Evading sleep

April 13, 2016. 2.38 am

“Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me! What are you doing sitting the dark? I wouldn’t have known you were even there had I not seen Rahul’s yellow eyes!” said Kabir while stumbling towards me in the dark.

“Are you okay?” he asked sitting beside me, when I didn’t respond.

“Get lost Kabir I want to be alone.”

“I’m done with this bullshit ok. You can’t go around destroying everything that finds itself in your path – whether its somebody else or yourself. Just because your parents didn’t plan you, doesn’t make you a human error. You were obviously brought into this world for a reason, and it’s not just because your dad forgot to use a condom…”

“Gross,” was all I managed to say with my cracked voice as I buried my face into the nape of his neck, while he hugged me tightly. For the first time, Rahul didn’t run away from the room Kabir was in and his loud purring hinted that its time I stopped, too.


 February 1, 2017. 1:58 am

“So on my way back home today, there was this dude walking beside me who was talking on the phone. He said things like ‘The work is done. When will I receive the payment? You promised I’d receive it immediately after,’ and I swear it sounded like he murdered somebody,” I said hanging my bag on the hook behind the door and taking off my shoes.

“Whoa! Please tell me you probed into it?” Kabir said looking up from his computer with fascination.

“I followed him for a bit but it was dark and he was venturing into a shady area. So I aborted mission,” I said plunging into the beanbag beside him.

“I would have followed him further,” he said looking back into his computer as Kiara waltzed through his keyboard onto my lap, and purred as I scratched her chin.

“I really wanted to but I was alone and I think my addiction to Criminal Minds stopped me from looking into this,” I said while turning on the tv. “How come you’re still awake? It’s way past your bedtime.”

“Sleep is evading me tonight.”

“Sleep is like a cat. When you ignore it, it comes to you.”

He rolled his eyes as we watched the latest episode of Criminal Minds in silence.

“Do you think you judge people too easily?” He asked, bringing me a mug of coffee during an ad break.

“Yes. You can always count on me to judge people,” I said smiling sweetly.

“My god, I think this is the most honest you have ever been. I need to catch you at 2am more often.”

“Like you’re so innocent. You told me you judged me the second I got back home on the night we first met!”

It was on a Saturday that we ran into each other outside a nightclub. I was avoiding my drunk friends and he was taking a cigarette break. Assuming I was out to smoke as well, he offered me a drag. ‘No thanks’, I had said, ‘I like my lungs cancer free, the way they are.’ He shrugged and put off the cigarette, making small talk. And that was that, we never seemed to run out of topics to talk about since that night.

“Hey! I’m nicer than you think okay. I just observe and comment,” he said taking my mug and sipping on the last two sips of coffee that had the unmelted sugar. I hated sugar in my coffee but he only drank anything sweet. Bitterness wasn’t his thing, and sweetness, not mine. That’s probably why we got along so well.

“That’s called judging, Kabir. Oh I have an idea!”

“Unless it involves us being in bed right now, I’m not listening to your ridiculous ideas. I’m going to sleep. Do you want to get Rahul off the bed for me?”

“He will get off the second you go into the room. He hates you, you know that right?” I said not moving an inch, since Kiara was still perched on me.

“I don’t understand it. I feed him, play with him, and everything and he still hates me. I think he’s just trying to spite me because I didn’t let you call Kiara Anjali, because we were cool for a bit there, in the middle, you know? Your cat is as weird as you, woman. I mean, who even names cats after characters in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?” Kabir whined as he walked into the bedroom. Funnily enough, two seconds later a soft meow greeted me, and Rahul joined Kiara on my lap.

“I can’t believe you didn’t let me call her Anjali. And I think it’s the fact that you still call him my cat and not our cat. Maybe that annoys him,” I said loud enough for him to hear. When I heard him grumble inaudibly, I decided to join him.

“You know, when you didn’t make a move on me three months after we started dating people told me I needed to seduce you,” I said getting under the comforter in the dark room. Two seconds later I felt something walking over my foot.

“I don’t understand why they don’t respect our privacy. I mean, I don’t think they would like it if we watched them do the nasty, you know?” Kabir said, exasperated. Clearly, one of them had walked over him too.

“But I didn’t need you to try and seduce me. I didn’t make a move because I didn’t want you to feel pressured into doing things you weren’t comfortable with.”

“I told them that that wasn’t possible because I was as seductive as a cabbage.”

“Is it because you have so many layers?” I could feel his breath on my forehead now.

“That’s a very good metaphor actually. I think I’m going to use it somewhere. But no. It’s because cabbages aren’t as nice to look at like colourful other stuff you know, like carrots and beets and all?”

“For the record, cabbages are my favourite fruits,” he said coming closer, his prickly beard tickling my neck.

“I’m pretty sure cabbages fall under the vegetable category,” I said, in between my laughter.

“Whatever. Shut up now,” he said shooing away Rahul and Kiara so they wouldn’t have to watch us ‘do the nasty,’ that night.







In Flight

January 6, 2016


The thing about parks is that there’s so much you can do in them. There’s space for kids to play, adults to gossip, lovers to romance, fitness freaks to exercise, nature lovers to explore and the list can go on…

“I didn’t think anybody felt so passionately about parks,” a voice interrupted my typing and stream of thought. Pretending not to hear, I tried to continue…

 The park in my neighbourhood was where I met my best friend. The park behind my grandparents house was where my brothers and I played hide and seek. The park in a new city was where I went to find solace when I was heartbroken. But the park behind the movie theatre, with the swings and slides and the tall tower, still remains my favourite.

“You’re writing about me? You can’t write a book about me,” the voice interrupted again, this time it was huskier and tickled my ear.

“My world does not revolve around you,” I said rolling my eyes and trying to ignore the goosebumps that had appeared on my back, where his beard brushed on my skin and his warm fingers traced the curve of my spine.

“I think I have memorised every single strand…” he murmured in my ear, through my hair. “Just like I have memorised this smile. The only thing I haven’t figured out, is the depth of those dimples,” he said, now tracing my face. “But I know you have a deadline and I shouldn’t be distracting you,” he whispered before fading away, leaving my thoughts in a frenzy.

“Huh? What?” I gawked at him with utter disbelief as he strutted away into the bathroom. He had come to realise that he was my favourite distraction and only took advantage of it.


 November 6, 2015


We sat on the floor of his bedroom trying to build forts with all the pillows and blankets we could acquire.

“Your housemates must think I’m a weirdo,” I said as I knotted the ends of two blankets I had sent him to borrow from them.

“You are. And I’m pretty sure they think this is for some kinky stuff. Not that I would have a problem with that. It will only boost my reputation in front of them,” he said, raising his eyebrow, hinting at it.

“Maybe we could invite them into the fort when its done. That would sort out your reputation for life,” I said sticking my tongue out at him.

“Sure, why not? And then we could all drink hot chocolate and talk about our feelings and maybe even watch Tangled!”

“What? Seriously?! That sounds like so much fun I think they’re really going to…” I trailed off as he rolled his eyes, and laughed dryly, switching on the fairy lights we had just bought and looked genuinely surprised at how good it made his otherwise drab room look.

Two hours, five bottles of beer and half a movie later, he was sprawled across the blanket, snoring softly. I made a mental note to tease him about how he slept like Jesus Christ, before shifting around and settling down with my laptop, on the other side of the fort. I had a deadline to meet and I desperately needed to get work done.

Halfway through my piece, he shuffled and turned to his side, sighing softly. Couple of seconds later, he woke up and looked around, his eyes swollen with sleep and hair a giant mess. I smiled at the confused expression from behind my laptop, before shutting it.

“Why does it look like we are in heaven?” he asked his voice filled with sleep. He moved over to my side and lay down beside me stretching his arm out.

“We are not dead, don’t worry,” I said placing my head on his chest as he reached out for something.

“I forgot to show you but I took this picture of this cat I saw because you like cats,” he said showing me the screen that had a picture of a black and white tabby on it.

“That is a very cute cat,” I smiled, knowing he was probably already asleep.

The last time he woke up in the middle of the night, we were at my place and he told me he had memorised my laugh. Another time, he told me he’d always find his way back to me. And another time, he said he had never been as sure of anything, as he was of me.

We never talked about this in the morning. I wasn’t sure if he remembered and if he didn’t I wanted it to be my secret.

Minutes later, just when I thought he had fallen asleep, he let out a quiet sigh.

“My heart will always drown into those dimples,” he murmured before beginning to snore lightly through his open mouth.

In that moment, under fairly lights and patterned blankets, I finally knew what it was like to be loved. And it felt a lot like flying.


September 18, 2012

“This article is called we don’t always end up with the love of our lives and that’s okay.”

“Is it as lame as it sounds?”

“I don’t know, a lot of people seem to be agreeing with it.”

“Well, do you?”

“I ended up with the love of my life.”

“But would it be okay if you didn’t?”

“No. I don’t think I’d be okay if we didn’t end up together.”


September 18, 2015

I always managed to wake up a few seconds before he did. Watching him devour those last few minutes of sleep before groaning and shutting off the alarm, was one of my guilty pleasures. I’d listen to him breathe, try to match his breath, count his breaths and watch his eyelashes, that could give most mascara brands a run for their money, flutter when he dreamed. He’d then wake me up, tell me his dream, plant a kiss on my forehead and then strut off to make us coffee.

This morning, he dreamed that we owned a puppy called Shadow.

“You remember that lame florescent sign board we saw that night we met?” I asked him from beneath the sheets while he had already collected our clothes from last night and stashed them in a pile, before heading off to the kitchen.

“Of course. Two Souls Don’t Just Meet By Accident,” he said without stopping to think. “You thought it was a quote picked up from that artsy website you love so much,” came his voice from the kitchen. “You flipped me off in the bitchiest way possible. You remember, you pointed to your shirt when I tried to talk to you?”

Abcdefuckoff, my shirt had read. I still had it stashed somewhere in my closet.

“And then when I asked you to dance, you said you don’t dance. Two seconds later, you were dancing with some asshole,” he continued, his voice edging closer to the warmth of the blanket that so strongly smelled of him ­- warm and musky, with a hint of caffeine.

“No swearing early in the morning,” I said, rolling on to his side of the bed.

“Who dances with somebody they are not in love with?”

“Normal people,” I sighed as he placed two mugs of coffee – one steaming hot and one not-so-hot, on the table beside me. “You know what else normal people do? They don’t ask a random girl in a bar if she’s in love with somebody. It’s bound to creep her out.”

“But I managed to woo her anyway, didn’t I?” he said, getting under the sheets and trying to nuzzle his prickly bearded face into my hair.

“Go away! You’re going to be late Kabir,” I pushed his face away from mine. “And you might want to shave. Your beard is getting a little out of hand and always poking me in weird places.”

“Care to explain what these weird places are? Because I don’t recall you having a problem with all the places my beard explored last night,” came the smug response that left an instant trail of goosebumps on my skin. I opened my eyes for the first time that morning and his under-appreciated smiling brown eyes met mine before he hopped off the bed.

I watched him go about his routine. It was my favourite thing to do in the morning. It was like watching art being made. He was like all of my favourite colours put together – like a personalised rainbow after a stormy night. Like my favourite book that I had read countless times where my favourite parts were underlined and highlighted so I could go back and re-read them anytime. The only one who managed to connect all my dots, despite the trail being too long, and transforming me from human error to constellation.

Kabir. My favourite piece of art.


September 18, 2016

“Why are your shoulders so slumped? You look like you’re carrying sadness on your back,” Kabir asked as soon as he saw me.

Two seconds later, I was a crumbling mess in his arms.

“I always knew you were made of stardust – carelessly carrying my heart around like you didn’t even know. You’ve spent so much of your life waiting for this very moment. You should go. But know this, wherever you are going, however far away, you will always come back to me,” he said, arm around my shoulder as I sipped on my beer through a straw.

“That almost sounds like a curse,” I said, cracking a smile and burying my face into his chest for what felt like the last time.


September 17, 2017

Off late, I hadn’t been sleeping very well. Dreams of neon signboards, white sheets and brown eyes consistently woke me up at night. They say sleeping next to someone you love makes you fall asleep faster – so it only made sense that I was barely sleeping at all.

Nervous to be back after almost a year, I stepped into what looked like a brand new café on an otherwise familiar street. Balloons still hung at the entrance and the specials board was still empty. The barista looked surprised to see me walk in but happily took my order. I picked an inconspicuous table in a corner, settled down and began to work on my laptop when a sudden bright light caught my attention.

What Does Your Soul Look Like? The neon pink signboard above the barista’s counter read. I stared at it until the barista brought over my steaming hot coffee and placed it on a coaster that had a picture of the signboard on it, with an arrow indicating to turn over.

On the other side, was a picture of a beer bottle with a straw in it, and scrawny handwriting that read, ‘This is what mine looks like.

Halfway Summer

“Our eyes locked but we didn’t say a word when the clock struck twelve that New Year’s Eve. Do you remember that?” he asked, tracing circles on my back as we lay in the warmth of the blanket.

“No,” I said groggily, eyes closed.

“You know, I think we have always been good at that. At being mad at each other. I mean it seemed like hell, but eventually we didn’t fit anywhere but in each other’s arms,” he said a few seconds later.

I smiled but didn’t respond. Not yet.

Disappointed at not receiving a reply, he tried again.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed.

Giving in this time, I opened my eyes and blinked.


He still looked like the little boy I once knew. The ten-year-old who watched trashy Govinda movies with me from the isle of the filthy cinema house, crying when lovers parted ways on screen, and hooting and cheering when they got back together.

“Kabir ya, it’s like the middle of the night. Can’t you be sorry about whatever it is tomorrow morning?” I asked, refusing to budge even though he was no longer drawing those comforting circles on my back.

“Oh so when she wants to have some conversation for whatever inspiration she needs to write, she’s allowed to wake me at 3 am. But when I’m pouring my heart out, it’s the ‘middle of the night’ for her,” he said turning to the other side.

“Are you seriously referring to me in third person? I’m right here,” I said rolling my eyes. Two could play this game.

“Who needs to watch daily soaps when you have a man like this,” I murmured, to nobody in particular.


When he didn’t respond, I rested my chin on his bare shoulder.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Though the lights were out, moonlight shone through our thin curtains. I could see his glossy eyes staring into blank space, eyelashes fluttering like a that of a little doll. I swear, the man’s lashes could give most cosmetic companies a run for their money. “What are you sorry for?” I nudged his back with my chin urging him to speak up.

“I just wish somebody could heal that tragic gap of time and take us back to the summers when we were sixteen.  We just kept missing each other,” he said, his voice suddenly hoarse.

He only got this way when he had too much to drink but I didn’t want to mention it just now.

“That line ought to be in of those sappy movies I make you watch.”

“We’re better than any of those bullshit movies. And it’s insulting to me that you are comparing us to them,” he said, turning around to face me.

“The boy with the wind-swept hair and freckled yet-to-be-discovered constellations on his shoulders…”

“The girl with sunset eyes. His Halfway Summer, sitting cross-legged on his bed three years after they lost each other. That night, while they talked till it was day, he melted faster than the ice cream they shared,” he said nuzzling into my side, hand in my hair, as the stars dimmed their lights.

20 questions

“I’ll be late,” mom texted me as I stood waiting for her outside college. Pulling out my earphones, I plugged it into my phone and strolled down the street.

After a few minutes of walking, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I looked back to see a man standing behind me, presumably talking.

Gesturing for him to stop, I pulled my earphones out.

“Hi” he said politely. “Really sorry to bother you but where is the nearest coffee shop in the area?”

Since we were standing right opposite the place he was asking for, I was confused.

“Um, right there,” I said pointing to the café across the street.

“Oh damn! Okay thanks,” he said turning red.

I gave him a thumbs up before plugging my earphones in and starting to walk.


A few seconds later, I felt another tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see the same man there.

“Hi, I’m Rodor. And that was the best pick-up line I had.”

Not knowing what to say, I stared at him blankly.

“What’s your name?” he asked.


“Will you have coffee with me?”



I agreed to go only because I had loads of time to kill.

Or at least that’s what I told myself.


We walked awkwardly together to the café across the street, and managed to find a table in the crowded room. After ordering, to make our conversation less awkward, Rodor suggested we play a game of 20 questions.


“What do you want to be in life,” he asked.

“A writer,” I said without thinking.


“Okay since I’m sure you write a lot, what part of a story is the hardest to write and why?” he asked, sipping on his coffee.

“I think for me, endings are the hardest. And it’s only because they’re false. Because nothing truly ends. Maybe it changes and transforms. Still, a novel must have a last page and a poem, a last line.”

“But ultimately everything ends right? Look at dinosaurs, their species have just stopped.”

“No, not really. Lizards of all kids are descendants of dinosaurs. Like I said, they’ve transformed. Their genes are still present here,” I said munching on a breadstick.

His game seemed to be working.


“Who is your favorite author?”

“Anais Nin.”

“I’ve never heard of her.”

“Google her. She’s definitely worth knowing of,” I smirked.


“How often do you lie?”

“Everybody lies,” I said smugly.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Because that’s a terrible question. I’m sure you wouldn’t answer it either if you were asked.”

“Fair enough. Okay let me rephrase… how do you know if a person is a good liar or not?” he asked after thinking hard.

“I think anybody who says they are a good liar is obviously not. Only because any legitimate liar would insist that they are honest about everything.”

He laughed. He had nice teeth. His dentist must have made a bomb just from fixing them. I was sure no one could have been born with such a perfect set or pearly whites.


“Going back to writing… what is easiest to write? Generally,” he said knowing he wasn’t clear.

“Hmmm, I think it’s far more easier to write about why something is terrible. Rather than why it’s good. You know, generally,” I said winking.


“Okay. What do you think about relationships?” he seemed particularly interested in my response for this question.

“I think, every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle. The person in power is usually the one who likes the other person less.”

“So in our situation, you would be the one in power?”

“Is this a trick question?” I laughed.


At that moment my phone rang. It was my mother and I knew she had reached, and was waiting.

“I’m coming,” I texted her and stood up to leave, handing him the money for my order. Looking at my expression, he knew better than to argue with me about it.


“My mom is here,” I said. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“We should do this again. It was fun.”

“Sure” I said. “But next time I ask the questions.”

“Deal. And by the way, you’re wrong about the power struggle theory.”


“Maybe you are too. After all, isn’t everyone wrong about everything just about all the time?” I said, smugly staring into his chocolate brown eyes before walking away.

The Space Cycle


On reaching the last step, I finally looked up to see a face smirking at me. With his twinkling brown eyes, perfectly messed up hair and pearly white grin, he had the smile that made you want to smile with him.

“Need help?” Kabir asked stretching out his hand.

“Did that thought not occur to you when you saw me struggle at the first step?” I asked lifting up my lehenga, climbing the final step and feeling a sense of accomplishment as an old Hindi song blasted through the speakers.

“It was quite hilarious when you were about to trip on that ninth step,” he joked as we walked inside the magnanimous foyer. In an almost mechanical way, he held out his hand as I took it to support myself while taking off my heels.

“What are you doing outside anyway?” I shouted above the music as my hand latched on his arm while I struggled to take off my shoe. “Aren’t you supposed to be inside helping out and letting aunties swoon over you?”

“They asked me to pick up the sweet boxes and bangles. But now I can’t find my shoes,” he shouted back frowning at the shoe racks that were almost overflowing with shoes of different colours, sizes and styles.

“Are they the beige Mojaris? There are so many of them here why did you decide to wear those today!” I said scanning through the racks as well.

“No actually they’re my Nikes,” he said as the music abruptly stopped and the room went dark. “Great. This is going to make it so much easier.”

Despite the darkness, I could tell he was rolling his eyes.

“You wore Nike shoes to a temple, left them in the shoe rack? And now you expect them not to be stolen?! You totally deserve this,” I said shaking my head, exasperated.

“Ok no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” I said after a few seconds of awkward silence as he glared at me. “Nobody deserves their favourite shoes to be stolen, I would also hate anybody who told me that I deserved it if my favourite Adidas’ were stolen. I’ll just ask the watchman…”

“You’re not just “anybody”. And I could never hate you,” he mumbled, barely audible, as we walked into the light, our hands still entwined.


“Stay,” Kabir said at 2 am, after we had finished watching Blue Valentine for the second time that week.

And stayed I did.


“I just want to be closer to the stars,” I whined as we sat in the balcony staring at the thick layer of dust blocking the sky while huddling under the blanket.

“Is that a writer’s metaphor for ‘I need some space’?” he asked not taking his eyes off me.

“No, but thanks for that. I could use it in a breakup piece,” I said instantly fishing out my phone and making a note.

The next day, Kabir planned a spontaneous trip to the nearest hill station. He knew I wasn’t a fan of spontaneity – I needed my time to settle in and get to know the place a little.

“Trust me, it will be worth it,” was all he said. And I went along.

That evening, after a day’s long drive past lush green meadows, we were at the only park on the highest hilltop.

“This is the closest you’ll get to the stars, without needing all that space,” he said quietly as we gazed at the sunset spin into a frosty twinkling night, while swinging on the creaking swing sets.

That night, I realised that someone can make you smile only a number of times before you start to love them a little.


He was there when I turned four. He was there when I turned fourteen.

We were always too similar. Like the same side of a coin. Twin Earth signs. When we loved, it was beautiful. When we fought, we fought with the same claws.

“Will you still love me when I am unlovable?” I had asked waking him up one night, when we were supposed to be watching Stay.

The next morning, I woke up to an empty bed, half empty closet and a single text message.

“You know, I remember the exact moment I knew I was in love with you. You weren’t looking at me. You were stargazing.”

He left like an earthquake. And that’s the thing about earthquakes. They don’t know how to be gentle. Most of the time, they only know how to destroy.

Boy next door

12:00 am


S: The moon looks beautiful tonight doesn’t it?

K: I can’t see it. Your ugly building is blocking my view.


12:03 am


K: I see it now. I don’t think I have seen the moon this yellow before.

S: It’s a full moon.

K: Your head kinda looks like the moon from the back.

K: A smaller version though.

K: Okay I was kidding. Stop hiding behind the wall now.


12:04 am


S: Look now! The clouds make it look like one of those creepy scenes in horror movies

K: Like the time of the night for werewolves.

S: Exactly.


12:06 am


S: Okay stop howling. You’re going to wake the entire neighborhood.

K: It wasn’t me.

S: Go inside.

K: Okay, fine. I’ll stop.

K: Hey look, a heart!

S: Where?!

K: In the sky, obviously. Idiot. Stop looking around.

S: I knew that.

S: And that’s not a heart. It looks more like the beak of a bird trying to steal the moon.

K: What kind of bird tries to steal the moon?




S: An evil one.

K: It looks like a heart trying to protect itself by being really sharp at the edges.

S: What kind of heart is so huge and protective of itself?


12:08 am


K: Your kind.


12:10 am


K: What kind of person stares at a romantic text message for two minutes and doesn’t reply?

S: I forgot you could see me.

K: Answer – An evil one.

S: Are you calling me evil?

K: Mojo Jojo IS your spirit animal.

S: As opposed to what, Bubbles?

K: Hey! That was confidential information!

S: So what, your mission is to save the world from me?


12:12 am


K: Quite the opposite actually.