, just after breakfast Isaac drives to a nearby mall in a rundown car with his father. He sits in the front seat, behind the rustiest door. It is fun to drive with his dad. He loves how the tires float sideways in the wet road or when his dad honks the horn. It sounds like the Sesame street blue monster bopping its nose. The mall is full of people and on each door of the store it says “Don’t miss the Father’s day sale”. He takes a sip from the  grape juice bottle as his dad takes him to the glass elevator. “ So dad, I wonder if all these people are buying gifts for their dad. If you say yes, then I should buy something for you. Right?”

Isaac’s father pulls him to one safe corner inside the elevator and adjusts the small front pocket on his son’s faded blue t-shirt. “ May be they are shopping for father’s day or they may be going to watch movie. Remember the school is out for summer. But you do not have to worry on that. We are here to enjoy our day together and that is the best gift.”

“ I agree dad.”  He concentrates on his ride in the elevator with glass walls. He feels as if he sails into the enormous blue sky like Superman. Below him, all the people has turned into moving dots.He feels tall and brave.The elevator stops and as he pushes himself out his father stops him from behind. “ Isaac! Wait for your turn. I always remind you to follow the Rules. Rules are extremely important and more exact the better.”
“ Sorry dad.”

After the mall, they visit a friend’s house who lives in a few blocks from the mall. Their house resembles a stack of beige rectangles. The rectangles are brick and they glistened after it rains. Though they look delicious, he is not supposed to taste them.That is the rule. Sometimes when he gets crazy, he licks the wall. His friend calls him retarded and his dad abruptly pulls the chair back. “ He is tired from the long hours in the mall that is all. I better take him home.”  They return home quietly; his father concentrates on the wheel and Isaac looks at the puffy white clouds and the tiny birds up in the sky.

Around six in the evening Isaac plays with his bright yellow toy train on the front porch, while his father reads a newspaper sitting on the stair. The battery of the train stops working and his toy train stops in the middle of the first round.Issac kicks the train and it hits the wall and flips. He tries hard to fix it but could not. His father closes the newspaper and looks at him.
“ Don’t be so harsh on others.”

“ Sorry dad, it will not happen again, but at the same time I do not like the way the train behaves!”

“ Have a little patience!” He sits with Isaac and helps him putting the pieces together with lots of patience. 

After dinner Isaac brings out all his rocks from a big plastic box, and spreads them on the floor. This his collection from all the national parks that he has visited with his father.Once a week, he washes and dries his rocks. Sometimes he colors them to make them brighter and happier. He feels himself as the Superman of the lifeless objects.

At the second week of August, Issac starts the middle school. His Psychiatrist has guaranteed that he is normal now.In last visit, the psychiatrist, a tall, skinny, gray-haired man Dr.Robertson asked him. “ Do you want to draw a road runner looking at the picture, while I do the tests? Or you can color it. Whichever one you like. Go ahead.”

Isaac did, he is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His road runner looks like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. And now he goes to school. In the school playground he meets his old school friend Ron. He always boss him around or clearly bullies him; he kicks his desk, snaps his pencil in two, sometimes eats his lunch, bumps him from behind in the recess line. But Isaac does not how to respond so he stays quiet, does not say a word.

That afternoon it rains. The parking lot reflects the sky from a thousand puddles. His father comes to pick him after school. As Isaac walks into the house, he notices that the brick of his house is dyed dark with water. They are stacked together like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers. But he does not want to lick the brick anymore. He follows dad’s rule; no tasting the bricks. That night before, bed Issac draws a spectacular rainbow with his father, sitting on the wooden floor of the living room. And the rainbow has only his favorite colors; Blue, orange and yellow.He dreams he is riding the glass elevator into the space. The earth disappears beneath  the clouds and a billion stars. His dad says, “ You are a superhero, do you know that? “ A big  delightful smile beams on Isaac’s face.

It is a cloudless day in early summer. A few cardinals are chasing each other in the back yard through the magnolia branches. A gray squirrel is busy eating nuts. Isaac sits close to the big glass window in the dining room and eats his lucky charms in a bowl of milk.He could see the planes drawing white chalk lines in the sky. After the school, his father looks at his tired face and bruises on his hand. “ Is it Ron?”

Isaac does not reply.

“ It is time I would like to teach you how to defend yourself, son!”

The wind is moving across the yard, swirling. The leaves on the grass are all glossy and speckled. They keep lifting onto their edges then slowly toppling over. That is when his father starts to teach him to punch,how to do back kick and front kick.

Next day the a substitute teacher comes to the class; a tall, skinny young man. He allows the class to vote on everything instead of taking his own decision: “ What would you like to study next: science or history? All in favor of eating in class, raise your arms.” It is a mess. No One listens to him. As the substitute teacher leaves the classroom for lunch, the students end up eating in the class except Isaac. As Isaac opens his lunch box, Ron comes, snatches his sandwich. It falls on the floor. The whole class turn and watch but no one says a thing. During recess in the late afternoon, Isaac spots Ron on a tower. He approaches the tower and climbs the ladder. It seems as if he is riding the glass elevator. He feels tall and powerful, he rises into the clear blue sky like a superhero.Ron stands at the platform’s open edge. Isaac runs towards him and shoves him. His body hits the ground, nothing happens except a few bruises. But the principal punishes him with weeks of suspension. During the car ride from school,his father drives quietly. Isaac turns his face towards him. “It may be very wrong dad, but I had to do this. He bullies me all the time and it hurts me. I am trying to stand for myself.”



“ Can you give me a house?” The boy asks standing close to the huge tree.

“ I have no house,” replies the tree. The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house.Then you will be happy.” The tree smiles.

The boy without any further thought, cuts off the tree branches to build his own house. It hurts the tree but she keeps quiet. She is just delighted to see the boy, her childhood friend.

“ Disgusting! So ungrateful! Selfish boy!” Hope uncrosses her legs, sits upright, legs drawn in and her eyebrow bends. She closes the book with a thump and hides it deep behind the other books in the walnut bookcase. As she turns around,she hears her mother’s voice from the kitchen.

“ Hope!It is almost time for school.”

Hope glances at the windsor cherry finish clock on the wall. It is almost 8.30 am. She marches through the narrow hallway to the dining room to grab her lunch box. Something fluttering out the  glass window caught her eyes. A bright cardinal sitting in the pine tree and staring directly at her. For a moment their eyes locked, and they look at one another their heads slightly tilted. “Welcome my new friend!” The cardinal chirps and then takes a flight, cheerfully. Hope’s gaze returns to the dining table.

“Did you memorize the timetable?” Her mother sips her tea, trying to look at her sideways with the cup at her lower lip.

“O, snap!” Hope nods her head in disbelief and tries to find out a reasoning.That is the main reason that she wakes up real early but she completely forgot! It must be the way she has arranged her books in the book shelve. Her study room has two doors. If you enter from the right side, then immediately you will notice the school books in the bottom shelve. But from the left side of the entrance your eyes directly fall  on the wonderful story books. Well,there is no other reasons to verify this event, so she must have the right conclusion. Now she realizes that instead of memorizing the time table, why she read a few pages of the book The Giving Tree.And she does not like the greedy, self-centered boy at all. “ Nope ! Nope! The friendship is such an amazing thing and the boy did not care to keep it! And on the other hand the tree is so affectionate, so kindhearted and so thoughtful! I am confident that my tree friends are wonderful like the tree in the book.

“Hope! Did you memorize or not? You need to focus more on your math.” her mother looks directly at her, one eyebrow arched.

Hope does not like to lie to her mother. There is something mysterious in mother’s eyes! They understand your inner feelings without any confession.She bends down to tie her shoes avoiding her mother’s eyes.” Don’t worry mom, it will be fine.I am getting late for school. Bye.” She leaves and her mother tilts her head back to sip the warm tea.


The bell rings for the first class.Hope sits with her two elbows on the small table, her hands clasped in front of her, her two fingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips.Hope tries her best to remember the time table before the class starts. She could remember up to the 7 but gets stuck in the eight table. The door opens and math teacher appears.He sits on his chair, takes the roll calls. He closes the book,pushes the chair to one side and abruptly stands up. He starts to ask question in a random order. Suddenly his eyes falls on Hope.

“ Hope! Please stand up. What is eight times eight?

Hope tries to count in her head. She stands straight. “ Sixty two.”

“It is hard to hear your voice. Come to the front of the class and speak clearly.”

Hope’s forehead and palms are warm and sweaty. As she tries to walk her way from her seat, her unstable nervous hand bumps into other notebooks and they fall in a pile. All the student’s curious eyes  are on her. She does not know where to look. “ Sorry! Pardon me!” She tries to  picks up the books from the floor.

She stands in the front. Her unstable nervous hands squeeze both sides of her maroon skirt.She closes her eyes for a second to do her prayer but suddenly she forgets the right one. Instead she begs the wonderful, kind tree of the story book. “Please help me.I will be your best friend forever and will not hurt you in any way.”

“ What is eight times eight?” A deep voice echoes.

A long breath.

Hope opens her eyes to answer. “ Sixty two.”

“What?” Now the voice is not only deeper but it sounds more angrier.

“Sorry, it is sixty four for sure.” Her voice is confident.

“ Excellent!Next week I will start the question with you so be prepared. You may go back to your seat.” The math teacher turns his attention to the class.

That evening after school, Hope opens the iron gate of her house and runs to the garden. She has to give this wonderful news first to all her friends in the vast garden.




Lora nervously smooths her skirt and then her hair, and asks to see Mr.Daniel as soon as the butler appears. A small smile ebbs across his face. “Please have a seat,ma’am,” he says gesturing dramatically to a marble living room filled with elegant  furniture. He disappears without a sound. Lora walks into the living room her small heels echoing throughout the enormous, empty space.Sunlight glints off the shiny floors and reflects the gilded, mirrored furniture. She takes a seat in a stiff, high-backed upholstered chair, places her portfolio against the chair and then takes a deep breath. After a while of waiting, she takes a few echoing steps towards a set of massive French doors and pulls on one.The door opens with a silent whoosh and walks outside. Her eyes widens. Stunning, she thinks.

Colors immediately overwhelms her visual senses: the home is white, sleek, almost an homage to an ancient Greek structure and it sits against a towering hill lines with cypress and old grape vines. The outdoor patio is a world unto itself; the waterfall, the white clouds and house. She turns back into the room and opens her portfolio. She pulls out the sketchpad and set of soft pastel and begins to paint. For the longest time, the only sounds are the waterfall, her pastel dragging along the paper and two hummingbirds chasing one another around the patio.

“It is beautiful!”

She stops drawing, drops her pastel and reaches out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir,” she says.

Daniel smiles his famed dimpled smile. He extends his hand and takes a seat. He has a short-sleeved polo shirt and black pants, his dark hair slicked to one side. “ May I?” he asks, reaching out his hands for her sketchbook. He studies for a second, his dimples growing even deeper. “ You are hired. When can you start?” he says handing her back the pad. “ You are a real talent. It is lovely to meet you and let me know when your design plans are finalized and we’ll get started. I am sorry but I have another meeting.” He stands and shakes her hands again before lifting it up into the air. “ I trust your hands with my home,” he says before sauntering away.

Lora watches her beloved pastels roll over the paper, her smile widens across her face.

“What should I paint on the frame?” asks her daughter Summer, shaking her from her memories.

“Up to you,” Lora says into her mic, toggling her wheelchair closer to view what her daughter is sketching: the sun and the clouds. “Pretty.”

“ But it is boring mom, not like your paintings.” Summer says, her face serious as she scans the yard and the horizon.

“Close your eyes, be still. It is in quiet the wonder begins.”

Summer keeps her eyes shut. For a moment, there is complete silence. Suddenly she opens her eyes and watch the lanky,grey bodied, crimson-capped birds head nearby wetlands and the exquisite sunrise. “ I got it !” she says, setting down her pastel and picking up a paint brush. After a few minutes, Summer stops and turns to Lora.

“Is painting what it’s like to be you?”

Lora looks at her little girl and raises her eyebrows. Tears rushed to Lora’s eyes, but she swallows hard to stop their rise. “Yes.” she says, her voice breaking. You are exactly right. It is like I’m stuck in place but my mind is flying and full of wonder. I can do anything in my imagination and be anyone I want in my head, even though I can’t move.”

“That must be an art,” Summer says, nodding her head. Now I understand mom.” She turns her heels and begins to paint again. She holds the frame for her mother to inspect, her posture rigid and a proud look on her face. “What do you think?”

Lora’s eyes widened. On the frame, Summer has painted a birch arching over the window, its bark white. Instead of leaves, she has painted faces: Lora’s, her father Daniel’s’, her brother Don’s and her own. On the right side of the frame, she has painted Family Tree in pink. The thought behind it is very mature and deeply sensitive.

“Beautiful,” she says. “ You are a true artist. I am proud of you. Never give up.”

“ Thank you mom,” she says taking a dramatic bow. Today I will present this best gift to my  dad.”

Lora’s husband Daniel died in the last deployment, in Afghanistan although she survived.  Lora wipes her tears and looks at her daughter. “ Your father will love this gift.Go get ready to visit dad.”



Here and Beyond


Olivia climbs the stairs all the way up, negotiating the steep and treacherous stairs to tell Matt that he has missed a very important phone call. It is treacherous because they are remodeling their house again and stairs are just stones piling on each other. The caller, she says was a woman, whose name she did not catch. He waits. She is looking dreamily beyond him now, out through the sloped window in front of the desk, to the hills in the distance, pale blue and flat. What, he asks gently, had this woman on the phone wished to speak to me about? Olivia with an effort withdraws her gaze from the view. “A film, she says in which it seems you have an offer in a leading part.”

This is interesting. Matt has never acted in film before. He inquirers as to the movie title or what it is to be  about. Olivia’s look grows vague, more vague that it has been up to now. “ She did not tell any title or about the movie.” She lowers her head and frowns at her husband from under her eyebrow in solemn silence, like a child who has been asked a difficult and onerous question the answer to which she does not know.

“Never mind, no doubt the woman will call again.” He says.

Olivia was very sharp but now it has changed a little. Her glossy, kohl-black eyes have lately taken on a faded, filmy aspect which worries her husband Matt. Some nights are different from the others. She wakes up or at least leaps from bed, and goes dashing in the dark through all the rooms , upstairs and down, calling their daughter’s name. It is kind of sleepwalker state which seems to her real thing that her daughter is living, trapped in one of the room of the house. Matt holds her still until she grows quiet. “ She is there in her bedroom,” she whispers in the dark. A long deep sigh. They lay on the bed on their backs for a long time holding each other’s hands. Around them the hall furniture stand dimly in the gloom like shocked and speechless attendants.

After their daughter’s sudden death Olivia finds herself venturing, tentatively to entertain the possibility not of the next world, exactly, but of a world next to this one, contiguous with it where there might linger somehow the spirit of those who no longer here and yet not entirely gone either. When she overhears people speaking of bereaved, she hungrily scans their faces to see if they really believe their lost one not entirely gone.

The curtains are thick and drawn tightly shut and Matt does not realize the dawn has come up until he sees forming above him a brightly shimmering image that spreads itself until it stretches over almost the ceiling. At first he takes it for a hallucination generates out of his sleep-deprived. “ I can see her clearly. Look at her pretty blue dress with white laces and colorful tiny mirrors on the bottom of the dress.” Olivia whispers clutching Matt’s hand.

” I remember this dress. It really looks good on her. This is the one we purchased in one of our trip to Agra. Right?” Matt asks turning his face slowly towards his wife.

” Yes. She spotted this dress in one of the roadside shop in-front of the Taj Mahal.” Olivia replies with a small smile. ”

They speak in whispers as if the very action of their voices might shatter the frail assemblages of light and spectral color of the image above them.The thing seems to vibrate inside itself, as if the teeming particles of light itself. Surely they feel this is not entirely a natural phenomenon for which there would be a perfectly simple scientific explanation. But surely this is a thing given to them as a gift, a greeting, in other words a sure sign to comfort them that their daughter is there. They lay there watching it , awestruck for a long time. As the sun rise the world above them are setting, retreating along the ceiling until it develops a hinge at one edge and begins to slide steadily down the far wall and pour itself at last into the carpet. Straight away they get up and start their dealing with the day. They are comforted a little until the wonder of the spectacle to which they have been treated begin to diffuse, to slip and slide. They absorb into the ordinary things of life.

Her memory


Every hour a thought floats to the surface. If we’re all going to end up happy together in Heaven then why does anyone wait? A big sadness hangs behind her ribs, sharp and gleaming, and it’s all she can do to keep breathing. She does not know the reason but one early morning she had to fly to her grandfather’s house with her dog Luke. She never goes anywhere without her parents! Her grandfather’s house is long and narrow, like a train  and it has five bedrooms: a big living room in the front, a rectangle kitchen, a prayer room, one study room and other two are bedrooms.  The windows are all the same but the color and the pattern of  lacy curtains are different in each one.Grand father hugged her in the middle of a sentence and there are tears on his cheeks. “ Are you okay?” Riana asks with deep concern in her eyes.

“ Yes, now that you are here everything will be fine.” He replies. He says that there was a time when all the houses were a collective farm and grandmother used to walk everyday to work in a chemical plant. She was a brave woman. Now she has to be hooked up to her oxygen machine every night. “ It must be the chemicals!” He says with a heavy sigh. It is cancer. First they found it in my mom, then in dad in his lungs. She imagines cancer as a tree: big, black, leafless nasty tree which took her parent’s lives. Riana walked into her grandmother’s room to meet her. Her face resembles a lot with her mother. “ Hello grandma!”

She smiles and asks her to sit on her bed. “How are you young woman? It is so nice to see you here. Make yourself home and feel free to ask if you need anything. Your grandpa will help you.” “Thank you grandma.”

In the afternoon Riana stands on the front porch.Out side she can hear the little white butterflies are looping through the willows, the grasshoppers chewing the leaves.

“God made the world and everything in it.” says her grandfather. Riana thinks, then why isn’t everything perfect? She wants her parents back in her life. Up in the sky she sees her dad sipping coffee and watching the evening news and her mother reading a book leaning on the couch. Their cat is taking a nap on a piece of  old newspaper. It is not that blurry at all.

“ Tell me about my mom.” Riana asks her grandmother sitting on her bed. She glances over and then her eyes are a thousand miles away. She tells all trips down the river in boat, fun days of picnics in the park,  time that they spent in the swing set reading stories together. Suddenly she pauses and closes her eyelids. Riana understands and leaves the room quietly.

Oné rainy day,when she was five something happened to her. Her mother called the family physician and she put some drops in her eyes. Pretty soon all Riana could see are blurs and colors.Dad was a fog a mom was a smudge and world looked like it does when your eyes are full of tears. A couple of hours later, right when she was riding in the back seat of mom’s car, the world started coming back to focus. She could see the trees, the leaves more clearly dark on the top and pale on the undersides, are moving independently but still in concert with others.

Almost everyday she misses her parents; mom walking into the grocery store holding her hand or to the library picking books for her and the bicycle ride and story time with her dad.Sometimes in the silence she feels her mom, together with her, under the beautiful sun, both of with decades to live.

Her grandfather does not believe her. He sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on the small table with droopy eyes and broken blood vessels in his cheeks. He wipes his eyes and tells her that she needs read more books and start thinking about school. Riana stands close to her grandfather. “You don’t believe in anything that you can not see or feel? I believe in souls and I feel my mother on my side. Even I see her and dad sitting on the puffy cloud” Riana says angrily and leaves the room.

That night she lays in her bed with her grandmother. The unpainted plaster of the wall slowly cracking all around her. She tries to remember a sentence mom or dad said but everything seem so blurry!



She is alone in the suit. She sits in an armchair, wearing a robe and slippers and appears to be asleep. Her lean face, silver hair uncombed, pale hands folded in her lap. Celia sits on a cushioned bench watching and waiting. Soon her thoughts fall away from the still figure in the chair.Celia loves her mother who sits before her, leaning into the light shade by a table lamp nearby. Her mother is like a friend and they talk and discuss everything. It is hard to see her mother in this situation. She wishes her dad to take care of her mother. Her father defines terms, draws diagrams, rushing to airport or preparing for conferences. At home he stands before a full-length mirror reciting from memory speeches he works on, refining his gestures and facial expressions. He never has time for his wife.Her mother is a lover of daylight and dense of life. She gathers and tends children, teaches a course in an adult education program, belongs to a group of volunteers who read to the blind. Her mother opens her eyes. She is not surprise to see Celia. She knows that Celia will be the first one to appear on her side.She takes Celia’s hands and holds it.

“ It is so nice to have you here. How was your flight?” Her voice is a near whisper. She has trouble dealing with the congested syllables in few words. Celia is very close to her mother and she wants to make sure that her mother will be taken good care of. She moves her chair closer to her mother.

“ If you don’t mind then I would like to ask you something. Do you think about the kind of world you’ll be returning to?”

“ I don’t think about anything. There is the final point. It is a moment never to be thought of except when it is in the process of unfolding.” She replies taking a sip of water from the glass.

“ Think of the age of the earth, oceans appearing and disappearing, think of the age of galaxy. All those billion years. And you, me and all others. We live and die in a flash.” She continues to speak. She is all face and hands, body gathered up within the folds of the robe.

“ What will happen? Do you have any idea?” Celia asks tucking her mother’s hair behind her ear. Her mother knows the rigors of science and sometimes she is philosophical just like her father.

“ My grand father used to say that,lines of brilliant light, every material thing in its fullness, a pure object. They are everywhere, of course in libraries, in museums, in mud, places of worships.” She closes her eyes for a moment and then looks back at Celia.

“ The person is a mask, the created character in the medley of dramas that constitute your life. The mask drops and the person becomes you  in its truest meaning. It is the conscious mind that stays. The reality is that everything has a beginning and an end to it, so don’t worry about that.”

Celia leans her head on her mother’s shoulder. It is hard to understand her mother’s philosophical meaning on life. She wants her mother to be happy and to enjoy the last few days of her life..

“ I understand mom, just testing your knowledge.” Says jokingly.




There are large blank patches in her memory that shift locale daily, unpredictably. Every morning when Hope wakes, she remembers something that the day before she has been unable to recall her house number, phone number or the name of the book. Then an hour or two later she notices a batch of new blanks she can not remember her social security number, the name of a few mysterious vegetables in her refrigerator.She has been told by her doctor so many times to let her family know that but she does not care much.A nurse visits her every morning.Although she does not expect the day to play out like this.Around nine in the morning, nurse Jena enters to her room without knocking. She draws back the white curtains and the sunlight floods the room. From her bed Hope glances the sloping meadow, the pretty pond, the waterside houses and her irritation passes.

“Let’s check the vitals,” Jena says. “ Get ready to take a walk in the garden.” She is an abrupt, oval-faced woman with graying wavy hair. She treats her like a small girl who Hope does not like at all. But sometimes she likes Jena’s crisp personality and her bark of laugh when she resists her attempts to get her up or make her follow a strict diet or to drink eight glasses of water in a day.

Hope has been told by her surgeon not to live alone after the heart transplant.The residue of  painkillers and anesthesia lives for six to seven months. Her insurance covers some, but not much. Now that the new president in office, he wants to repel the one health care that she has  but not sure what will happen in future. Hope is stubborn to depend on others.

The doctor has called dozens of times since the surgery about her heart. But Hope is tired to talk to anyone.

Awake. The pulsing cry of doves. Hope cranks the shutters open. She takes the coffee mug from the drain basket, sets the water boiling.She lapses into thought, as she stretches her legs, pushing the chair back against the wall.Today she should return the call.

“ Hello doctor! You tried to reach me?” Hope asks running her hand through her hair very lightly, just once.

“ How are you feeling Hope? Yes, I tried to reach you several times because the mother who donated her deceased daughter’s heart wants to meet you.”

They are both silent for a moment.

“ She wants to meet me! But I am not sure if I can handle that doctor.” Hope places her right hand onto her heart and feels its sturdy beat.It belongs to the young girl who died in the car accident.“I guess I owe her a lot, right? I mean she is the one who made the decision to donate her daughter’s organ. Well, sure doctor I will go for a short visit.” A pause fills her chest.

“ Thank you Hope.This will be better for both of you.”

It is lovely day, the sky is bleached turquoise color. The meeting is set on the top of a hill,close to a small white church. Hope stands steadily for a few seconds, then squares her shoulders and slowly walks up to the top of a hill breathing hard, leaning heavily on her cane, her heart pounding. There the woman stands in a white dress.Young enough to be her daughter, Hope thinks. Short wisps of brown hair crosses her forehead, no makeup or any jewelry. She extends her right arm. “ I am Alexis,thank you for agreeing to meet me. I am so sorry that you have to walk all the way up.”

“ It is fine,I need some exercise too.” Hope says with a small smile. “ It is so thoughtful of you to make this decision.”

“ My daughter was very close to my heart. It was very difficult for me to leave without her.” She looks up to meet Hope’s eyes. “ I want to listen to her and feel her. That is the reason I want to meet you.”Alexis walks closer. She leans her face forward towards Hope’s chest and closes her eyes. She listens to her daughter’s heart.Tears run down on her cheek.They stand there for a long time holding each other.



Louisa places herself on the sofa between a sheet and a soft blanket, her head resting on a white pillow. She closes her eyes and folds up, elbows at her midsection, hands pressed together between her knees. She lay in a kind of timeless drift, a mind work spiral, carried on half formed thoughts. She opens her eyes again. She hears something that sounds like sand spilling, a trickle of gritty dust between the walls of the room and the room begins to move in a creaking sigh. Louder, powerfully. The wind makes the shutters swing and bang.Louisa sits up for a long second,deeply thoughtful, before throwing off her blanket. She listens to the edges of the room, the interfaces. She rushes to the door and opens it, half aware of rattling lampshades. She grips the edge of door frame and faces into the room. All the things inside are jumping up and down.She opens the door and stands until the shaking stops.  She pushes her hands against the door searching for a calmness in herself.

The sky is low and grey.The traffic lights are dark in certain areas. The long lines of cars, knotted and bent. Outside the streets are crowded with people.Voices fall around her. The noise subsides then begins to build again. The world is narrowed down to inside and outside.

People call to each other on the street. Out side she has the oddest conversation with one of her neighbor. She has hardly said a word before this. Suddenly he wants to talk. “ The news said a power station may have failed, causing a flash. Thirteen people were dead.”

“ What will we do? The older woman with a dog in her tight arms asks “I thought my heart was going to jump right through my chest. I have never met this in my whole life! It is so scary!”

“We will wait and see.” The man says in a deeply concerned voice.

The older woman raises her eyebrow. “ I don’t think we should wait, instead we have to act in an intelligent way.

Louisa smiles. She has made up her mind.The loud, empty noise like an earthquake can not scare her.There is no point of sitting back and wait for magic to happen. Louisa shakes her head.The scale of justice has tilted a lot in wrong direction. Constitutional principles and societal values should not be threatened.They have to make the things happen and it is no doubt that they will. She walks straight into the big group of crowd to raise her voice and fight for civil right, women’s right and equal justice.

Twists of Fate


It is the weekend after the Spring break. Emmylou and her father are having breakfast. She probably should sit facing her father and not the window so he would not have to compete with the diversions outside a few kids riding their bikes, an older woman is playing with her tiny Affenpinscher dog in her front yard, the construction that is going on at the end of the cul-de-sac, two squirrels scampering through the trees. They would have to wait  for her father to finish talking about miracles.

Her father believes in those things and in grand schemes God, religion and her.A few years ago, in November, Emmylou had a car accident. There had been intermittent  freezing rain, her car slipped and hit a truck.

Her father asks taking a sip from his hot coffee. “It is unbelievable! And I am thankful to God for protecting you.” He continues, “ There is one woman runs a wildlife charity, would you like to volunteer there? Try, you may like it.” He hands her a newspaper classified.

Emmylou has made it through high school and one year of college before the car accident. She is that kid, who moves sideways, lags behind, forgets her buddy in the partner system and loses the group. She has read a report from neuropsychologist that her executive function is severely impaired due to frontal-lobe injury.

“ So,” her father says. “ Are you ready for the interview?”

Emmylou takes a long deep breath and takes a sip from her herbal tea. Art and crafts she could do well or if she could find a job that allows her to play all day, that could have been perfect. The job search has been an integral piece of their morning routine for last two years. It is a complex exchange full of limited expectations, consistent disappointment.

Her father kisses the crown of her forehead on his way out and she watches his car fades beyond the driveway.

Emmylou walks into the kitchen.On the stainless steel refrigerator door there are a few faded magnets of wonder woman, ‘ I can do it’ and ‘Believe in yourself’ that her mother made infused with her strong believes. She passed away in cancer leaving Emmylou. Emmylou misses her mother her love and the time that they spent together.She wiped her tears and  looks to the other side of the refrigerator door.There is a long note from her father.

1.Take pills.  Pills to stabilize her mood, even if each one has a side effect that thins her hair and slows her metabolism.

  1. Feed Angel.  Angel is her cat. She is eleven years old tabby, has a shiny coat,mild arrogance, lots of stubbornness and a huge appetite.
  2. Shower and dress.  Clearly later. May be she could go back to sleep again or after one more cup of herbal tea.
  3. Find clothes for the interview.  Emmylou walks into her room. Clothes are everywhere spilling from the closet, exploding out of the chest of drawers, on the floor mingled with cat hair and dust.Folding requires fine motor skills and she does not have them. Her hands are weak and she can not fold them properly. She finds one black skirt in the back of the closet and one blue silk blouse which need ironing. She has to wait on that.
  4. Think about cleaning your room.Really!!

Emmylou looks around. Reams of papers are scattered everywhere, used art supplies on the desks. By the end of week her room is a colossal accumulation of socks, broken pencils, books and magazines.Every cleaning crew that her father has ever sent over, refused to work unless she could first get her room into “ manageable” shape, a concept which she does not know. “Sure I will try cleaning the room but in my way.” Emmylou mumbles.

The rest of the day goes fine. After shower,she watches a documentary on elephants,on polar bears, on climate change. Then she sits by the window sill and watches outside A spotted squirrel focuses on an acorn. Emmylou grabs her sketch pad.The squirrel is holding the nut in his tiny hands, gnawing on it pieces by pieces. She imagines his determination which pulses through her pencil creatively. She is almost done with her picture when her dad returns home.

Today her father has brought Chinese food for dinner so that they do not have to cook. He hands her a fortune cookie from the bag. “Open it.”

Emmylou opens it. “ Door will be opening for you.” it says.

“You see?” her dad says with a big grin. “ You never know what life will bring.”

Emmylou rolls her eyes. “You are taking a fortune cookie to heart?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he says. “ The cookie knows.Tomorrow we will go together to the nature center, you will feed the ducks and approach the owner for the interview. And the door will open for you. You love to take care of the animals and this will be a perfect opportunity for you.” There is confidence in his voice and Emmylou is excited.

New Year


It is almost midnight. Daphne pulls out her journal, not the old one but a brand new one in shiny cover. A precious Christmas gift from her daughter. In that journal every page starts with a unique quotes. Yes, this is perfect! She opens the first page to write her New Year’s resolutions. The whole situation plays like a movie. Imagine that you are the main character either in a movie or in a book and you wish to do some things. Suddenly towards the end of the story boom!All your wishes are granted. Just like that Daphne smiles as she starts to write the resolutions one after another and feels as if they are almost in her fingertips. It is no doubt that she is very determined and she may be successful. She pauses, her fingers caress her pointed chin,and then opens the old journal. There is a heavy sigh. She checks all her last year’s goals – she has achieved some of her resolutions in writing posts on refugee crisis, on women’s issues and on poverty.Then she wanted to do more volunteer work which she has not done in this year. The other important aspect is her health.Well, she goes to the gym regularly which is perfect although she ends up in the classes like kickboxing, RIPP instead of yoga or spinning. Daphne is head strong but her weakness is the sweet. This Christmas she went to the store to buy gifts. She had the list but strange thing happens as she steps into the store, mostly in the aisle with chocolates and cookies. So that day she returned with gifts and two big boxes of chocolates. She nodded her head in disbelief and the chocolate lasted only for a week At the end of the week the boxes were neat and clean like brand new boxes and ready to be recycled.The exercise will help you thirty percent but diet is the other seventy percent to be healthy that is her  doctor’s prescription. 

Daphne stops writing and leans against the cushion. There is silence in the room and it is so quiet that you can hear the hum of the refrigerator. A sudden brightness flashes on her face.  “Not to worry.”She adjusts herself on the chair more comfortably and opens the new journal again. “ I will start all over again.This year I will not get any sweets, sign up for more volunteer program and practice mindful meditation.” A big challenging smile plays on her lips. 

Daphne stretches her legs, then crosses her legs and opens the new journal.As she bends down to write the inner window in her mind pops open. “ Are you sure that your goals are realistic? You do not want to write them and forget as the days pass by. Are you??”

A deep sigh again. She sits with both elbows on the desk, rubs her forehead and sits with both hands on each side of her face.

Making resolutions at the start of the New Year is like the season for orange or blue berry. Everyday would be filled with false starts and high ambitions. She might even make a lots of progress towards the goal but ultimately she would always give up before reaching the goal. Daphne has a high hope that everything will turn around perfect in this year. She has to do something different. The entire New year resolution phenomenon essentially boils down to habit-making and habits are built over time. Her job is to contribute a bit each and every day until the habits are built. Daphne sits straight. Now her face is brightly illuminated with a strong hope and determination.


Wishing on a star


A little girl is shouldering through the crowds.She walks in the middle of all the legs, luggage’s and lots and lots of children. Her heart beats like a tambourine under her ribs, tight and loud.The crowd follow their paths pushing and pulling around her,paying no attention at all. Her breath comes in short breaths like Carter’s horse and she feels tired. She is in the crowd but alone. The air smells of sweaty fear.Just at the corner of a pile of rocks, her memory bag slips and falls into the ground from her shoulder. A lots of happy memories are there; lots of from her home, her friends, her parents. But also the sad and scary memories of running around with her mother, hiding in cramped spaces,  squeezing the bodies and holding each other.The memory of hunger; it grew insatiably; her mouth began to expand, its roof rose to the top of her skull then the whole head was racked with pain. Some people ate grass and garbage and she just drew her tongue and chewed on nothing. She fights the urge to reach down and touch them. But she stops.

“ Sara! Sara!, wake up!”

Sara opens her eyes., startled and gasping for air. It is middle of the night. She notices a woman approximately the age of her mother stands close to her bed and observes her closely. “ Tell me dear,are you having bad dreams?” She says with a warm smile. The woman picks up the blanket from the floor and asks, “ Would you like to come outside to the celebration? There are lots of kids of your age to welcome the new year. There will be lots of fireworks too!”

Sara looks outside and then back at the woman’s face. The smile on the lady’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt that everything will be wonderful again but six years old Sara is doubtful. The rebel army killed her parents, her friends and took away everything that they had. Faith is a distant and a vague word now. She hesitates a little but changes her mind. As Sara climbs down from the bed, the lady takes a quick step and holds her hand.She has lost her right leg in a gunshot during the rebel attack.

Outside of the ten, in the vast open space the fireworks have started. Happiness, excitement and new hopes float in the air.Tonight Sara wants to dream again. She closes her eyes, leaning on a tree. Her prayer for the New Year is something different. “ I want people to be nice, to be respectful and to love each other. I hope for peace, just peace nothing else.”





Dense fog and sunny day


There is no time for luck or good fortune or discovering new things in life instead to be at work from early morning to midnight. Jade works in a garment factory where she sews until her arms fall asleep. She sews elegant and expensive dresses which wind up looking very nice on Italian, Canadian, Swedish, American women, different ones for every season. Cutting, stitching, finishing, ironing, packing all the time makes life more difficult when you are not worthy of the product. It is difficult to break the agreement and to look for another job. She sits quietly looking at her severely dry long bony fingers. Her father used to say that long fingers are perfect for drawing, playing piano or any musical instrument, they are very artistic fingers. She remembers when for the first time she played the ‘Flight of the bumbled bee’; she played like lightning, every note so clear and perfect that the audience  were mesmerized and then clapped hard. It was her greatest revelation. But now it seems as though her life has been rolled up like a newspaper, fastened with a rubber band and tossed into the bushes. After her father passed away she started the job in this garment factory. A fat fly buzzes in circle just above her head. It settles on her one arm, she tries to swat it. Then it lands on the back of her neck, below her ear. It escapes and perches on the window frame. Jade tries to shoo it out through the open window into the air; she wants it to fly freely in the open air and to enjoy its freedom. She wants it also for herself and the people of Syria.

Sunlight falls in the long hall, while fluorescent light burns overhead. All the ladies are like tired children of a camp. Jade’s heart thumps inside her head. She leaves the half-stitched dress in the showing machine and grabs her small handbag.

Next morning She stands with a cup of hot tea. she holds the chipped cup delicately pinching the curved handle between her thumb and forefinger. She looks outside of her kitchen window. There the small black birds fly through a vast stretch of sky in circles of their own invention. This morning they are flying low and by looking at them she could tell that it is a whole new day.

Jade does not have the luxury of a car so she walks aimlessly on the streets to discover something new. The street side vendors are a destination, inviting her to linger. She sits on a wooden stool and orders ice-cream. Just when her exasperation at the wait  reaches the breaking point, the ice-cream arrives. It is a mix flavors of vanilla, chocolate with so many nuts. She takes one spoonful of ice-cream and it is delicious! She leans at the edge of the chair, her eyes wander around. At one corner of the street, under a small leafy tree an old woman sits. She is very frail and bony and from her torn, heavily patched cloth she looks very poor. She stares straight ahead, seemingly lost in memories. Jade stops eating and walks up to the woman. “ Would you like to try this?” She asks as she hands her the cup. She opens her purse and gives a few rupees. A grateful, happy warm smile lingers on the old lady’s face.

It is almost evening. Jade is all wrapped up, the decorated street lamps and lighted windows are glittering, the frost bit into her face, her lips feel like frozen crusts of bread, cheeks are smooth and cold as porcelain. The sky and streets are full of Christmas spirit. Jade stands in-front of a shop, her arms folded on her stomach, one foot crossed. The concentration is on the beautiful gown on the mannequin. “ I would love to see that on me.” Then she steps back. She has to save the money until she finds another job. “ Well, nothing wrong in just trying.” She murmurs and walks into the store. The heavy glass door opens in a soft click. She stands in-front of the long rectangular mirror with the dress. The sales woman asks her adjusting the belt on the dress. “ It looks so pretty on you and fits perfectly. Would you like to buy this?”

“ I will think about it, thank you.” Jade replies touching the soft fabric of the  blue dress and watching the news on the small television on the wall-” The evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebels held part of Aleppo ended yesterday, after weeks of heavy fighting, Damascus announces complete victory in the battle to retake eastern Aleppo from rebels.”

That is the best part of her discovery. The dress falls into the floor as she runs around the room, a huge smile sparkle on her overly excited face, she is happy for all the people and especially the children . Her struggle is not much comparable to the people of Aleppo.

Her inner strength


Nora wants to live more than a hundred years. She has planned everything in her mind, in front of her the future has stretched out like a long shimmering road.  But the other day when she fainted in her gym class, the doctor in the hospital told her  mother that her lungs are not good. But it can be changed. She has to draw the cool, clean air in, treasure it and release it and she has to stay a couple of days in the hospital. That will make her lung good as new. Ten years old Nora is confident that she can do it.  Although it is hard for her mother Maisie.

Nora dwindles over packing, folding, refolding her clothes, tucking in a few moments to brighten up her room before she leaves for the hospital. She squares the cover of her bedsheet, smooths the bedspreads,tilts the shade of the lamp cover of the reading lamp. She stands in the middle of the oval rug. Her room is small but tidy and decorated in shades of blue, her favorite color. Each significant object has a name and to each she says goodbye or rather until they meet again. Nora closes the door.

Maisie is busy or rather tries hard to stay that way in the kitchen. It is hard for her to see her daughter in this condition. Nora runs into the kitchen. “ Mom, Uncle Jess is here to take me to the hospital.” No answer but Nora knows her mother is sad and afraid. Nora hugs her mother with her small hands. “ I will be fine mom, and come visit me in the hospital.” Her mother sighs. Nora picks up her small suitcase.

The air is cold. From the car window Nora looks at the house. Her mother stands there leaning slightly to the metal mail box in her walker. She waives her hand to her mother and wipes her tears.

There is not much to do in the hospital wake up,  take bath, eat, read,take nap, watch television and be patient while the doctor takes a lots of test. The ward is alive with gossip, mostly about the imaginary romances between this or that girl or a boy or men. It is like a soap opera to her like the ones that come in television and her mom always say they are not real, just wastage of time and brain. Nora spends her time in reading the encyclopedias that her mother brought for her. She loves the mysteries inside and the beautiful information in them, their sedate dark-green binding, gold letters on their spines. She slides the little tower of books towards her slowly as though they are gathered treasure. Reading makes her calmer; she does not care about the hospital or health, she is confident that everything will be fine.

On the other hand her room-mate Liona is quite different. She loves to gossip in the phone with her friends. Some days she invites Nora to meet her friends in the lobby. But they laugh a little, sit pretty on the sofa touching their fancy jeweleries or adjusting their new hairstyles, gossiping on useless topics. “They are less sympathetic than the ambulance chasers. They are not real friends.” Nora murmurs to herself. When her mother comes to visit her the ward turns into a playground as if azaleas bloom and honeysuckle perfumes the air. Her mother tries to stay calm but sometimes she is washed to the emotion of rage which she does not know how to control its directions. At the end of the month  it started to get harder for her mother to see Nora in the hospital. She wants her to go to school, play with her friends and to have a normal life. She argued with the doctors. “ Nothing has happened to my daughter. She will be fine at home and I will take good care of her.” 

Just before Christmas Nora returns home with her mother. They sit in their living room. The bare  Douglas-fir-tree sits on the corner of the room and the ornaments in a metal container. Her mother smiles brightly at her. “ Have faith and everything will be alright.” She says wrapping her hand around Nora tight as a robin’s nest. As they hang the ornaments on the fir-tree, her mother says,“ You are an angel straight from heaven.”


Image result for image of a christmas tree

Surprising Turns


Maeve has been blessed with beauty and a pencil. Her beauty comes from within she is honest and kind-hearted, and the pencil – a gift to open up her creativity. The other day when she was begging for food in a crowded town in Calcutta, a shiny white car stopped at the curb of the road. Maeve ran towards it with a plastic bowl as a woman stepped out from the car. She waved her hand as the gold bracelets jingled and hid her beautiful leather black purse behind her back. “ I do not have any money to spare, go away. ” She began walking off.  She pivoted sharply back towards Maeve, “here take this pencil, it may help you.” The yellow pencil bounced a couple of times on the dirty road and then laid still on the side of the road. Maeve walked up quickly and picked up the pencil very gently in her small hand. From that day onwards that became her treasure.

She picks up torn, wrinkled papers from the side of the roads, from the fields, from the school grounds and last time she struggled with a cow for ten minutes to drag a perfect white paper from cow’a mouth. She collects them and in her spare time draws pictures on them with the perfect yellow pencil. Her father does not like her spending time in useless things instead he wants her to spend more time in begging. Every night after Maeve returns home, her father snatches the plastic bowl and takes all the coins. He spends her daughter’s begged coins in drinking cheap liquor. Her mother on the other hand encourages Maeve to draw. “Maeve, take a break. Your father will return late today so spend your time in drawing whatever you want to.” Her mother says in a warm voice placing in front of her a thin piece of white bread and cup of black tea in a chipped cup. Maeve is grateful to the woman who gave her the pencil and to her mom who allows her to draw. She wraps both her small hands around her mother’s waist. Delight blooms on her face.“Thank you mom, you are the best.”

But life is very moody just like the humans. It is a one long curve, full of turning points.

It is a rainy day in December. The rain continues for a long time, the thunder lasts for more than an hour rumbling low and long. Instead of staying inside the patched gray tent which is their house, Maeve’s father decides to take her to another bigger town. “ But dad, it is raining outside and I am not feeling well. Let’s go tomorrow.” She begs as she tries to cover herself with one of her mom’s torn blue saree and concentrates on her drawing. Her mother insists not to let go of Maeve but father’s deep voice echoes. “ Yes, she has to go and I have already talked to the woman.”

“ What woman? Where are we going?” Maeve asks her dad. But no answer. “ Go get ready, we have to go today.” There is nothing to pack except one dress and her pencil and drawing papers in a plastic bag. As they leave, her mother hugs her tightly. She cries muttering repeatedly to forgive her. Eight year’s old Maeve’s simple heart does not understand anything, but she leans into her mom’s frail body. “ We will come back soon, don’t worry mom and I will surprise you with prettier drawings.” Her mother stands there outside the tent, in the rain, crying loudly and begging her father to stop.

Life is moody; sometimes it brings you joy and sometimes unbearable sorrows.No one can predict the next moment.

It is a long walk. In one point of the day, the rain stops and the sun tries hard to peep out from behind the cloud. Maeve and her father sits under a dull green woody tree waiting for a bus.His father sits looking out with his back against the tree trunk. His knees bent and feet flat against the red-brown sand. In front of him the landscape is speckled with a few trees that stand either alone or in group. Maeve opens the lunch bag that her mother packed. After lunch she asks “ Dad! Are we going to the doctor? If not sick then why are we going to another town?”

“ Have patience.” His father’s voice is dry and irritated. Maeve decides to talk to the tree nearby and ask the same question. The tree at one point clears its woody throat and says, “ I can not answer your question but I am very thirsty and can barely talk.” Maeve runs to her father’s side to get the water bottle and pours all the water on the tree. “ I hope that quenches your thirst.” Her father screams, “come here and sit quietly.”

As Maeve turns towards her father, she notices that the water that she poured over the tree has risen to her father’s face and they drip from his eyes.

As they drive off in the bus, she waves goodbye to the tree but surprises at his father’s tears. He never cries!

After a few hours they reach in another town. It is almost night. A harmony of shrieking metal-wheeled carts, barking dogs and gentle rhythm of human noises. They unroll a thin gray blanket under a tree. Maeve sits there staring at the zig-zag white patterns that pierced the woven sky and slowly drifts into sleep. Next morning is a cloudy day.They start to walk and arrive at the destination after three hours; a two-story red house squats upon the  hill with a group of wind-tormented trees opposite to it. The bricks are chipped, sharp and eroded at the corners The guard at the gate lets them in. A narrow stony staircase leads to a tall red door. As you enter it opens up into a long, narrow hallway which is lit by a single light bulb. A faded plain beige carpet with painted flowers on the sides is on the floor. At the other end of the hallway there is a thick  maroon colored curtain and a small bell on the white wall. Maeve’s father rings the bell. A tall woman appears in a fancy saree. Her arms are crossed, her eyes narrowed and eyebrows lift over icy brown eyes. “ You are late!! Leave her here and go back home.”

Maeve’s dad nods his head and shifts her attention to his daughter. “ It is all my fault darling. I do not have any other option.” He moves forward to hug Maeve as he hears a strong commanding voice from behind.

“Leave now.” The guard thrusts a thick envelope into his hand.

Maeve glances at his father’s face.Their gazes touch and from him she feels  terror and panic. “ Father do not leave me here.” She holds her pencil tightly in her hand as warm tears roll down on her cheek.  Her small body thumps on the floor. “ Listen dad, I just want to draw pictures, if you want then I will sale them and bring a lots of money to help you. You do not have to worry. But do not leave me alone with strange people. Give me a chance to your little girl. Dad! Dad!”


Solving a dilemma


Olivia and Paul try their best but the house itself start to takes part.

The lamps dismount from their stands at the slightest touch, the glass from the frames start to shatter when anyone walk past them, the air inside the house  has acquired a poisonous residue from the negative things they have said to each other. Now the house is haunted with pain. One could feel it  the minute  one walks in the door.

They sit there on the white sofa unsmiling, neither of them say anything. A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the floor.It is so oddly quiet, as if  the house is holding its breath. Both husband and wife are like two becalmed sailing ships carrying sailors from different countries who shout and curse at each other as they drift farther and farther apart. Sometimes they forget the nicest things that they do for each other.

Olivia sails past Paul, then makes a half turn and looks over at him in the gathering dusk with a genuine expression of surprise. An acute observer would detect the presence of rich nature, warm heart, thoughtful intelligent eyes. Olivia twists her wedding ring. This is the man for whom she fought with everyone to marry. Now she should try her best to fix the problem. She would rather find happiness in the quiet of ordinary things; a book, a petal falling from a flower or an extraordinary shape of a rock.

Miracle happens everyday they are rarely tallied. No one keeps the score.

A late afternoon in November. Olivia sits up startled, gasping. Her husband Paul appears at the door. “Is everything okay?” He asks irritably flipping the pages of a book.

Olivia smiles. “ I had a strange dream!”

Paul turns around. “During the afternoon?It is really awkward.’’ Paul glances at the clock. “ It is almost one thirty. You should spend time in your sketch or writing.” He evidently wish to return to his reading.

Olivia murmurs. “ Well, my dream was strange but sweet.She smiles mischievously. “ There is a handsome man in my dream and I would rather enjoy his company.” She hums a few lines of an old romantic Bollywood song and lays back on the bed.

Paul closes the book that he is reading and stares at his wife. “ How absurd and nonsense!. Keep your silly dream to yourself.” He walks out from the bedroom.

Next morning is very delightful.

As Olivia tries to cover the rose bushes from freezing rain Paul walks into the deck. “ Are not you going to work?”

Paul gives Olivia a helping hand and says, “ I have taken off from work to spend some time here.”

Olivia raises her eyebrows and laughs a charming little laugh.

A long walk


People think packing a small suitcase is something that you learn through practice, like singing or praying. Eight years old Yara has no practice at all. She has arranged her favorite coloring book with two colored pencils, a book of fairy tales which her father brought as a special gift on her last birthday, a framed picture of her on the lap of her grandmother, and two slightly torn dresses and a tooth brush.One of her dress is baby blue with white frills but missing one pocket on the front and the other one is a pretty lilac dress with velvet trim and has a small patch on the back. She has no idea what she is packing for,except a long journey. On one side of the suitcase her dog sits wagging his small brown tail. His curios eyes glances at Yara.  Yara runs to her mother. Her penetrating brown eyes look out through tangled hair. “ What about Kazo? I want to take him too.”

Her mother sighs. “ Kazo can not travel so far. He will miss playing in the village, so let her stay here. Do not worry, she will be fine. I will make sure and ask our neighbors to take care of her.”

Yara is confused now. She arches her an eyebrow. “ But mom, we do not have the neighbors any more. The bad people has burnt their houses.”

Her mother turns back abruptly.She pulls Yara closer. “ Don’t worry, I will find some one but now there is not much time. So go get your bag.”

One of her friend cries holding her tightly before she leaves the house. “ I will miss you but I know you’ll come back.We will go to school together and play with Kazo.”

Yara hugs her friend and carries the sentence with her. A sentence like that keeps her alive in her journey.

It is impossible to count how many people are walking and it is a long walk in a cloudy day. Yara walks  slowly dragging her tired feet holding her mother’s hand in the middle of all the legs, luggage s and lots of children. Some people talk a lot quietly with eyes wide open and some cry a lot quietly with eyes shut and air around them smells of fear and anxiety. They walk countless hours without stopping.

After the long walk they travel in a small and cramped boat, squeezing their bodies and holding each other. On the fourth day most of them run out of food. The giant hunger grows insatiably. Her mouth begins to expand, its roof rises to the top of her skull, then the whole head is racked with pain. Yara draws her tongue and chews on nothing.Her mother notices. She opens her small bag and searches for something and then a small smile flashes on her face. “ Eat this Yara.”

Yara takes the small piece of stale sandwich from her mother’s hand and swallows.No words are adequate for the suffering caused by hunger. She leans against her mother and looks up. The moon on the sky seems like a cup of cold milk. Yara pretends to drink the milk and tries to sleep.

The journey on land starts again. In freezing cold or searing heat, they spend the entire journey holding each other’s hands. After this long journey their bones become heavy as iron when most of the flesh on the bodies disappear, their bones become a burden.

Now they are in a tent with all other refugees. Although it is very crowded. She lays wide-eyed on a narrow cot. Her thoughts come in disconnected glimpses of this moment and that. She remembers the beautiful evening with her grand mother. They sit on a giant wooden stump in the small front lawn. As Yara looks at the pretty sky full of silvery stars her grandmother says pointing at the sky, “ Do you know that heaven is very beautiful and peaceful.”

Yara turns her simple face towards her grandmother. “ What do you mean? Have you visited the heaven?”

Her grandmother laughs. “ I have not visited yet but I am sure I will.” Then her tone changes. “ The honest, truthful, loving people go to heaven so always be a good person if you want to go to heaven, there is no place for evil.”

It is a bright day, sun is still white and the heat closely packed. Instead of playing with other kids in the camp site or reading a book, she sits with her feet on the bench and both knees tucked under her chin. She misses her dad and her village. Bombs and missiles have been aimed at her little village and destroy everything. In the middle of one night the bad people like giants in masks took her father and he never returned. For a long time her mother has cried sitting on her dad’s favorite chair. Her neighbor’s village has already burned to the ground or the enemy soldiers have threaten to kill who do not leave the village. A few drops of soft tears escape beneath her eyelids and run down on her cheek. Her father used to say that each and every event has its own place and own time. This is Law of nature. It follows that everything has its reason for being in the world. Maybe it means I should wait patiently for the day to be better and a perfect time to go back to my home.After school, I will play hide and seek with Kazo.





A very pretty October afternoon. Outside the blue sky and white clouds tumble over each other. Jane has decided to stay home and read. The library books in her blue tote bag are each chosen  carefully because the blurbs on the back promise love and happy endings. She settles on the sofa with a cup of herbal tea. An acute observer would detect the presence of a rich nature. And looking closer, might also discover the depths of her kind, loving heart.

The doctor don’t stop by much anymore, the nurse only come in to give medications and the families hover in the doorways assuring one another that everything will be fine in due course. At this moment Jane steps in as  a volunteer, to be the last witness.Jane agrees to make tables capes: to be the one who sits and waits once a situation turns into truly hopeless. After her grand mother’s death in cancer she dedicates most of her time in caring for others.

Jane always imagines lives to be funnel-shaped, they grow narrow as we age and we all begin to swirl faster and faster until the concept of a day or an hour or a year no longer has any meaning.She strongly believes in love and faith to heal others in need.

In the late afternoon her phone vibrates, it is the Hospice again. Jane drives to meet another new person who needs her care. Jane knocks softly adjusting her plaid pleated skirt. An old woman in a peach colored cotton gown opens the door. Her white hair is pulled into a loose bun. She straightens eye-glass.

“ Are you Jane?”

Jane smiles and nods her head. “ You must be Darlene.” Jane says shaking Darlene’s heavily veined but soft hand.

“ Please come in. I want someone to talk to me.People, I mean families, friends used to come and give me company but slowly they stop talking to me.” She folds her arms across her chest. “ Life gets lonely and boring staying in one room. I want real talk.”  She says pouring a small glass of juice in and handing that to Jane. Her heavily veined hands are hidden nicely inside a pair of cotton gloves.

“ I can do that.”Jane replies.

Seventy five years old Darlene has cancer. “ Come sit here tell me about yourself?” Darlene slips one hand into her pocket and pulls out two pieces of fruit flavored candies. “ Doctor has warned me not to take any unhealthy sweet but this is my guilty pleasure.” She giggles handing one to Jane.

They chat for one hour, play one or two card game, recite some poem together until Darlene is ready for her afternoon nap. She used to read tons of books, take long walks but now she does not have energy to thumb through the magazines, even small walks make her tired. Sighing  loudly Darlene stretches out and gets ready for her nap. “This is not fun at all. But your company is very enjoyable.”

The last round of chemo appears to have done  the trick. Doctors are ready to let Darlene go home. But she comes back in two days. She can no longer screen out the everyday toxins of life, so she will spend her last Christmas in Hospice house after all.

Jane takes a couple of movies along with a bag of popcorn and the oversize box of raisins which Darlene loves.

Darlene is excited to see Jane again. “ Come here to the bed. I can not sit so we will watch the movie from here.”

It is the Christmas day. Darlene has been sick all week. The cold has dragged on and her lungs have gotten worse. It is obvious that her immune system has given up.

Jane is in the middle of rearranging her book shelf, when the phone rings. She rushes to see Darlene.A little colorless sunlight has forced its way around the neighboring buildings and lay exhausted across the grey floor. Darlene can not stand to open her eyes and finds herself back in this place where Christmas is carted away in boxes, where angels are being taped into bubble wrap. Jane pulls a chair. She does not have any book to read so instead she sings her favorite Christmas carol to Darlene. “ Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright..” Jane chokes into tears. She sees the rest of  Darlene’s life in a flash, like a child’s flip book, the pages rushing forward and the pencil thin illustrations slimming down. Jane’s generous heart always wants to see others happy. She does not want to lose Darlene.

This time Darlene opens her eyes. “Hi! You look so pretty in this blue dress! The color is so good on you!” She touches Jane’s hand and wraps her fingers around. “You are an angel! In a few days you brought so much happiness to me. And I enjoy all your stories on hiking trips. If I recover soon then we will go together.” A small smile beams on her face as she closes her tired eyes holding Jane’s hand softly in her.




Darlene moves back and forth between kitchen island and refrigerator, between stove and the sink with an insatiable energy. Her husband sits at the breakfast table with a I pad, trying to remember which section of the news he has not finished. He hears his wife’s monologue on an instrument.

“ I am trying to read the news,” he points out. But he lifts his eyes from the I pad.

“What is bothering you?”

Darlene wipes her hand on the corner of her tie-dyed blue dress and pulls another chair close to her husband. She looks out of her brown eyes from beneath her long bangs and asks,“ I have agreed to take part in a group performance  in a chapel in this weekend, but not sure if I can really play.” She toys with the music piece on her hand and says, ” I get so nervous in front of people and even I am not musical enough.”

“ Of course you are. Remember how you did not know how to play piano and then after practices you have started to play so nicely.” Her husband says taking one spoonful of oatmeal. “ Just like we used to say to our children Be confident, and you will do fine.”

Darlene is a little shy but stubborn. Her creative mind is always dares to try new things and to achieve the best.She has a clarinet, which responds much more readily to her breath. Sometimes she tends to be panic if any note gets too high. She blushes. Her cheeks suddenly matches the tint of her eyelids and the rose color sinks into her throat. The other day, her friend Andrea, eagerly smiling woman in long bangs, a tangle of gold and turquoise pendants speaks up in her music class. “ I like when you play with so much attention and you are really good at it! Why don’t you join our team?”

Darlene smiles. “ What team? I am a new learner, but I am not sure about a performance.”

Andrea arranges the flute on a wooden box and says. “ You should try. We will perform in front of a small group and we have one long month to practice.”

There is a little concern in Darlene’s eyes. She hesitates and then replies. ” I will let you know and thanks a lot for the suggestion.”

Darlene has made up her mind to play in the music group.

A cold Friday evening in November, the  day of the performance. Scarves, mittens, down coats pile up on the corner in the back room; boots accumulate under it. Cold fingers unfold the steel music stands, chilled mouth pieces are tenderly held in arms. Darlene adjusts her plaid pleated long black skirt and sits on one of the wooden chair. Her slightly protruding brown eyes intent on the sheet music, her nicely shaped thick eyebrows arched in concentration.When all are in place, a fidgety cough and a narrow giggle. Finally they hear “ one, two,three, start.” There is a unified intake of breath and the astounding manifestation. Darlene tries her best to make it perfect.  The concert is a success. There are happy tears on her face. She is proud of her bravery to perform in front of the audience. Infected by the warmth of the audience, the musical group join their sweaty hands and bow.




Promise to stay

Ghost | The Daily Post

Around midnight Miles wakes up with a start. ‘Either a bad dream or I am thirsty. A glass of water will be good.’ He walks into the kitchen but he stops. A figure is leaning over the dining table and reading a book in dim light. The figure at the table does not move. He never agrees on ghosts. But he used to, yes all the time. His after-world is quite a different affair, a heaven where usually people do not return but he would say with a half-mischievous smile.. “ Only if the person wants to stay and protect the family like an invisible body-guard, then only the person comes back to earth.” He would say switching off the night lamp to scare his wife.

The figure is now bending over the table in a light blue night-shirt or white shirt with flowers. It is hard to tell in a dim light.Her pale face profile outlined against the moonlight.

“Fiona”, he calls , thrilling from head to toe and reaching out with his long arm. “ I am so glad to see you back. I missed you a lot. You should understand that I am not young any more. I need you here with me.”

The figure does not stir. Miles walks uncertainly towards the figure. As he draws near, he finds his shirt over the high-backed chair and his half-opened journal. “ Oh, she is not here.” He runs his hand vaguely through his hair leaning against the wall. “ Where is Fiona? Where can I find her?”

Miles is eighty-two years old and still deeply in love with his wife Fiona.He does not belief that his wife is no longer with him.

On Sunday morning, Miles wakes up with a determination in his eyes. He needs to find Fiona.His worn shirt stirs busily as he walks and his old shoes clumps soundly on the road. He walks to most of the houses in that village and asks for Fiona. But there is no answer.He is an odd figure in the sun and rain, in strange , unexpected places looking for his beloved wife. His dark brown eyes , underscored by purple half circles of exhaustion’ stands out starkly against the yellowish cast of his skin. That night he falls asleep on a wooden park bench. At midnight , the silver moon shines through the dense leaves of the trees and makes a silver pattern at his feet. Miles sees a feeble light dancing lightly before him. He leans forward. “Fiona! Is that you?” No one is there, just the branch of the elm tree that swings faintly in the breeze.

One early evening in November.The first flakes of snow clumped together as they twirl and flutter to the ground. “Fiona loves snow. She will be so delightful!” Miles murmurs picking up a beautiful lilac dress with white laces from Fiona’s room. He hangs the dress on one of the dining chair, and bakes a pie for his wife.  Fiona has a sweet tooth the size of a rhino tusk, blossoms like the desert after rain. Miles smiles as he takes out the pie from the oven.Miles is confident that today his wife will come back to him. He sits on the sofa and waits.Around eleven thirty in the night Miles slowly opens his eyes.He is still on the sofa waiting for Fiona. It is a moon lit night. A bright fierce little moon is shining, dimming the stars, pouring metallic brilliance on the  thin sugary snow that lay on the small lawn. He leans on the glass window to see the moon. There in the back yard, a figure sits on the empty bench. She has a long black skirt, a white v neck shirt and a plaid scarf around her neck. One leg crosses over the other and her foot swings rhythmically. Miles squares his shoulders, twists the doorknob and walks out. There sits Fiona. Her hair parted on the right, has a few silver hairs,while her heart-shaped face tends to be thin. A simple chain dangles around her neck and her finger toys on it. “ Fiona, you are here. I have waited for you.” Fiona raises her simple face and their eyes meet. A delightful smile flashes on Miles face as he slides to the bench and wraps his arms around his wife. “ You should not wait for me Miles.I can not come everyday. You need to let me go.” Fiona says with a quaver smile, touching her husband’s shoulder.

“ I can not live without you and you know that perfectly well.” Miles lays back with his eyes closed. A few soft tears escape from beneath his eyelids. “ I am too old to live by myself. Just stay with me Fiona”

Fiona’s thin lips give a slight twitch, but she makes no reply and merely touches her bracelet.

Now they are both silent, each looked unmindful of the other and yet full of an inward joy at being so close to each other.


Laminate Surface


Isa gives her heart-shaped face the briefest of glance in the compact mirror as she steps out from the car. Her face looks normal, just a small hint of anxiety, nothing big.A small smile flashes on her lips as she goes through the security screening and boards the flight. All the happy faces of her family and friends from the other side of the world envelop her mind.

After the long screeching take off ‘It is all right, it will be fine’, Isa has mouthed to herself, hunching against the tug of gravity. But the sensation of imprisonment only tightens as hours drag by. She sits with her hands clasped in front of her, her two forefingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips. arches the seat to stretch her stressed back.The plane is not that spacious. She is only 5’2 but there is barely room for her knees. To her right sits a woman whose body spills over the armrest, engrossed in a book. To her left, a young man his head tilts back, pale eyelids down. Isa tries to cross her legs, but there is not much room, so she just crosses her ankles instead. She should have booked the ticket in a new aircraft who boasts to give a luxurious experience.

Isa is on her way to India to attend her youngest cousin brother’s wedding. She tried lots of excuses not to travel. It is almost eleven in the night, before she closes her eyelids a gust of uneasiness blows through her mind. She turns her head towards her husband. “ I do not think it is necessary to visit India now. Instead we can plan to visit Alaska or any other winter hiking place. ”

Her husband replies, “We will plan some hiking trips but this year you should go to India. This is the last wedding in your family and also you can spend some time with my mother.”

Isa sighs. She nods her head.She should. She closes her eyes.

After five hours Isa wrench  the in flight magazine out of its plastic sheath: she scans the articles and briefly distracted by the advertisements. Fatigue swims into her legs. She closes the magazine, takes some slow, deep breath. She peeps through the small egg shape window. Out side is the vast blue sky and the white puffy clouds. When the plane tilts to one side the vast ocean winks at her. ‘ Really there is nothing to worry about’, she tells herself toying with the pearl necklace. ‘people fly all the time’. She heaves a long breath. It is almost seven hours. Her head is hammering. She needs strong Darjeeling tea. Stiff-necked, she stares around  in the dim cabin. Some of the passengers glue to the small TV monitors in front of them and some sleep with a thin grey blankets tucked under their chins.But they look relaxed. Isa pushes her seat back but then jerks upright again.She remembers the ‘ bed’ in Edgar Poe’s story where it says that the bed closes up like a mouth. Isa turns on the tiny TV monitor.

The plane heaves slightly, then it shakes for a while as it bumps into clouds. O’my! It feels like one of its engine has fallen out, now it may spin and smash into the ocean. I even do not know how to swim. And what about my children? Who is going to recommend them as a Hallmark card whether they like it or not. The other day her son told her, ‘ Mom, I am almost thirty. Will you please not worry so much about me”. We have to let the adult children lead their own lives but it is the mother’s heart.

The plane bumps again. Isa closes her eyes and chants all the prayers. Her grandmother used to say, “ Pray in your mind and all the fears will disappear in thin air. Just like a magic.” After a few minutes Isa opens her eyes slowly. Across the aisle, a nun gets up stretching and gives her a little smile. Isa feels absurdly embarrassed. Isa remembers watching the discovery channel on ‘Bird migration’, they spend most of their lives on the wings back and forth, they are not scared at all. She should not.

Next day as the plane starts to descend, Isa feels the pressure builds up in her ears, it is like being underwater that time when she was almost drowned during the swimming lesson. It was really scary. Isa does not surface much of her emotions.The landing is smooth’ the engines roars, the wheels clawed, she jerks forward a little.

At the airport she adjusts her hair, applies a lip gloss and checks her face on the compact mirror..Her face looks calm, the way she wants to project herself. Outside the early evening sky is a tight-fitting grey cap,the street is thick with bodies and at the exit gate the excited faces of her family.


A special gift


They stand on the sidewalk in a patch lit by the afternoon sun. The sky is harsh blue. The mother digs into her torn cotton bag and pulls out a  bag of raisins with a hint of nuts. The six years old daughter Pearl takes a small handful of raisins and glances sideways to the posters of ballet dancers. In their city Ballet dancers are celebrities. Their faces gaze out from bus stops and from billboards next to diamonds. Their limpid eyes meet the barren concrete. Pearl turns to her mother. “ Mom, do you think I can learn ballet?” Her mother seals the left over raisins in the plastic bag for the evening snack,adjusts the chipped sun-glass on her small nose . Her forehead pinches together.Then she smiles. “ Sure, you can. I will ask around to find a school. Do not you worry.” Her mother does not want to discuss too much on that topic. The important word is Survival. She takes out the faded straw hat from her own head and adjusts it on her daughter’s small head. “ It is too hot, this hat will protect your head.”  The bus arrives.

Ballet is a big thing in this city .Throughout the bus ride Pearl could hear the impassioned discussions about which dancer’s Swan Lake is  most powerful or whose jumps achieve the greatest poll. The ballet dancer’s names spring from grown-up’s lips in excited whispers. Pearl leans against the seat with a big smile and closes her eyes.

Her mother never complained. She worked in two different jobs to color her daughter’s dream.

One early morning in August, Pearl pulls on a cotton dress and gets ready for her first audition. The hallways are packed with girls in leotards and tights, Mother’s stiff-backed sitting on long wooden benches. Each girl wears a number pinned to her leotard. One mother with a grey vest, striped grey pant, small heels leans towards Pearl. “ Do you know that I have to drive one and half hour to reach here? If my daughter gets in, we have to move closer to the school. She needs a chaperone. I mean her mother, right?” Her red lips part in a smile. For a moment Pearl wishes that this woman is her mother. Her motherly love overflows.

“ Where is your mother?” She asks adjusting her necklace on her white neck.

A small airless silence. “ She is not here. If you will excuse me, I hear my number.” Pearl gets up from the seat and walks into the room across the hall.

One evening after school Pearl sits on a chair, dangles her feet, listening to Don Giovanni. She braces herself against the thundering orchestra and the thrills and vibrato of expelled emotions. Then she could not stop herself. She starts slowly, just her head side to side, swaying her hands back and forth. The music grows and so do her swaying arms. She lifts herself up as if floating. She crosses the small floor in quick footwork. As the music slows down the front door opens in a soft click. Her  mother returns. She looks exhausted.Pearl runs to the kitchen to bring a glass of water in a small cup for her mom. “ How was your day mom?” She asks as her mother takes the cup from her hand sitting down heavily on a chair.

“ Excellent! Have you finished all the homework?” Pearl shakes her head leaning towards her mother. Her mother looks around and clears her throat. “ I am hoping that in a year I will have enough money to send you to a Ballet school. Also I will inquire for a scholarship which will be a great help.” She takes another sip from the cold water and rolls the cup between her palms. “ Future is like a cup board full of lights and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door. Then it is all yours.” She smiles her shiny penny smile. Pearl has faith on her mother.

Even if they are poor, they laugh, play games, read together in spare times. Each day they could help to be lucky, the hope is their only joy.

On a clear sunny day the letter arrives to Pearl’s mailbox. An invitation for the Ballet audition.

Pearl shows the twists, turns, jumps, two allegro parts.The lady instructor smiles. “ I like your neat and fast footwork, your graceful moves. Congratulations and welcome to the school of Ballet.” She hands a paper to her. Ask your parents to give us a call. Pearl leaves the building.

Tonight Pearl could not sleep. She lays back with her eyes closed. A few soft tears escape from beneath her eyelids. Pearl wants to share her happiness, her achievement with her best friend, her mother. Exactly six months back her mother died of heart attack.She rushed to the emergency but the doctor could not save her mother.Pearl dreams that she could fly. She has sprouted strong  white wings on her shoulder blades and flying high in the air with her mother on her side. They soar high up in the blue sky wheeling through the air, gliding and turning.Their giggle and laugh fill the endless sky.

Strange things in a modern society.


At 3 Am on Saturday morning Serenity wakes up in a start. A strange sensation that something is not right. A swirl of anxiety spins in her mind. She sits on the bed . Last night she did not hear anyone coming in or the barking of the dog. That is not possible because she is very light sleeper. Serenity slips from the bed. She pushes her daughter’s bedroom door and stands in the doorway staring. The bed is undisturbed. Celeste is supposed to be back before midnight. Serenity tries her cell phone number which rings but goes straight to the answering message. Something is very wrong here. Serenity breaths quickly now  though her heart beat is calm.

She walks outside to the wooden deck.Only a smoldering dull light seems to descend from the sky as if a bright moon is trapped behind the clouds. Her daughter’s sagging hammock between the two sturdy trees is there but no Celeste of course. Serenity goes to the garage, entering through a side door no one inside there.  May be she stayed with her friend but did not call. May be her phone battery is down. Serenity enters again to her daughter’s room and turns on the light. She sees how neatly tightly books are arranged into the small Red oak bookcase. Celeste always love books and mostly classics. Her favorite pencil drawings on stiff white construction paper decorates one side of the white wall. Serenity moves closer to the wall the drawings are so elaborate, fine and meaningful. She looks at the small vintage clock on the table. It is almost 5 Am. Where on earth could she be!  Serenity speaks sharply. No she is angry and at the same time despair. She  fumbles for a chair, a kitchen chair and sits down heavily as if the air has slammed out of her. She starts to call all of Celeste’s friends one after another. Nobody knows. They all reply that she was with them in the school dance until it was over and they did not see her after that. Serenity feels so weak and so frightened. Her daughter is only thirteen years old. She contacts the sheriff department, her last hope. It feels as if a nightmare movie runs at high-speed for a cruel-comic effect. And she does not like scary movies not at all. She has watched and read so many news on missing children and she has cried many a times for the mothers, for those children.

We have found your daughter-alive and well. This call, so desperately wished for  does not come.

The search team has looked for Celeste everywhere, morning to dusk. Volunteers a flex flyers to telephone poles, trees, public walls, in post office, in walking trails. But no answer yet. Serenity’s eyes pouched in tiredness and damp. She sits in her prayer room eyes closed, hands folded. ‘God if I could trade my life for my little girl, then let that be, please keep her safe and spare her, take mine instead.’

There is a reward to find Celeste. Many calls come in but not the right one. Someday Serenity fantasizes to here ‘ We have found your daughter and she wants to talk to you.’ But there is nothing, nothing at all. The sheriff finds Celeste’s navy blue scarf and one pair of her black high heels in a parking lot but not her. Serenity has accepted the fate, the cruelty of life.

Six years have passed.

One summer evening in July. Serenity has just returned from her volunteer work from the women’s shelter. The doorbell rings. In front of  the door stands the local sheriff, who has helped Serenity a lot in her daughter’s missing case.In his eyes a strange elation. “ I have a good news for you. We have your daughter.” He says with a tight small smile.

“What? Serenity begins to feel very faint. The news is dazzling as a sudden bright,blindness scalding her brain. “ What did you say? You found Celeste?” Serenity tries her best to stand straight holding to the side of the door.

She runs towards the police car in bare foot.Her dog runs behind her. There on the back seat, someone is lying wrapped in a grey blanket and her face hidden, unmoving and she has known at once who it is. “ Celeste!” she lifts her daughter’s body and wraps her arms around her in a rib-crushing embrace. “ I love you so much.” She says kissing her daughter’s forehead.

The daughter’s pale skin, her shadowed eyes, dark curly hair that has thinned a lot from malnutrition and the scars on her abused body tells a very long sad,and heart breaking story to her mother. Serenity glances closely. Mother understands very well the emotion,the feelings, the sadness in her child’s eyes. “ I am so grateful that you are with me.” Serenity wipes her own tears. “ Do not you worry, I will take care of you. I will bring justice to you.” She carries her daughter to inside the house as she whispers choking in her own tears. “ Together we will fight and we will win.”


The stroke of the clock


“There was a sudden stillness like the gap between ticks on a clock, but the next tick never coming.” – Sadie Jones.

It is Monday morning. Instead of going to work, Vincent is busy in taking out the beautiful, decorative antique clocks from all the rooms of his house. They lay quietly and silently on top of each other in a  big blue plastic  box in one corner of the living room.

Destiny tries to sit up straight. The earth is spinning on its axis and flying through the space. How strange that despite all that speed and motion, she feels only the stillness. Her daughter slides into the bed and wraps her arm around her mother. “ You are fine mom, don’t you worry.” “ How about a selfie?” Destiny smiles a little leaning against her daughter. Destiny has eaten a little, sleeps for many hours as soon as she returns from work. Now the pain is relentless, but she does not want to take so many painkillers to dull her mind. Today at her office, the meeting is in the third floor. Destiny always take the stairs instead of the elevator so that it will be a good exercise for her legs.She stands at the bottom of the stairs looking up. It seems like a long climb. Go ahead, that’s my girl Grandma would say. Put one foot on the first stair, then the other one besides it like when you are two or three. Yes she can make it. Destiny climbs taking a deep breath; breath in, breath out just like she does in her morning pranayama.

Vincent returns from India after two months. Destiny is there in the airport to pick up her husband. From the driver’s seat Vincent looks at his wife. She looks so frail in her loose sea-green shirt. Only her  masses of thick wavy black hair, her sharp roman nose, her wide-set eyes like the rich dusky blue of a sky, seem youthful. Destiny turns her head. “ How was your trip? And your mother?” She asks taking a gulp  of cold water from the bottle. “ The trip was good and mom is fine. She was asking about you and the children. Also she has sent your favorite thing; one more antique clock.” Vincent replies with a quick glance at his wife.

At dinner Destiny takes a few bites of the vegetable curry  which seems like a three-course meals.  A deep fatigue descends on her. Rising with effort, she places the plates in the dishwasher. From the corner of  his eyes Vincent watches his wife’s tired face. Her dark brown eyes, underscored by purple half circles of exhaustion stands out starkly against the yellowish cast of her skin. Something is not right.“Let’s go to the check with the doctor. You look different.” He says taking the plates from his wife’s hand.

Next day in the doctor’s office Vincent sits with an open magazine on his lap and do not read a word until  he hears the voice of the nurse. Vincent walks behind the nurse to the doctor’s office.“ I am sorry to say that your wife has liver Cancer and it is in stage four…” The doctor says reading all the reports. “Only thing left is the pain management.”

The magazine hits the floor from Vincent’s shaky hand. He sighs and lines of worry and sorrow course deep paths from his nose to his chin. Destiny shakes her head, her thoughts flutter without order like the pages of a book in a capricious wind. “ It can not be!” she whispers.

Background noises fill in the silence that follow the whirring of the overhead fan and the sound of their heavy breathing.

Destiny sits in the backseat of the long, smooth silent car. Her lower lip is quivering, a tear is trickling out of her eyes. “ This is it then. I can not feel the time any more. It seems like the clocks have stopped ticking.” she says wiping her tears with the back up her palm. She continues her sentence. “ Take care of our children. I know you always do a good job. Keep it up.” She chokes on her own tears but with a small smile she turns her face towards Vincent. “ Be strong, imagine all the fun that you will have with the grand kids. Right?”

Vincent pats his wife’s arm. “ We have time. Let’s pray and hope that everything will be fine.” He says warmly. “ Also we have to visit all the beautiful castles in Europe and do lots of winter hikes, all your favorite things.”

“ Sure, hiding the truth!” Destiny says with a small quaver smile.She could feel the thinning of the veil, the certain between life and death, between the world and the next.  “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”


Fast and Exciting


It is almost two o’clock in a Friday night.Grace is on her bed,tries her best to sleep. Some researchers say that calming thought helps to sleep. She tries that and it does help her. Now Grace sits cross-legged on the pebbles of the bank of a small river. It is very peaceful; tiny ripples on the water, cool wind and endless blue sky. Here and there, little breezes creep over the polished waters beneath the haze of the sun. The Adagio of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto plays in her mind, very serene melody. But the problem is that all of a sudden her calming, happy thoughts cross the boundaries. Now to her front stands the snow-covered famous Denali mountain of Alaska. All the articles that she read in the national Geography on Alaska comes alive and her hiking spirit reaches to its height. She stands there wearing her blue jacket, a black and orange backpack and with hiking poles in both hands. “ Mom are you ready?” Asks her daughter.

“ O’ yes.” Now her eyes are wide open with excitement.

Damn it, this calming thoughts are not working for me. Grace opens the bedroom door slowly and quietly.She pads barefoot to the back porch door, twists the brass door knob and walks out to the deck. The heavy night air, very humid and mild , is alive with the sound of cicadas. Thick clouds, pushed by a southern wind  obscure the stars and the moon. It is too hot to stand out side so she comes back but not to the bed. Grace walks into the living room. A coloring book ‘The Secret Garden’ in the wooden book-case caught her eyes. Last month her son purchased that for her. Coloring is extremely therapeutic which calms the mind and sometimes brings the same benefits of meditation. Grace colors the pages for a while and she stops. The coloring activity takes her mind to the kindergarten class. She sits straight with her hands folded upon her blue dress. On the desk  in front of her lays  an alphabet book with pictures and a pack of coloring pencils to the side of the book. Her teacher stands in front of the class close to the chalkboard wearing a white blazer, sleeves pushed up.  “ Please listen attentively. Today you have to color slowly and carefully only the pictures that start with the  alphabet ‘A’ from the coloring book.Raise your hands as soon as you finish.” She says adjusting the wide silver bracelet on her left arm. After coloring for a while,Grace leans against the chair. She shakes the brown pencil in her right fingers and then leans forward to checks her coloring. “Stop.” Grace hears a not so nice voice and drops her pencil. She lifts her eyes. The weather changes in her teacher’s eyes.“ You are already on alphabet D!”  

Grace looks down to her coloring book. Really! Wow! Now the opened page has a beautiful brown dog with a long tail and  fluffy white ears. Her numb fingers closes the book. Sorry did not work. She should have done the homework slowly and carefully. She could not touch the coloring book for one week. On her watch it is almost four now. She should go back to sleep.

Door slams, the water rushes through the garden hoses, neighborhood dogs bark, the stir begins. Another beautiful day;bright and sunny. But Grace could not open her eyes although she does not want to miss her Saturday gym class. As she opens the door to leave the house, she hears her husband from behind. “ Instead of going to the kickboxing and Ripped classes, you should go more to yoga or Pilates class where the movements are slow but more effective and better for your joints.” He says while adjusting his downward dog pose on the yoga mat.

“ I Agree”, Grace replies tightening the shoe laces, ” I will try the  Pi Yo class which is a mix of yoga and Pilates  with faster movements.”Most of the days after  the kickboxing class she returns home with severe pain in her knees and shoulders. She lays in the bed, bone tired. The fatigue is crushing, it feels as if she lay already entombed underground,pressed down by a great weight on earth so that she could not move. But Grace does not like to slow down. The word ‘Slow’ itself clouds her face like fog on the Serengeti. She draws her thumb and fore finger from the outer corner of her eye to the bridge of her nose and smiles. “A day will come when everything will automatically slow down. But now I like it better to be fast.”

Rearranging a puzzle


Overnight it has turned into thick Summer. Clarissa closes the book ‘ The Sun also rises’ and leans back on the chair. Too much reading leaves her mind contracting and expanding like the mainspring of a clock. The sounds in the garden outside joins with the clock and the small noises of midday. She raises her first finger and lets it fall on the arm of her chair so as to bring back to herself some consciousness of her own existence. She leans deeper on to the soft cushion and her thought takes a different perspective.

What is life? It is only a light passing over the surface and vanishing, as in no time she would vanish though the furniture, the books, her writings would stay same. She sits perfectly still. It is too dense even to think. The huge mountain range through the glass window looks spectacular. Clarissa twists the brass knob of the door and walks outside to the right.  A hiking trail towards the mountain.

She walks faster and faster until she reaches on the summit of a little hill. On a narrow turn she sinks down on to earth, clasping her knees together and looking blankly in front of her. A yellow butterfly which is opening and closing its deep blue wings very slowly on a little flat stone.Hypnotized by the wings of the butterfly she sits for some time longer. Life is beautiful, she agrees. She continues to walk until she reaches on the flat space on the top of the mountain. The extraordinarily beautiful forest has merged into mountains. The Colorado river down below runs across the plain as flat as the land. Clarissa looks around, then stands still. She shouts out a line of poetry but the words escape her and she stumbles among lines and fragments of lines which has no meaning at all except for the beauty of words.The sun is beginning to go down. Long thin clouds of flamingo red with edges like the edges of curled ostrich feathers lay up and down the sky at different altitudes.She runs down hill.

Inside the hotel room she sits with her chin on her hands, trying to remember the things she is supposed to do. It feels strange to be in a hotel by myself. May be I have taken off to write a book. If that is the case then I want to write a novel on Silence, the things people don’t say; their sorrows, difficulties, their nightmares. She sighs as she leans on her elbow and arranges the flowers in the glass vase. In front of her on the small oval  mirror her reflection plays.She must be in her fifties. Who is she? What is she doing in a hotel in Colorado? What about her family? Clarissa opens her black hand bag, picks each stuff and checks them closely to find her identity. Nothing. She looks at her phone. So many names and so many numbers. She leans her head on her forearm.The phone rings.Clarissa startles. “Yes this is she. Who? O’, yes I will. I will text you the address.” She replies nervously touching the ring on her finger.

Early morning. Clarissa moves across the hall. Her thoughts spin into fragments. There are days when memories run away and hide, by the time she comes chasing after, they have wriggled off somewhere else to be another thing.With a hot cup of tea in her hand, she settles herself on a stool to play the  piano in the lobby. Up and up the steep spiral of Beethoven sonata she climbs, like a person ascending a staircase energetically at first, then more laboriously advancing with her feet with effort.The front glass door opens and a gentleman walks in smiling warmly. He sits down on the chair close to Clarissa.“ How are you? Are you having a good time? I am here to take you home.” His voice is cheerful and loving.

Clarissa rocks with a happy rhythm as she tries to build a new body of memory.



Mending the fence


Her purple scarf was looped around her throat, school books scattered on the bed. She dances to her favorite music. She has pushed up the sleeve of the shirt; the silver bracelet moves up and down the smooth skin of her arm, almost slipping off. Sophia is glad to see her daughter wearing the bracelet that she presented on her last birthday. Leaning against the living room door she watches her twelve years old daughter Jade.

“ Mom! You are here.what do you think of my dance?” She pulls out her earphone and looks at her mother.

Sophia steps forward and quickly kisses Jade on the forehead. “ You dance so gracefully with a natural flow!”

Jade’s voice is impatient: “ No, I mean my shoes. Look at them.”

Sophia is surprised to see the black, pencil high heels. She tries not to criticize so she laughs. “They are so high..”

“ They are not. They are comfortable and I am in love  with them.” Her voice is triumphant.

She smiles and leaves.

Jade is Sophia’s only child and her love. They used to do everything together; library visit, shopping, movies, hiking. Gradually it has changed. Jade behaves very different. She tries to defy whatever her mother says.

On one weekend Jade gets ready for her high school play.  It is a competition between two last teams. Clothes are spilling from her bag, she has thick makeup on her face. “Dad and I will be there tonight.” Sophia says brightly. “ We will pick you after the play around ten.”

She stares at Sophia. “ I am not a little girl. Pick me at eleven. I want to enjoy some time with my friends.”  The anger in her tone is surprising. Sophia does not want to argue. Jade shrugs and turns, bending over the dog. She kisses her, pulling  her ears gently; though she hardly stirs, her tail thumps the floor.

Sophia walks closer and hugs Jade. “ Sweetheart, you are a triumph, so relax, everything will be fine.”

She waves from the door. “ Bye, mum,” she says.

Later that evening it gets windy; a storm is brewing. The raw power of storm is terrifying.  Sophia accompanies her husband to pick up Jade. The doors are locked, parking lot is empty. They drive to a couple of Jade’s friends houses but she is not there. They search her desperately. Sophia’s face is white and hands are cold.

One early morning in October.  Sophia could not sleep. It is hard to see the her daughter’ empty room. She walks into the deck and stands quietly.The silence presses coldly against Sophia’s face. The morning sinks into a dull afternoon and unannounced grief settles closely around her. She misses jade so much. It is hard to see exactly where the change started. Sophia goes back over and over to different points in time to find where she could have altered the fate. She sits on the bench and her tired eyes closes. Jade’s lovely face floats in the gray space in front of her.

Sophia wakes up early; outside the first layer of dark has lifted, leaving the garden as still and flat as a painting under the gray sky. In her dream, Jade has been there, under the tree,shadowed by leafy branches. Minute passes. The stinging shock of empty garden fades into the familiar ache.

As she enters into the kitchen, the doorbell rings. Sophia twists the silver knob and pulls the door open. There stands Jade in a white t-shirt and a jean with a small black duffel bag on her right hand. Her hair has grown long. There are tattoos on her both hands. A small smile flickers on her tight lip. Sophia could not wait to hear her daughter’s excuses. She runs and pulls Jade closer and hugs her. Tears of love runs on her cheek. Jade sobs and whispers. “ I am really  sorry mom, I have given you so much trouble.  You can punish me the way you want.But I could not live without you. You are the best thing in my life.Please forgive me, please.”

Sophia cries and laughs at the same time. “ Yes sweetie, I have forgiven you. But now that you are back, everything will be fine. We will work it out.” She wipes her own tears with the back of her palm and her other hand wraps tightly around her daughter’s delicate hand.

One Summer Morning


One bright summer morning. Through the small opening of the thick bamboo blind of the kitchen window I glance outside. The woman of the yellow house to the front and her English Mastiff dog return from their morning walk. She stops close to the curb and wipes the sweat from her forehead with a small  towel. The dog sits there with his mouth open and tongue out.It must be hot! I squeeze my head a little further. The two fat squirrels play hide and seek around the Crape Myrtle tree in one of the neighbor’s yard. All the new exciting mornings! The promise of them,a blank slate and a chance.I walk through the slightly opened  back door and  sit on the wooden porch. The crowded roses to the right are hotly odorous. A faint rustling breeze among the foliage of the tree is shifting pale-gold patches of sunlight back and forth over my tawny body. My eyes follow the flying birds across the sky until it is hard to trace any more. I lay there and enjoy the quiet morning before the lawn mowers start in all the lawns in different intervals.

A familiar voice comes from inside of the house. “ Let’s go”. This is a very magical word when it comes from my mother like water bright Soprano in a choir then I know that it is  special. So I raise my head, perk up my small ears, straight the back and run towards the door. Delight blooms on my face.

My mom walks to the garage and opens the door of the suv. “Yeh!” I bark softly,wag my long busy tail and jump to the back seat. I feel my breathing quickens as if there is not enough air inside the suv and search for oxygen, like the crew of a doomed submarine. My mom switches the Moth station in the radio and starts the engine. As the suv rolls, I snuggle close to the window and glance at everything; different types of people in different shape of cars, the older man selling newspaper on the sidewalk, a few young boys and girls on their bikes with their parents, new moms jogging with the babies in the strollers. As we drive on the long highway I see only cars, trucks, eighteen wheelers and big trees along the sides of the roads.

After a while we stop in front of a big white building. I jump down from the seat to the pavement and look closely to the building. It seems so familiar. Wait a minute.I look up towards my mom and then back to the building. No, really! My mom turns the black knob of the door in one hand and holds my leash on the other. We walk in. Inside there are some parents sit on a long wooden bench with their dogs and waiting patiently. Some of the dogs are squeaking, some are barking and some are ready to go.  We sit on one chair to the left of the front desk. My mom talks to me and flips through a magazine. After a few minutes a woman in a white jacket and a blue pant calls my name. Now I remember everything. As soon as we enter the room I start to pull the leash. My heart beats like a hammer. Fear curtains my small face Both my ears and tail are down. I do not like strangers to touch me. I feel so nervous that I start to bump myself into the glass windows of the room. I want to get out from here. My mom says warmly, “ Lucy, come, sit with me. You will be fine, come.” She pulls out a treat from her hand bag to calm me but I do not want to eat anything. I want to go home. My body starts to shake from fear. I move closer to my mother and glance at her face. At home she understands everything that I express through my eyes but today she is different. She pretends not to. Then the door opens and the woman doctor walks in. I lick her hand. “ Mom! Please let’s go. The door is open and our last chance to escape.”  But today she is very stubborn. The nurse holds me tight, my mom pats my head lovingly while the doctor checks. It takes a few minutes but for me it is really a long time.

On the way back I climb to the seat and just lay down there. I do not want to see anything, nothing at all. I do not care any more. It is a very hard day for me so I close my eyes and sleep until we reach home.


My grateful heart to a perfect hero


Meteors let go past the sliced moon in the pockets of a dark pulsing  thundered. No one can say how long it will rain. But the five years old girl is determined to find him. She has not moved from the left side of the car window .Her anxious eyes are glued to the glass, hoping to see her special person on the side of the road, may be in another car. She sighs. I hope he is safe. Her uncles and aunt waited for a long in the airport even after the last passenger picked up her luggage  but he was not there so they decided to return to the hotel. Suddenly the little girl’s penetrating gaze comes to rest on a familiar face inside a navy blue cab on the left. All the cars have stopped on the red traffic light. Immediately she rocks in a happy rhythm and her pale face flushes. She swipes the stray hair from her forehead to one side and screams. “ I found him! Open the door. Stop, do not move.” The driver, both her uncles and the aunt roll down the rain-soaked windows at the same time and look through the window. Their excited voices fly sharply towards the driver. “ Driver honk the horn and pull the car to the curb”. Yes, after a long drive in an overly crowded city in heavy rain they find the special person.

Suddenly the world is perfect and the little girl Sue is in paradise. The special person is Sue’s grandfather who returns from his trip from America. Sue and her grandfather open doors of their car and the cab at the same time, and run towards each other. The special person is Sue’s grandfather. Her grandfather lifts Sue from the road and swings her around. Sue wraps one hand around her grandfather lovingly, while wipes her tears with the palm of her left hand.Then they both laugh an absurd but charming laugh and hug each other at the same time.

Sue’s grandfather is not only a rich business man but also at the same time a publisher,a writer,  a very intelligent, honest warm-hearted simple person. Sue is the second eldest among the fifteen grandchildren. Everyone in the family, in the friend’s circle know that  Sue is her grand father’s favorite. One late afternoon in June, the sun is out of control. Sue tries her best to color the flowers brightly on a coloring book but the sweats drip down from her forehead and makes it hard to concentrate. She lifts her eyes from the book at the shrill sound of the bell on the  front door and the barking of the dog. As she opens the heavy oak door, the delivery man from the nearby convenience store smiles.“ Your grandfather has sent these for you.” He says and hands her the basket . She can not carry that heavy basket so she opens it right there at the doorstep. O’ grandpa you are the best! , Sue claps and giggles at the sight of the cold drinks and ice-cream inside the box. Her grandfather knows the perfect time to send the right stuff to his grand-daughter.

As the time passes Sue’s interest grow more and more into reading. She loves her grandfather’s elegant study room. The long rectangular room is stocked with walnut furniture and a renaissance bookcase of an ancient oak full of literary fictions, non-fictions, poetry. As if the heaven is right there in that room. In every summer the new collection of books come and decorate the book shelves.  Sue curls up on a chair with her favorite book. Delight blooms on her small face.

In some evenings after supper Sue sits with her grandfather on a couch. His speech is always pretty to hear. “ Do you know that your body carries language within it; a timeless seed of meaning.” He would continue. “ It is the outward manifestation of your inner being. So it is very important to be a good human being. Practice from now-be honest, truthful, help others, respect others.” Sue is almost nine and enjoys every bit of the wonderful time with her grandfather.

One summer afternoon. The  fourth year college final exam result appeared in a letter, Sue was disappointed.  She drops her head until she could see the reflection of her unhappy face in the polished surface of the table. In that night she lay wide-eyed for an hour on the bed but could not sleep so she walks into the open terrace and stands in the gathering darkness. As the night darkens the Milky Way spread like powdered glass above the head. She hears a heavy footstep from behind. Her grandfather appears. “ Come, sit here on the chair. I know you tried your best. But never give up,” he said, “ No matter what. There is always a road out. Try again and you will be successful.”  Sue could not see his face in the dark but guessed he was really concerned. Sue wipes her tear and hugs her grandfather. He is always  a hero for Sue.

Smiling at the memory, Sue moves closer to the widow, Just like the days her grandfather and she used to watch the stars in the night. The flashing silver stars wiggle, illuminated by a cheddar-yellow moon. Sue lifts her eyes. “Thank you grandpa for everything. Happy Father’s Day!”


Crafting Life


From time to time a gust of uneasiness would blow through the back rooms of my mind, as if a window has been left open there and a storm has come through and her neatly stacked pages of notes in being human has blown off the desk.

Joanna is an ordinary woman with high hopes, very loving, sometimes funny, overprotective, loves her family, thoughtful and always ready to help others. Last week she attended the wedding of her cousin sister and had lots of fun with family and friends. This week the regular day has started- go to work, run to the grocery, make time for the exercise routine either Body combat or kickboxing, prepare dinner, watch TV, make phone calls etc… All these striving, all the joys,miseries, meetings, mood swings, parties she asks to herself, leads exactly to where? Too much of fun and then what?

Early Sunday morning. Joanna feels enormous feeling of emptiness. Turn your eyes away from the good life for just a second and there it is : kind of lingering questions what is the purpose of life or what is the point of all these? She sits up on the bed. It is only four thirty in the morning. But can not sleep. Joanna walks out to the back deck and stands leaning against the wooden post, her arms folded, one foot crossed and the toe pointed into the ground. She tries to search for an answer in the darkness, in the air, within her own self.

Sometimes a particular memory sparkles more strongly than the others.

One bright summer day in June.  Sixteen years old Joanna sits with her grandmother in the living room. In Front of them sits a sage in a deep orange robe with saffron border. His eyes are very clear, bright,calm and full of kindness. He sips the mango juice calmly and deliberately, then looks up giving a beaming, magical smile to us. He waves his hand around in a way as if he is playing an imaginary upside down keyboard with floating fingers and tries to explain a meaningful life. His voice comes out without rise or fall. “ It is fine to enjoy what you like, but always keep a balance in them.” He says waving his hand, “ Life should be purposeful, meaningful. Clear visions and positive goals, leads to positive actions and purposeful life. Different types of pleasure, sadness are all very temporary; they come and go. But when you help people it lasts for long time and that is more enjoyable.”


He smiles and says, “ Is it clear? It should.”

The Innocent Pawn

Ava looks out the window across an airport bustling with planes and trucks. Ahead of her, the terminal gleamed in the brilliant sun. The state flag flaps vigorously in the warm wind. After the casual, friendly custom clearance she walks out to look for the reserved tour bus.  There are few trucks driving by. The drive from the capital city of Kampala to Murchison Fall through the Budongo forest is very spectacular; full of Mahogany and Ironwood trees and the biggest Mahogany forest in the whole of East Africa. Besides the road, there are lush red bougainvillea and jacaranda trees heavy with purple-blue blossom. The bus stops at the Royal Mile area close to the Budongo forest. This is Ava’s first visit. She is eager to stretch her legs and explore a little. She gets down from the bus and takes the trail with the other passengers. It is breathtaking to view; the pretty bushes, myriad of plants, and vegetation. A few tourists spot a Chocolate Backed Kingfisher, Paradise flycatcher while Ava clicks the picture of the clouds of spectacular butterflies enjoying a sunny forest pond on their way back to the bus. The bus bounces along with alarming swoops and dips from the badly rutted dirt road. After the dirt road, the bus drives over an endless stretch of dried yellow pampas punctuated by stunted plants and round clumps of grass, passing the thorn-acacia trees with lacy umbrella-shaped tops. The sun is low in the sky. The magnificent times of the day, where everything seems red in the dying sun, is nearly upon them. Ava closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Murchison Fall National park lies at the Northern end of the Albertine rift valley wall, Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile which plunges over the remnant rift valley wall creating the dramatic Murchison fall.

As soon as the bus stops Ava picks up her luggage. The air is scented with grasses, brush, wildflowers and dust. The huge flapping of birds overhead, screeching of animals brings more excitement. She is approached by a young woman who introduces herself as Adora and she is in charge of the entire operation of that area.  She shows her the cottage, a thatched hut. The cottage is not very luxurious but pretty comfortable. At the entrance there is a small front porch with two comfortable chairs. She sinks into the  chair and sits mesmerized by the sounds of Africa and the stupendous night sky. Thousands of stars spring out to greet her. Ava is almost fifty, a researcher from Duke University, and loves to travel on various projects. Now she has been studying the elephants and doing great deals of research on their cognition and social interactions. She wants to promote elephant conservation through scientific research, education programming, and intern collaboration and to bring these results directly to the classroom both virtually and physically.

The next day Ava wakes up early. Dawn is breaking over the plains and the sight is breathtaking. A rose-colored sky, streaked with orange and gold finally gives up to a burning cerulean blue, brilliant white tufts of clouds. The morning dew sparkles on the grass and on the leaves. Her camera captures the picture of two doves perching on a tree branch, a yellow-billed stork flying across the plains as the sky lightens up behind, and a herd of elephants drinking water. Around eight one of her assistants comes to fetch her for breakfast. It is prepared by the resident chef. One of the many amazing things she is to experience is the stove on which the breakfast was prepared. It consists of a large metal frame placed over a fire pit. The metal frame has special places where a number of round iron pots could be individually set. Alongside these spaces for ports there is barbecue grill for cooking metal directly on the flames or coals. The fire is spread evenly under the metal contraption, and the heat is turned up or down by placing more or less coal under each individual spot. At the breakfast table, Ava gets a chance to meet and mingle with the other tourists.

One of the rangers guides  Ava to check the elephant herd.  African bush elephants are both powerful and mythical, they embody Africa. They can be so loud that you can hear them from miles away, yet sometimes they are so silent that they can pass a short distance from you in thick bush without you even knowing it.  Elephants are remarkably intuitive creatures and are acutely aware of their surroundings. There is a herd of elephants scattered around a small tree-enclosed area. The huge ears flap the buzzing flies away from their faces.  Adults are feeding on grass, drinking fresh water, and the younger ones are just busy playing their games. All the wonder and magic of being so close to the true giants just overwhelms Ava. If you stand next to an elephant, it feels like you are the tiniest creature in comparison to the giant.  Their skin is like the bark of a very old tree, hard, dry and crusted.  The patterns on the skin are like mud that dried up in a pan that has not had water for a long time.  Ava glances at the one to the right. She is playing in the mud, and then trying to rest in between. She trots around grabbing a stick with her little trunk and squealing like a badly played saxophone. Ava smiles and names her Joy. Joy is gobbling the leaves with a big forehead, flappy ears, pretty small tusks which were shining like white gold as if posing for beauty shots. She has a round platter field and four toenails, like tea cups on each front foot.  Her small tusk curves outward like a crescent moon and earl like a palm leaf, small, intelligent caramel-brown eyes that stare behind the thick trunk of a tree.  She raises her camera and clicks a few shots. At the crest of the shoulder, sits an electronic transmitter that allows Ava to check all their moves. The daily routine is to follow and observe the behavior patterns, their interaction.  Ava is falling in love with Joy day by day – she wants to make friends with her, hug and play. After a couple of weeks, Joy approaches her vehicle. Ava gives her a banana and she grabs it with her trunk like a toddler picking up a toy clumsily. She keeps the tip of the trunk against Ava’s lips and looks thoughtfully. Then she gradually starts to greet her with a raised trunk and let her tickle on its underside of the trunk. The friendship grows stronger with each passing day.

Towards the end of the month on one Tuesday, Ava gets the flu and could not move from bed for a week or two.  As soon as her health improves she wants to check the herd and especially on Joy. She drives all the familiar places to find her but where is Joy!  She feels butterflies in her stomach. After a couple of hours of a long search, she spots Joy lying on the grass in a soggy spring-sleep valley, just upstream from the fall. Ava stops the jeep and runs towards Joy as fast as she can. Joy is breathing heavily, there are big tears running down from her eyes, making a painful noise. She is fighting for her life. Ava leans over. “ You will be okay,” she says. “ I will take care of you.” She gently wipes Joy’s tears and checks her whole body to make sure that nothing terrible has happened. But the wounds on both of her back legs startles her.. “O’ No! Who did this to you?” Ava whispers, choking on her own tears. Her wounds are grave. The reality stuck to her mind that it must be the poachers. Ava is ashamed to be human in the face of her suffering. “ No one will ever hurt you again,” she promises to caress Joy’s face.

 From the trail of her eyes, she finds another elephant from the herd, lying there dead without the tusks. Ava could not believe her eyes that someone so selfish and so cruel can take another innocent life for money and luxury. It is very hard to control her tears, sadness, and anger. The forest ranger appears on time to take Joy to the clinic and to take the dead elephant for the exam. Joy survives but it takes her a long time to come to a normal existence. The doctor keeps her hydrated with saline solution and gives her strong antibiotics. Ava extended her stay to look after Joy to make her understand that she deserves her life just like we do and the friendship continues. Three hard weeks have passed. One bright morning Ava walks into the barn with a fruit basket. Joy flaps her ears and vocalizes with a rumble. She rocks onto her chest and elevated herself onto her front feet. Then, majestically, she rocks onto her hind legs and stands up. She appears very relaxed and greets Ava with her extended trunk. She touches Ava’s shoulder, before continuing upward. The two muscles at the tip of her trunk touch Ava’s face, moving to her nose, her lips, and then to her wet eyes. Then very carefully she takes the fruit from Ava’s hand. Ava  breathes a great sigh of relief. 

Elephant poaching and international ivory trafficking involve a multitude of players with diverse interests. There are now fewer than 500,000wild African elephants and barely 32,000 Asian elephants.  These animals cannot fight against us. People need to stop decorating their mantelpieces by taking innocent lives.  Elephants have the same right to peaceful living as we do on this planet.

 All the creatures have a right to life. It was such a shame that just for money and luxury people can go to such an extent to take innocent lives. What happened to morality, empathy, respect, and compassion!! 

“ Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures”- Albert Schweitzer.

We need to help the innocent elephants win this battle, so let us be their voice and be more active to bring justice to them.

elephant2        elephant

On a Sunday

Sometimes life just happens.

“Hi Liza! It is so nice to see you!”

Liza rolls down her car window.“Grocery pick Up? Hm, Liza smiles waving her hands at Robert. “How is everything going?”

“ Nothing much, just holding on.Time to time, I come to pick up groceries.” He says, “I have a great idea! Why don’t you come to my house in the evening today?We will chit chat and have a good time.”

Liza looks startled. She does not want to visit during this pandemic time. “Let’s wait a few more weeks.” 

Robert did not take his gaze off Liza. He insisted Liza that she should come to his house. And Liza could not deny the request of his friend, so she agreed to visit on the condition that they should have a mask on and keep 6 feet of distance. 

“Sure! You got it.” He replies with a nod.

In the evening, Liza arrives at Robert’s townhouse. Robert opens the door and his dog wags his tail ears pricked and then trotted forward. He is vibrating with eagerness to see Liza.Rex padds up to Liza and thrusts his nose into her hand.

“It’s okay,pal.” Robert rubs the special spot behind the dog’s ears.”Liza, this is my dog Rex.” In the shadows of the darkened room Rex looked more like a wolf than a dog but a very handsome one. At the living room wall, Liza notices a most extraordinary painting of Budha.

“Stunning!” Liza says. “Certainly brings so much peace just staring at his face!”

“ It was done back in my college days.”

“ You are so artistic! Are you still painting?” Liza asks, still glancing at the painting.If she moves her head to the right or left, certain brush strokes subtly change their tint. In other places the surface is so smooth the color must have floated onto canvas.

“ You should display in it our department!” Liza suggests.

“No, no I prefer it to be in my home.I am not that great.” he walks towards the painting. “ My grandmother had a quick eye for fine art and she helped me a lot in teaching me how to draw and paint. Now I do paint in my spare time which is available plenty now.” He laughs.

All this spilled out of him, from a math Professor! Unbelievable. He adjusts his mask and pulls two chairs for them to sit. “ I am excited for the online classes to start! How about you?” 

Liza leans back on her chair. “ I am glad but I hope the pandemic will leave so that we can go back to our normal life.” she sighs!

Robert pulls out one of his artwork from behind the table. “This is another painting I just started.” He puts the painting on his desk. “During this strange time, when yo are cooped up inside your house, creativity finds it ways.” Liza nods her head while casting  a closer look at the painting. It is a picture of a Beach front- wooden benches on the boardwalks face the sea, all empty. Circles of light under the boardwalk’s long rows of street lamps and the lamps have receded to a vanishing point. In a distance the waves are coming in. A few birds are pecking on the sand for food. Liza sighs. “ So realistic!

“ I was there last week. It was so quiet that you could forget the sidewalks and wander in the middle of them anywhere. The digital billboard ads blared, beaming down on nobody.” Robert says moving the painting from the desk.

Liza sits straight on her chair and says,“ Yesterday, I was talking to one of my elderly neighbors whose wife has a severe memory problem. She had been acting strangely for several days-not eating properly or responding when her husband speaks. A few days back she was disoriented and very anxious. It got so severe that he had to call the ambulance and guess what, her test came out to be  positive for the Corona virus. He does not know what is going to happen to his wife.”

“It is really sad!” Robert changes the story. “ I heard that you like photography. Is it true?”

Liza smiles. “I do in my spare time which I also have plenty. My first camera was a present from my grandfather. I was enthralled by the magic one could create in the dark. It has been ten years since I had sat down with my family and announced my decision to pursue a career as a photographer. The news landed with the force of a grenade in my home, although I was at a loss to understand why. My country has changed so much! I read in the newspaper how young ladies in my country are changing the old norm and embracing the new. It should have been obvious that I was  passionate about taking pictures. But the scene in the elegantly appointed living room of my parent’s home still rang in my ears. “ Liza, photography is just a hobby,” my mother said. “ You can continue that even after your wedding. I’m sure that Das’ family will not mind at all.”

At that point I informed my parents that I will not marry. My mother was first horrified and then finally, furious. My father had warned me that if I continued with my crazed plan to become a professional photographer then he would cut off all the financial support until I came to my senses.

I did not want to marry the person whom I don’t love. He is indeed a handsome, charming man, Liza reflected. On the surface, he appeared to be everything a woman in her world could ask for in a husband, But she does not want to marry at all because she knows for sure that after the wedding is over, her in-laws may not allow her to pursue her dream. She wanted to create art,pictures that make people stop and take a second look. Things have changed since then. I decided to take a teaching job in the university and my photography has stayed just as a hobby, like the way my mother predicted.”

“ It is indeed a interesting story!” Robert laughs. 

Liza pushes the chair back. “ I should get going because. It is really nice talking with you.”

“Please call me or stop by if you get bored.Hopefully in a month we will be able to get back to our classes.”

“ I hope the same.” Liza says.


Nick is in his backyard, watering the tomato seedlings that he has just set out to harden before planting them in the garden. Big drops of rain are coming down, dropping the size of half-dollars. They slap the broad leaves of the maple tree, punch the mulch bags at one corner of the yard and clang against the watering can he set down on the deck.

“More rain,” his wife Sheela shakes her head and walks to the edge of the deck,loops her arms around a post and leans out into the rain.

“It’s fine, at least the weather will cool down a little.” Nick ducks back under the covered patio. He wipes the rain from his face with his blue handkerchief, and then folds  the handkerchief up and stuffs it back into his hip pocket. Their fourteen years old dog Quirky stops chasing the lizard and runs to the deck. She shakes the rain water from her body and leans against Sheela’s dress,hiding half of her face into it. She thinks somedays Sheela and Iwan do some type of evil game where thunder and rain appear from nowhere and Quirky has to hide herself either under the bed or in a corner of Iwan’s study room to protect herself.The wind is up now.Rain has scattered across the front part of the deck and three of them retreat toward the house.

Nick walks into the bathroom, pours a good amount of hand soap and  washes his hand singing ABC D.. Sheela laughs. “ It is scary, but at least people are listening,following the simple act of washing and bleaching their hands like Macbeth’s.” She looks at her own hands and sighs. “ My hands are already rashy from scrubbing, soaping and sanitizing.” She continues, “ I wonder how long we have to stay at home and work.” She moves the Time magazine from the top of the sofa to the coffee table and sits. Nick emerges from the bathroom, goes straight to his study room and comes back with his laptop. He sits on the sofa besides his wife. He tilts back and clasps his hands behind his head. “ This is just like a plague! But hopefully this crazy thing will be over in another week or two.Aggressive quarantine measures, when fully enforced, could choke the spread of the virus,that’s what the doctors are saying.” he says opening his laptop.

Sheela leaves the room and returns with a yellow notebook. “ Nick, listen! I know you have to work from home and I should do mine, but I would like to read something to cheer up our spirit.” she smiles standing in front of her husband. Nick nods his head and says carefully, “ Go ahead, but please make it shorter than the last one you recited- “ A Psalm of Life”, so that I will be able to start working on my project.”

 Sheela clears her throat. This one is called Daisy Time by Pickthall.

  “See, the grass is full of stars,Fallen in their brightness;

Hearts they have of shining gold,Rays of shining whiteness.

Buttercups have honeyed hearts,Bees they love the clover,

But I love the daisies’ dance,All the meadow over.

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,Singing summer’s praises,

Up the field and down the field,A-dancing with the daisies.”

Nick beams.“Really a very beautiful poem!” “Well, thanks for sharing.”

Sheela’s smile is openly delighted. “ This is my part of entertainment for us.Now I will go back to do my own thing.” Sheela walks into her living room and stands at a window. Out the window, she could see a lone boy in a yellow raincoat walking, his skateboard under his arm. It is hard to see his face clearly but he looks lost in thought,oblivious to his surroundings. She decides to call her daughter to check if she is doing okay. “ Hi Grace,how is your fever? Did you talks to your doctor?”

“ I will be a fine mom. And there is no testing here yet.Yesterday I had a little trouble breathing and the doctor asked me to get a small inhaler and to rest.”Grace sighs. “Not to worry mom,I will let you know if anything happens.” 

Sheela pulls an oak chair and sits down. “Are you still having chest pain? What is your temperature right now?” Nick hears his wife’s shrill voice and runs into the room. “ What’s the matter?”He asks nervously.

“Sheela puts her daughter in speakerphone. “Tell your dad everything that you told me.” she demands. Her daughter sighs! “ Guys,please calm down. I have taken tylenol and am working from home. Give me a few hours and I will call you back as soon as I am done with a conference call with my boss. Is that okay Mom?” she asks before hanging the phone. A tense silence falls in the room.

Sheela is getting a severe headache now.Iwan stands there quietly with his one arm on his wife’s shoulder. They don’t know what to say. 

Sheela is toying with her phone for a while and then decides to call her son.After the four rings, her son answers the phone.” Hi Mom! How are you?” he is breathing hard. Sheela pushes the chair and stands up straight. “I am fine. Why are you breathing so hard? Do you have temperature or cough?” 

“ Mom, I am fine. I was at home working for the last two days and today I decided to come to the trail for running.“He is still breathing hard but laughs.“ I am taking care of myself mom, so not to worry. How are you and dad?”

Sheela leans against the chair.” We are fine.I am home too, so decided to check on you. Go ahead, finish your run and call me back later.”

“ Mom, make sure not to go to any stores.If you need groceries, then call and order for delivery.” he continues with his sentence. “ I heard that according to both of your age, you will be more susepetible to corona virus, so stay indoors,wash your hands frequently. And mom, call me if you need anything. Bye!” he hangs the phone. Now a small reassuring smile plays on her lips to know that her son is fine.But, she has to wait to hear back from her daughter. Waiting is really hard! Nick Turns around to go back to his work. He stops at the door and turns his face towards his wife.She seems more worried. “ Sheela why don’t you go for a walk or do some writing or sketching.” 

“ I should.” she says.

Rain has stopped. Sheela takes her rain jacket and puts on her shoes for a walk.She has been walking for an half an hour, enjoying the greenery on both sides- all the trees with new baby leaves and pretty flowers of white redbud tree and eastern redbud tree. She comes to a bridge across a stream and stops to sit down for a while and starts to hike again. It starts to rain again. Avoiding the slippery wet rock lower down, she picks a route over high, turfed banks and sure enough, within minutes the sweat is pouring into her eyes along with the rain. She drinks from her water bottle and pushes on, taking advantage of the solitude. After five minutes of listening to the rain rattling on the fabric of her rain jacket, she climbs up.After a while the rain stops.  As the rain ceased and a long fissure in the cloud permitted a tiny consolation of diluted sunlight, it began to happen at last- she began to feel good. Perhaps it is no more than the effect of endorphins released by muscular exertion.

 On near level ground now, she strides across the  grass towards the track to return home.She pulls out a handkerchief and her cell phone from her jacket pocket. She stops in the middle of the trail to wipe her sweat. Then she checks her cellphone for any missed call but there is none. So she puts the phone back in her pocket and starts walking. She spots a dog,impossibly tiny Yorkies, two silky gold and blue-gray mops spinning across the trail and they look like her friend Jade’s dogs. They are upon her, bouncing up, their stubby tails wildly tick-tocking. The smaller dog places one paw on her shoe and turns his doll face upward. His nose is a shiny black triangle, and his eyelashes full of feathers. He gives Sheela a single decorous flick with his tongue.

“Lucy, Greta!” Jade comes running towards them and stops near Sheela. “ O’,I found them! Thanks Sheela! Did you know I was on the phone talking with my mom and suddenly they disappeared from my sight. I have been calling their names and looking under each bush and around the big trees to find them but all in vain.” She takes a big gulp of water from her water bottle and carries both of her dogs in her arms. Sheela says,crisply, with a toss of her head. “They are so so cute! And how is your mom doing? Is she still in Europe?”

Jade sits on a bench nearby holding her dogs. “ I was just talking with her. She is stuck there until she will be able to take a flight back.She is very worried, but nothing can be done at this point.” Jade replies wearily. Her eyes filled with tears.

 Sheela walks forward to give her friend a hug but she stops remembering the corona Virus.She should not touch her. “ Make a point to talk to her everyday, so that she will not feel alone or have anxiety attacks.” Sheela says. 

Jade sighs! “ That’s the only thing I could do now.So how are you?”

“Fine! Taking everyday as it comes.It is really nice to see you and I will call you sometimes to chat with you.”

“Sure.See you later” Sheela takes off from there.

*If you are stuck at home during this hard time then relax- Do a puzzle,Listen to music, write poetry or a haiku, play board games. 

Just like other hard times, this will also pass.

A day in Spring

Daisy lays in an elaborately carved rosewood bed in a hotel, in a small town in Bombay. A dazzling sunlight falls through the wood shutter. The first thing she sees is a slender lizard dash up the front wall. From the bathroom: splash, throat clearing, the slap of a towel, she knows that it is time to wake up and get ready to meet her new family, in a new country. She has decided to marry her law school sweetheart Arush and they are on their way to meet Arush’s parents.
It is early spring, but so hot in the cab that her cotton dress sticks to the seat and the driver drives hectically, one hand on the wheel through ramshackle town and potholed roads. After driving for an hour, on the edge of town, quite suddenly, they are in the most spectacular place she has ever seen: a dream of water, earth, and sky as bright green fields and gorgeously colored trees seem to float.
“Are you nervous?” Arush asks, at last acknowledging the momentous day ahead. “You will shortly disappear within my relatives and they will be very curious about you.”
“Not nervous,” Daisy lies. “Excited.” She is looking at a small boat adrift in a dazzling stretch of water. After ten minutes or so, down a dusty road lined with coconut trees, Arush grips her hand tightly.
“We’re less than a mile away,” he says. And in ten minutes, there it is: a small one-story house against a lush backdrop of trees, Arush exhales slowly. “This is it,” he let go of her hand. In the gap between the trees, there is half an acre of neatly planted vegetables. Three women weeding the vegetable patch straighten as they pass and give her a hard, bright stare and wave at Arush.
“Do they know you, Arush?”
“They do,” he says, waving them back, his whole expression brightens. The cab stops at the front gate. Through the gate is an immaculate graveled courtyard, its low walls covered in geranium, hibiscus plants. The whole house is framed by exuberant tropical trees and above it the bright blue sky, so bright it hurt your eyes to look at it. Daisy could hardly breathe, she is so nervous. A young girl in a pink long dress is standing on the front veranda, looking down at them. Her hand is over her mouth as if to stop herself screaming.
“ Maa, look brother is here.” Another lady opens the door and rushes down the steps and breaks into a stumbling run. Daisy hears a muffled sob as she stretches out her arms, a long string of words. Arush touches her feet and they match with an out pour of emotion.
“Maa,” he says, releasing her, “ I’d like you to meet Daisy, my friend. She is overly excited to meet you and dad.”
A shy smile covers Daisy’s face and she bends down on her waist to touch her feet just like Arush. Arush’s mother tidies the tears away with a quick, deft gesture and heads out a gracious hand.
“Welcome to our house,” she smiles with a gesture of welcome. Daisy follows them into the house through the huge veranda. Arush’s mother walks with them to show the bedroom. It is large, whitewashed room, furnished with two chairs and a wooden bed carved with fruits and birds, made up with a peach-colored sheet and thin looking pillows. On the front of a calendar on the wall, there is a beaming lady in an orange sari floating down the Ganges and advertising Horlick’s-it is good for you. Inside the air feels moist and heavy.
“Please freshen up and get ready to meet all our relatives and friends,” her mother-in-law says with a big smile.
Daisy opens her suitcase and pulls out a pant and a long kameez. Arush shows her the bathroom. The odd-looking room has a large copper cauldron of cool water in the corner for the bath. Above the bath, there is a shelf holding a bundle of twigs, and what Arush says are ayurvedic oils for hair and skin.
“ We’re often short of water in summer, so use accordingly and don’t drink it. I will ask the cook to boil water up later.” The lavatory, he says, is a short walk outside the house, next to the garden. “ Sure,” Daisy says wrapping her arms around him: her anchor in a shifting world.
“ They’re waiting for me, so let me go ahead and I’ll come back to get you.”
After half an hour of waiting, at the sound of a car horn, Daisy leaps to her feet and, through a bamboo blinds, watches her new family members arrive. A group of women steps out of the car, dressed in dazzling clothes in every color of the rainbow: emerald, ocher, gold, orange. They are chattering like jays, jiggling up and down on the spot as if they could barely contain themselves. The children explode from the car next, skipping across the courtyard. One after another hug Arush. A plump old lady waddle through the courtyard: mouth half-open, a little off center, walks toward the room, and then all follow her. They walk through the bedroom door to greet her with beaming smiles and perfect politeness. It is hard to listen as everybody talks at the same time. Arush asks Daisy to touch some of the elders’ feet and just hug to some of the younger ladies.They sit in the bedroom, some on the bed and some on the floor. Daisy has never seen so many people in one family. It is almost one o’ clock and a small boy comes running to announce that lunch is ready. It is a long hall, banana leaves are arranged on the floor. Daisy has her food in a china plate edged in gold, crystal glass, and spoon and fork.
“You must say grace, Arush,” her mother says, a deep emotional throb in her voice. Arush closes her eyes. “For these and all thy gifts, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen,” he mumbles. One of his sisters serves the food- elegantly spiced rice, lentil, creamy fish curry, sauteed okra, crisp fried pappadams.., each one giving off its own tantalizing aroma. Arush helps her in showing how to eat with her right hand. “Make your rice into a neat tight pile like this,” Arush’s mother says,” And put it in your mouth. It tastes better with lentils, a little curry sauce and there,” she smiles at her.
“Like this?” Everyone watched, fascinated, as Daisy feels a blob of bright sauce on her dress, half a handful of rice on her new pant.
“You’re doing fine,” one of the sisters says. After lunch, all of them sit in the veranda and introduce themselves to Daisy. And the tea party starts. One of the cousins prepares tea infused with cardamom, clove and brings out in batches of trays. The smell of the tea is heavenly. The laughter and their chatter fill the air. Daisy doesn’t understand the language, but she can feel their happiness and excitement. Through the mild peach-colored air of early evening, she could see some of Arush’s friends and uncles playing chess on one side of the veranda. And the sight of the- teacups on the floor, bare feet, dark heads bent together- is very comforting. The soft jasmine-scented breeze from the plants scrambles over their wall.
It is the tail end of dusk, some of the relatives get ready to return to their homes with the promise of coming back soon as her mother-in-law leaves to the prayer room. The smells of incense, the sound of conch and voice of prayer fill the evening air around them. “Life happens to you sometimes in strange ways, you can’t control it.”