“ Mam, one man in Gray shirt is giving me the daggers , he must be your date” That man came to them, and Madhu stepped back, she was pulled back by a tall man , a six feet inch something , he danced like a dream.It was fun to dance with a guy who matched her steps, instinctively. Each time she changed the beat, he laughed and did some thing better. She literally ran, dancing between couples, he chased her gracefully. She linked arms with all the girls in an inner circle; he made the guys to break the circle serially. Madhu could not do some steps because of her skirt, he apologised realising that.  In every step when he moved one step forward Madhu moved one step backward, his involvement scared her.

“How many times do you change your mind? I am hoping you will stick to one step from the last twenty minutes hoping to ask, where are you from? Who are you?” She changed the step “I change my mind as many times as the number of minds in this room, there are not many, most are drunk”

“That lady, who danced with you is my friend I have tried to do what you did for the last two years, I could not do it, how did you do that?”

“May be I came in at the right time, after two years that is all, her husband should love the life in her ”

“Now if you excuse me, she is my date” Rake put a possessive arm round her shoulders. It was obvious they did not like each other; he was Rake’s brother’s friend. He owned a thousand cc bike, also a resort, Rake explained grudgingly.He did not mention his name, nor hers, he did not introduce her. Rake just took her behind the wall in the deserted hall and kissed her full on her mouth. Madhu was passive and accepted, a kiss was just a kiss but still a kiss. He liked that passive submission, it probably made him feel like a lord, it made her feel weak, and feminine. Damn she thought, it made her feel awful either as a woman or as a man. How did eunuchs live? Rake smiled, as though he had eaten a bakery.She looked down ashamed. Perhaps she was ashamed of the dance that she enjoyed , losing her self in a group was a new experience, after hating that spotlight on her.


The lawn garden was transformed into a dance floor. Music filled the intoxicated air.

The pineapple and cheese piece broke through the small pick and fell to the ground from Madhu’s hand. Being clad in a tight skirt , she kneeled to clean up , it was at the feet of a middle aged woman, in a long blue gown. The lady had the kindest smile and saddest eyes. She was drinking white wine. Madhu sat next to her and made a brief self introduction. When she heard the word doctor, she gulped down the entire cup, and then asked Madhu “Can you fill me another cup?” Madhu walked across the lawn to fill that cup, Rake looked on. She went back to the lady in blue gown, in the dimness of the lights of the hall, the ruby ring on her finger looked like a blob of crimson blood. Madhu thought if sorrow decided to wear a dress, become a woman, and look beautiful, this is how it would look.

The atmosphere got warmer with subtle loss of control, sofas were sunk, here and there some alcohol was spilt. Madhu asked her “What do you do?” The lady looked at the shining surface of the full wine cup “To live or die? You should be on the dance floor child, you are wasting your smiles on me” Madhu was hurt. The lady touched her arm,

“ I am sorry, I am not doing much these days” Madhu did not want to talk now.It would seem rude to abruptly walk away, she saw a mosquito sitting on that lady’s free hand, she saw the lady just watching it, as though she wanted some one to suck her blood, there was no withdrawal reflex. There was a will to invite hurt they locked eyes

“My three years old daughter was eaten alive by a hungry tiger, in the Brindavan National Park, two years back, you may have read it in papers”

Madhu remembered, it was a gruesome accident, the tiger had jumped on the grilled jeep, dragged the baby out and nothing much of that small body had remained. Madhu did not think such grief could be consoled away, she was silent. “She was so mangled, even the face was damaged. The pink dress she had selected. She was quite scared of tigers, I don’t know why that day she put her head out, I keep asking that, like other mothers I did not even encourage her to be brave or anything, I told her they were not nice, they are carnivores” dried up tears caused it to be, just a  bald statement. The glass was empty, she pleaded with Madhu, “Please fill it for me will you?”

Madhu knew she should not be drinking any more, however justified her grief was, as though defying Madhu’s concern “Don’t ask me to feed orphans, do social work, do art of living, Vipassana blah blah, lot of people have told me all that” Madhu had to think quickly, the song blasted

“Love, I just died in your arms tonight, must have been some thing you said*”

Madhu kept aside the glass held her hand and dragged her to the dance floor, she could not stand, so Madhu pretended to be a guy, and slow danced with her, making her laugh.As she smelt that fragrant long swan like neck of the lady in her arms, Madhu felt a tenderness similar to what that lady must have felt for that tiny torn three years old girl. Everyone was probably very gentle with her out of concern for her, and respecting her grief. She needed a man who understood, but would not let the sympathy intimidate him, who could love the life in her, affirming it more than the death which hovered behind. She peered over her shoulders and said……………………..


Madhu wore the black dress, designed by her, a black velvet one piece skirt with front buttons of gold , long black sleeves, a slit at the back  dressed with care for the party to Rake’s house, her older uncle dropped her to the party  at about 5pm in the evening. It was an old looking house, situated in the middle of the city. Rake’s sister-in-law was present at the gate, so her uncle waved a bye and left. Rake’s mother was a pleasant woman with the same slit eyes, they did not smile. His younger sister was harshly affectionate, constantly teasing his hair and everything else about him. His brother was polite, several friends mostly couples were already there.

AD arrived with a girl, who had a big build, she almost looked handsome. She just laughed for everything like Dr.Doddamalla’s xerox; she looked absent minded, a part of her charm. Rake took her round the house, upstairs was deserted, they had some ceramic models, modern sculpture attempted by him, there were paintings containing broken glasses,knives, fire , general violence, and damage. Madhu felt like an unbroken, tower standing amidst all those broken shapes.

He came close to her and whispered ‘you look gorgeous’ she knew he meant it for once. His breath smelt of a mixture of smoke, after shave with heady fragrance, and alcohol, a typical male smell. Madhu felt a distinctly uncomfortable sensation in her skin, like a reaction to the chalk piece creeking on the black board before it breaks. She averted her eyes, staring out of the balcony at the tamarind tree of his backyard it looked like an abacus with unripe tamarinds hanging on the tree. There was a beehive in a near by building, it looked like a single breast.His sister-in –law called him, so the spell was broken.

Down stairs, she saw that Rake’s mother and sister had disappeared, AD complimented her figure hugging out fit, “I never knew , you could be so stunning” he resented  that his heroine was with Rake. Was this the root cause of Rake’s interest in her? To get what AD had? A sort of sibling rivalry? A common affliction among school friends who visited each other’s home and grew up to envy each other’s inheritance…..

(To be contd……)


Shanthala proudly owned her children’s achievements, unashamed. But her husband’s power was an all blade no handle kind of sword, although it raised her social status, it alienated him from her emotionally.Since the handle was not with her, it cut her , just as it hurt others. So she was not superfluously affected by it, treating it perfunctorily. Her father never discussed politics with children, he did not bring it home, never sharing his manly problems with the girls. Madhu avidly read the papers listened to local news on T.V, eaves dropped and listened to heated arguments and political discussions, she needed to know his world, which is why she sympathized with Nisha. What she did not know hurt her more often than what she did. Madhu and Meenu did not discuss politics except as a personal issue when it affected their father. They did not even let the other know about their individual opinions.

Jagannath spoke of women in politics casually; they were defined by their dubious assosciation with some man or the other. Although he treated them with courtesy and an amiable dignified eve teasing, in public.So this Bhabi versus Barbie was a universal phenomenon spread across all professions, and age groups. Madhu was a victim of the silent breeding of resentment towards her father in absentia. When she saw him after several days, coming home, it filled her with a guilt for having hated him . When he was at home she would silently communicate her love, sometimes by way of gestures, speech was too definite, also finite. She subtly engineered to see that her mother cooked what he liked, she would entertain like a clown, usually criticising an arbitrary political leader her father hated with all her wit.So a love that had to be served by deeds, though hounded by doubts, would be scrawled as voiceless poetry, fiercely loyal but powerless before maternal judiciary was the first love Madhu had experienced towards the first hero of her life. Her father was also awkward with her, he sensed an understanding in her, which made him uncomfortable, after all they were alike, she could almost read his thoughts. He did not know to deal with an intelligent female mind who was not a sexual object, hence was invulnerable to his manly attractions, but  felt a strong human love for him , so was hopelessly vulnerable to him as a person.



All her life she inhabited a world, where she was made to feel somewhat odd for her versatility. There was an unspoken conclusion that it was inappropriate or she was improper. But this need for at least a farce of being in control of a beautiful body, no one understood. This need to perfect the skill to project, that poise, remained unfulfilled.

So to be with a man who viewed these needs as of vital importance, as they happened to be his needs, was comforting over the phone. But in action it was hopeless, his coping style jarred. He praised her looks but it was for an effect, he thought of the girl with him like a man thinks of his expensive car, he merely wanted his friends to be jealous. But Madhu seldom flirted with the friends of her date, stories of my girl friend fell for my best friend could not happen to her, she put off his friends; she was not here to play Miss Cordiality. When she was not putting them on to think of her as hot or cool (they both meant the same), they would not be envious, and hence Rakesh was put off. For her to be desirable to him others had to find her desirable. Just as he thought she was a Barbie she would turn around and be Bhabi. Caesar’s palace had an underground effect, sinking her spirits. He hugged her, while she said bye, his cheeks brushed against hers, he looked at her unwilling face, as her eyes dropped, then looked side ways, he let her go, and he would wait. She went home feeling more familiar with him,  but there was no song in her heart, that loneliness gnawed the night, boiling her sleep like the steam of hot and sour soup.


Hospital work dragged her, day after day, she moved though her feet felt like paper weights. She felt submerged in an ocean, splashing of waves deafened her to human voices around her, except the cries of pain which could break through her emotional shell in to the core of medical analysis. The papers carried photographs, and interviews, she breezed through that.  She sometimes took the trouble to explain, to her colleagues, why she chose to come back, but they were enamoured of what they did not know, sceptical of her choice, suspecting some hidden agenda. She had to prove her commitment to continue as a doctor, it became a series of ordeals . Post graduates, who monitored the work of under graduates, in the government hospitals, treated her as an object for entertainment, commenting on personal aspects of her appearance. If she smiled while she talked, they would conclude she was seeking sexual attention. Small errors, in her management of a patient caused long commentary; she had to resort to either her feminine wiles and guiles or a show of her feminine vulnerability , to be treated on par with other students. If she succeeded it would be attributed to being a woman , if she failed it was because she was a woman……to be dehumanized by gender ….was all that she experienced.

Even her intellectual competence was regarded as a sexual challenge by the bright young men; she began to lose interest in the work. She spent many nights reading theories, hoping to be more accurate, and avoid confrontations with authority. But when she answered questions during rounds of the Professor, they would make her feel as though she had back answered. When she chose to be silent, they would jeer ‘There is no director to prompt here’..Her patients saved her, they did not care for her filmy image, they responded to her warmth. She became more susceptible to Rake’s attention, as a respite from the harassment of the hospital.



Once upon a time in a land far away

Was how most of them started

So I always prepared to go far away

Whenever I read a legend

Then it all started with a death

And finding clues to catch the killer

I often prepared to heave a sigh of relief

Next came those she was not truly wanting

Him but he wanted her, they ended

Wanting each other, the Mills Boons

My bane to belong to a gang of giggling

faces , curious and expecting

Last came the best

The ones I read to survive

the meaninglessness of life without words

Now plot did not matter

The person did…

Now the end did not suffice

to justify the means

I read about real life characters

I could return to the first chapter

Knowing the end…


She was toying with the idea of being Rake’s girl friend, but his lifestyle, education, job , nothing tallied with her,and Madhu could not get into a romantic liaison where future was non existent. If she had to think about being Rake’s girlfriend, then it was wrong. It was just loneliness, a state of her emotions, it was non specific, he had no specific attributes to fill it. Because, when she wanted something or someone she often realized it long before the other person had any inkling. She could sense a mate in a man, like the rain in a cloud, or the fruit in a seed, sensing which seed will grow roots and survive. Tallest trees often had deepest roots.  Once her feelings were really stirred and reciprocated she could suffer, and believe that love like faith is non utilitarian………Unreciprocated, so even in the privacy of her own mind Anand was banned, but Madhu lacked the common sense, or shrewdness of an urban mind to look for a practical marriage. The genes of a farmer, who was carried away by the song before sowing the seeds, played its part, transcending all logic. She was looking for a love larger, grander than the previous one.

If anything she wanted to love a man more than she loved Anand, having convinced herself, this other man was somewhere close by, like truth, she just had to find him.

Madhu’s faith was like that, somewhat childish, magical, but real to her, she really believed there was a god somewhere in some ruined temple, no one had recognised his divinity, so he was waiting to be worshipped by her, in the process he would become human, make her human, redeem her from herself, she would discover him, even knowing that he existed would redeem her from this infinite loneliness. This faith caused her loneliness, but in it laid the only key to her redemption. She had no choice but to find it. But it was a corner of her soul, where this insanity was permitted, as it formed the foundation for her sanity, she did not permit reason to spoil this. She cleverly masked it no one saw that insanity.

Her sanity was fragile, dependent on the strength of this insanity.


Jnanesh came to the seats in which Madhu and AD were seated, “We saw the rushes, AD you look great man, you will be remembered” Madhu just looked down, which is what she always did when Jnanesh was around. Eye was the opening of the mind; she wanted to close as many eyes as possible when this man was around. Since she did not bother to be interested about how she looked he said“Madhu, we have found a dubbing artist with a voice exactly like yours, it will sound real” Madhu managed a neutral smile. Varadraj had often complimented Madhu’s fluent Kannada, impeccable dialogue delivery, a clear voice, Jnanesh did not want to show case that talent, as she remained “Eureka”. Her disguise, her antithesis was mute.Nisha walked in from somewhere and sat next to him “ Dad,what did you tell, Madhu aunty, she should sing for your film, she sang such a melodious lullaby for me you know?” Jnanesh was flustered, now he looked down.

Madhu corrected“That was because you were sleepy, when we are hungry all food looks tasty, when we are sleepy even lectures in a class sound like lullaby” AD and his friends laughed, the moment of confrontation was over.




She collected the pleural fluid in a specimen bottle handed it over to the nurse, gave the treatment orders, and looked at her watch. Latha was in Surgery postings, they met in the corridors. Latha expected Madhu to do the unexpected, so she smiled warmly “Was that all? What do you want to do? I read an interview, out for one ball etc. I knew that would be true, you control all other variables before losing control, and if you can’t stagnate the variable you quit” Madhu laughed, no, she wanted to stagnate for someone, she was tired of being the variable. She wanted to be controlled by some one else, she was tired of this vigilance squad inside. Latha, did not know, what an agony it was to see so much beauty and ugliness simultaneously, she did not feel the loneliness of several births, the isolation in crowds, that longing for a misty union with some love from another world.“It was like that monoact, just that lonely. I think I should find a speciality of escapism.” Latha linked arms with Madhu; she was a silent woman, with animal magnetism, a keen interest in ophthalmology, she saw a lot more than what she heard. Madhu felt like a small hurt animal with a punctured pleural sac, standing beside her.

They reached the college campus, Latha commanded “Don’t look to your right, that notorious gang is waiting to meet you” They were juniors, but were lewd from the days of fashion show. As Madhu unconsciously fiddled with her dupatta, one of them stepped forward with the blow up of her photograph kissing AD, “Can you autograph this?” Madhu took the pen from his hand and signed her name, it was in blue ink, he made a show of kissing her writing on the photograph, any reaction, was welcome, so she did not react.

May be like that maestro who broke the strings, she could not act and was running away, she was always eloping alone,leaving behind someone or something, saying that love was else where, may be she was very selfish, only in love with her self, or protecting her self from herself which was impossible. She needed someone else to do that save her from her self, she thought of the phone calls of that morning.

Her friends did not ask her about the movie, they grounded her by college gossip, they spoke of Anand’s marriage to be held in a nearby hall, they criticised his bride, Suchithra was particularly scathing. Apparently he had brought her to show his college, library included. Madhu thought of her poems, blushing of the soul, ought to have a term, if not in medical dictionary, at least in Greek or Sanskrit. It may rhyme with bruise.Dictionary housed grand dead words, unknown to living tongues.