Monday, December 17, 2012

Gulf war syndrome, a prespective

Reviving a 20-year debate over illnesses of veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, a new scientific paper presents evidence that nerve agents released by the bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons depots just before the ground war began could have carried downwind and fallen on American troops staged in Saudi Arabia.

The paper, published in the journal Neuroepidemiology, tries to rebut the longstanding Pentagon position, supported by many scientists, that neurotoxins, particularly sarin gas, could not have carried far enough to sicken American forces.
The authors are James J. Tuite and Dr. Robert Haley, who has written several papers asserting links between chemical exposures and gulf war illnesses. They assembled data from meteorological and intelligence reports to support their thesis that American bombs were powerful enough to propel sarin from depots in Muthanna and Falluja high into the atmosphere, where winds whisked it hundreds of miles south to the Saudi border. 

As I  read this, I sigh with a sense of relief.. I think "finally".. yes it is past the time  when we who had symptoms were made to feel that we were delusional, somehow... less than , or mentally challenged and physically deficient...yes finally... But still a debate , Really...
A little late for the children who breathed that air on the nearly week long shamalls that followed. Yes they cried,not then, but in the years to come, through the nights with burning feet, who had random tingling all along the periphery,  all these showing up at random points in their childhood .... yes, a bit late  after years of  pain ... indeed... 
 Denial is a great river that perpetually drains insight and hence knowledge. After years of circulatory problems that pop up at random points, skin that is reactive with no reason, joint and musculoskeletal rage by the body, varying degrees and variety in each family member who had the probable exposure ....with no back up of data.Of course there can be no doubt / possibility lest that opens up a Pandora's box...Really....when our bodies broke down, bit by bit, loosing temperature regulatory capacity, hormone balances and burned with sparks of neurologic  fires and circulatory mess ups, it would have eased that pain just to be acknowledged, by saying " it was possible"....why was it scientifically an impossibility to hypothesize that may be some interactions got  going making the body react.That is not how any progress was ever made in the scientific community, and surely not in the healing arts....surely there has to be questions to spark curious minds to debate on possibilities before conclusions are drawn...however with conscious efforts the body regroups, sort of....the aware exercise and nutrition ,along with regular sleep patterns are paramount I guess. The body is always trying to repair within its limitations, I guess.
Yes, now despite rising risks of environmental pollutants, rising risks of illnesses that cause morbidity  and a slow paced march to death , or may be more of a crawl to death  ...with what ends up in our water and food every day.... May be that is delusional thinking least for now surely-- especially when viewed as a convenient position of readying ourselves for complacency.....
Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit for anyone . Others found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss  ..............................

viparitha kale viparithachittha, aham manye, aham sahake, bodhi chittho bhave

( I hope i have the right expression and hope bodhi chittha stay and grow deep where most needed)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dragon's breath

Dragon's breath

The dragon's breath came in puffs of humid wisps and smoke rings. There it stayed warm, frosted against the cold window ever so briefly and fell in droplets splattering on the old worn deck.
The majestic oak stood, his mane drenched in dragon sweat and condensed breath. The acrid fumes of the battling dragons drenched the earth beneath and soaked into his immobile feet. He stayed up, his gaze grazing the moving scaly tail, avoiding it with a backward arch of his trunk. While lesser oaks swayed with every puff of air from those flaring nostrils, majestic oak stayed guard, stern eyes blazing in the moonlight. It simply was not in his nature to quail or swoon, so instead he shook his head to dry his long mane, to rid it of the dragon's breath and moisture streaking the air. Yet the night crawled by in minutes , or was it centuries...
The majestic oak stood, a lone sentry to mark time as the moon came up behind, her silken veil trailing by her side. She , always a shrouded mystery, not coy, just her gaze averted , to avoid the confrontation... of the titans of the air and water...
Her magic pulled and stirred, her gaze held in their depths the powers unknown.
As the battle raged , the majestic oak stood rooted, shocked , yet stayed silent seeing it all , mute before the dragon's brawl ,their brute force and  the lunar gaze that  fluttered and danced deep inside like singing tides that lapped at his feet.

(legend has it that storms come when dragons fight and wrestle) help those in need now, go to

Saturday, September 8, 2012

dead fish at lake eirie,Guaymi ,The Riverbones and other things

I wrote this last year, or some where in the beginning , but the relevance is still so much there. The news reports repeat the same themes...dead fish,oil spills, people on two end of a spectrum , human war with nature or progress....The relevance of news item today was-"

Fish Kill Lake Erie
The Niagara River empties Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. This water has just passed over Niagara Falls.
Well, it certainly is eerie.
Tens of thousands of dead fish, along with dead seagulls, washed up on the shores of Lake Erie on Wednesday afternoon in yet another mysterious mass animal death.....
Officials are still awaiting more intensive lab analysis results on the dead fish found at Lake Erie, which included carp, sheepshead, perch, catfish and suckers. "

 Reading the pages of "The Riverbones" had started out as a space filler for times spent waiting ... at places and points when I wished  to feel less of wastage,still  it got me right  back to the topic of wastage. This is what surrounds us--costly ineffective recycling paths in the developed nations, more as an afterthought, or costly preventative measures as a band aid after disruption of entire communities.
The guaymi tribe in panama are protesting...a brief headline flash over the BBC news , meant to be just a barely consequential mention.yet it caught my eye,so there it was-the guaymi angry over copper mining  and protesting.
In reality do we care at all, other than to possibly  have a brief twinge of regret once in  a decade or so ; but then it is easy to forget that discomfort , for who would choose and want to deal with discomfort after all.
My last visit to my child-hood village had caused such a brief twinge, with a tinge of longing for a past, longing for the thick darkness surrounding our house with tall  trees -- all varieties and sizes. The reality of a time as I recalled, where resources had value, not as timber or pest... is long gone from even the subconscious memory of most .Now there are trees with a green canopy but of even height  and of the same genre,all with their milky sap caking the curvy cuts on their bark.
The creek bed is littered with plastic bags and bottles that drag at the oil streaks and muddy bottom. There are no streaming array of fish ready to swim away. In fact it is all dying...the creek, the land ,everything. there are no animals or birds, there are no snakes for me to fear, nor the giant millipedes that disgusted me as a child, which lived on the forest floor,recycling the waste of a tropical forest. Now by the creek bed there is no worry about the suckers of a leech, for there are no leeches. They are all many things-all gone.Some type of things  have gone completely extinct including my favorite wild fruits.The sparkling creek has lost its sparkle , instead it transports pollutants  in its shallow gunk-the runoff from the rubber estates that surround and shrouds its life.
As disillusioned as I am, I know there is  very little I can do as people will not change without an inherent awareness or being forced to do so ,especially when it comes to putting nature above their  immediate gratification need, be it financial or just comfort.
I hope that we come together to respect and support all who try to prevent the death of beauty and nature,as yet others continue to unabashedly rape the forests all over the world.
My heart aches as there are no identifiable bits left of my friends, be they the trees, a bat winging in the dusk, a kingfisher on a dive ,  turtles peeking from spongy marsh, the old mango tree that leans with  its bounty of tiny mangoes, the jack-fruit tree with basketball fruits....the list just goes on. I will miss them.The people of the village have morphed but I just want to remember them as they were, for now their new form is bound and limiting like the land .

Friday, July 27, 2012

where to- our future

I hear the movements that are quiet and gentle encroach on to my dreams as my child,now brimming with adult actions leaves for her work ,a nearly three hour commute away. The idealism that sparked at the start still glimmer as she put away the things to take in the morning, but there is despair for the youth  bleeding through as it clots into hopelessness. I see the weight of it in those eyes.I hear snippets that spill through the frustrations of teaching  at  hope-lost schools, students that have nothing to spark interest... except their own reflected apathy

  Some days I  too struggle with similar frustrations.What is it that I share with my children; may be it is a disease-a disease of idealism.When  a whole nation propels itself on greed,we stand apart- our idealism at least is never contagious.
I understand , when she says -" what is the point, no one cares-not the students, who at least have a chance if they did,but they do not want to".
I try to imagine our future ., the collective future of our nation, future that  spill out of the present;out of the apathy and greed mix...It is a bleak one, where a social divide just grows, where some fools like us still carrying our idealism gene (or virus) , keep going because we can't help it, despite our mounting disillusions-that all our efforts will hardly  produce  a dent, but we still hope...yes,with  that hope still alive, we keep going. we may stop to buy a healthier sandwich on the run , getting more frustrated that healthier is a relative term and  at the other end of that sandwich tube is 'the gloating greed laughing its way to a fatted bank'. Then we wearily lay  down to a short compressed sleep at the end of the day, to dream of  vegetable patches that grow without effort, and a relaxed time to prepare and enjoy those vegetables. ..
 Even before dawn streaks the horizon, she goes to her school to teach -expand their vocabulary beyond curses, hoping that they will keep the drug haze and gang dance away for a few seconds to spark interest in plants, animals, health may be, may be a slight  spark that can light the fire and stop their dissolving selves,fading into time...
And I too move , to the work mill , hoping when I bring up plant products to an obese one , it is not because I have some vested interest to sell something, but it is because fruit flavored soda does not equate to fruits. Besides that weight is a weighty issue when you are tipping past three hundred pounds ... I feel my right to walk, run, grow my vegetables, eat my food that I cooked, and sleep are put on the back burner, all trampled over as I run in circles around your needs that keep growing and tax me out of my existence. Then there are ones who gets upset that I pointed out some critical issues.... keep gaining in pounds, pressure and sugars too, and some where it has to give...
Where it gives is at the most frayed area of our social fabric, the trampled area in the grey zone caught some where between entitlement , greed and apathy.
There are no systemic solutions...only fix ups that keep mounting, further taxing into my rights of clean air and a time to breathe in. so I rush to my car to get to work, to your lengthening list of fix it nows, resentment briefly rising in me for the time I loose daily- to perchance sleep, read a good book,run, garden a tiny bit...then I gather myself... look forward , to, another walk as the world around me slumber on a clear Saturday morning, to the breeze that rustle the leaves by the boardwalk as the sun shades the far sky pink on a random day of the week which  I try to squeeze in, all so to erase the grip of your lists... Then I hope for those brief moments to brighten my days, with that I hope for you...along with my children's hopes for those of you caught  in ,  frayed spots...

Monday, June 25, 2012

My life .-) by Nalgene Bottle

Racial Profiling Rife at Airport, U.S. Officers Say 367 Co

More than 30 federal officers in an airport program intended to spot telltale mannerisms of potential terrorists say the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

I had never dreamt that I would write about my life. But today it  came to me , as I lay there on my bed for the day, that I am going to be a writer, especially after I read some bit of news headlines today
"TSA Worker's Metal Detector Causes Evacuations, Delays At JFK Airport ...

I am of course shocked, and then, just like all those who write books on a whim, I decide I shall  be a writer.

   I am Nalgene Bottle,first name Nalgene,last name Bottle. I never questioned why my parents named me Nalgene, because I never knew them. I am adopted. I had spent my early years, at least the part that I remember waiting to be adopted, I would lay in bed watching those who got adopted, watching them , envy brimming inside me. I knew I had to wait my time, so I waited patiently, in my bed, cozy in my blanket, clear and crinkly, watching the world go by . We never had naps , because our land was always so bright.We knew it was night when the people looking to adopt us all left and our town became really quiet, except for the fluorescent sun, still shining strong.  I envied all those clear skinned  babies and the pink faces who got adopted. I have to say I am kind of grey and ruddy, not yet purple but nearly violaceous . Lets say, I am colored and also a little chunky. May be that had somehow delayed my adoption for so long.
Then one day I too was adopted. Ah those kind hands that took me places. I went every where with them.
    As for my religion, I don't follow any religion fervently or clearly. I was born with this inherent knowledge that I have all those good genes from my parents, all their good qualities, God rest their souls...They gave their life for me , and hence I always remember them. I knew I was created,but at the same time knew I must have evolved as well. Well since my adoption I have travelled a lot with my adoptive parent . I don't think much about my beliefs, just knowing I have a higher purpose in life, that always keeps me grounded...  all those interesting places ,people, oh it is so busy, yet so rewarding.
Today I overheard my parent's conversation ...they were talking about how Sally  had named her son "Dollar" and her daughter "Naira". Sally seems to love paper with patterns, and seem just  plain awful.I am just thankful I was named Nalgene and not some stupid name like that.
However, despite all that, some times I feel angry at my parents, and grandparents, for their secretiveness. It is not easy being related to famous people like BPA and Teflon and some others who are too secretive even to be named.
Today I decided I had to write about me , and my life , especially  as I am afraid for my life.
May be I am getting sick, but I feel there are dark forces out there which could shatter me despite my inner strength.
 Just today, in a matter of minutes I was X-rayed probed, poked and X-rayed again three times. After all that they were giving my  adoptive mom , those evil looks, despite it being clear as day that I had nothing to hide.I was drained, empty as can be...just air, I told myself, as I tried to calm myself. They were really harassing her. They swabbed at her hands, not once but twice,  then they pulled out my bedding, spreading pieces of it all over, and poked at me again and again. If they knew I could read their minds , I feel they would have at least tried to keep their dark thoughts more hidden. Oh I shake just remembering their biased evil thoughts...they even called my mother a "Muslim terrorist", and many other choice phrases that I cannot even bring up without breaking down. Did they with their TSA degrees ever go to class,or to any of  those churches with my mother...I did. Of course I always went everywhere with her, even to visit some Cardinal uncle of hers.. How their small minds do think that the word terrorist must always associate with one religion, and not with another...well, I guess the micro-cultures in some regions carry biases that can only be called delusional. Do they think our color predict our minds, of course they do, because I saw their dark thoughts, so I know.With such small minds , how  can they even think, it must rattle their brains every time, to think anything even within the constraints of that poorly connected organ.
May be their degree " TSA"mean "think some away" or "think small always"...some thing.I don't know. Now I am exhausted, I think I will write  again later...after a long nap to clear my mind of all the negative  energies from those dark forces and bully faces. I only hope they are not following me with their dark hearts...I fear for my life, but I will write again, that is a promise.May be some day I too will be writing about the million little peices of my life, detailed descriptions and all...vow, I can become famous, see me on TV, briefly, yet feel elation for my brief greatness and fame.I have to really take a nap now to dream something big, I guess...soooo... to my rest-ful dreams...

Monday, June 18, 2012


To be connected -mostly it appears to be a failing of sorts, except to the virtual world. So, I strive to become disconnected from others, just to make it easier.Thus there can be no dimension of truly thinking about consequences to where life expand to, in time. It will then be all about self, hence others, all other beings are  then easily discounted.
     This past week it got harder, as my connected nature despite significant training, still pushed through.
               Death and lives had got itself strung out on strands of benzene rings. First, it was news item----

Diesel exhausts do cause cancer, says WHO

The years go by and friends all get  busy, just as you do, then you squeeze in time for lunch, between work, kids, meetings and what not...especially if they are coming from another continent,with decades lost in  between, then you box up the training to disconnect for a few hours...Thus there was another reconnect into the past...Yes, that reconnect brought the benzene ring into sharp focus.
So many had died -the common theme..wisps of benzene and cancer...Diftar,Mrs.Fisher,Goma,Therese, Francis,Ali,Kumar...the list just got longer as the compressed time begged the reminiscing minds to race ahead.
    So, this morning I made the move. I called to make an appointment for the scan. After all, all these people from the past seemed to do one thing, -urgently connect with me and move me to face reality.
Ignorance some times is bliss as the saying goes,still,  awareness though hard to grasp, with its sharp edges, has once again brought that benzene ring to a very sharp focus.
When it stares me down,almost taunting me ,  as I put a slice of mango into my mouth or wash the just picked asparagus from my organic garden, I tried to poke the benzene ring right in its eye...yes, I dialled to make that appointment. Yes , knowledge is going to be my power, indeed my guard-for now.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Anxiety- some thoughts

I have thought awhile about fear and anxiety- more so lately. It seems that anxiety could be like a constant while fear has touches of hopelessness where that constant of anxiety fades, almost like a fall that you cannot break...then you come to know that to be depressed is all that and some more.There is a sad fragility to  living,   is its own loss , a loss of the hope sprung joys  ...then you dip into life -dip in and feel choked full in emotions that are compacted and stuck.
    Fear is probably the the epitome of walking with tightly closed eyes, knowing very well that you are at the precipice, steps away from an abyss, but you prefer to walk forth as you have no choice, no choice at all to turn back.You prefer your eyes closed ,because opening them would only deepen the certainty of that hopeless fall.
In that fall I morph into many parts, and there I loose self--me, you, them , us , all become parts of one ,yet stay whole, disintegrating at times...
   If I say I am not afraid, that would be a lie . What lies in the future is scary, most of all, it is not knowing any of it ...Each check up you hold your breath and then it stays there unable to breathe out, held there stuck...
  You plan again  for tomorrows, you look at the sun come up and then it is night again.You want to pin blame  some where......the air, the food, but you just cannot, among uncertainties...
           Even when the tanks rolled out and the acrid smoke with a hint of benzene in the air coated your sky, even as you stayed in a constant dark , roads that snaked into the desert,stayed quiet and dark , veiled in gloom, you did not panic. There was hope still, and everything could be seen as yet another challenge...
Even in those days when you played hide and seek, when you held your breath to be very quiet, ,to protect your children , you still took it as a challenge.But it all changed when a constancy of battering settled in , took away you, slowly bleeding life form the depths within you.
Even on that day the car caught fire,awakening you  in the back seat on the way back from Khobar, it still amounted to another challenge...despite the awareness that touched on reality at the periphery, of you, a woman with children left there alone by the side of the highway, just sand stretching into the horizon. It still took on a hue of a challenge as you found hints of the desalination plant poking through the far Arabian haze,a point,a beacon to pin some shade of hope to.
Yet when life has thrown too many bouncy balls at  you , the person...and the least expected one stuck, for however brief, that is fear.Then even when it bounces away, as those bounces on the hard floor disintegrates into quiet,you hold onto the feeling of doom, unable to let go...
You are just afraid of what comes bouncing around the next bend, that's all. Then you slowly hug the days,even as you fill it beyond full, for you cannot bear to know the still of quiet...
That disquiet which fills the quiet then evolves into a constant, a constant lax cord of doom that with time curdles and morphs into a choke hold of anxiety.
Like an aged rubber band,it does not give any more, the laxity has settled with time, now you are just wound and taut, a non pliable self, waiting for the pall of doom to break you- just around that next turn of life.
The challenges have given way, and you wait , a stretched wait for the gray of doom, the constant of anxiety by your side.
As I write this, another quicksilver flashes and dart into the life mix, a little far removed and that was enough to move things to challenge level once more.So I have to now go and embrace the new challenge and feel the force of life again, flashing across in challenge forms...more invigorating than the gray of gloomy doom
May be engaging in these little flashes of challenges against the gray of doom, I will evolve, to hear in the stillness, the birth of thoughts, as they once again shift to flexible forms that can stretch...or so I imagine again...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Zero(short story by -pc3)


“Zero is powerful because it is infinity’s twin. They are equal and opposite, yin and yang”. Charles Seif.

“A penny for your thoughts”. My mind had wandered off, so I slowly closed   the book.
I am Penny, but my friends from long ago used to tease me, for my thin build and quick wit calling me pencil. I looked out at the falling snow, gently coating the roads smothering all sound. It had been twenty two years and then some, if you counted the days. Memory has a way of blowing away fluff leaving moments clear, covering it again, just as in a snow storm.
Those words tinkled with clarity again today, just as it had on that fall morning twenty-two years back. “A penny for your thoughts”, David had said at the bus stop. A few of us were waiting for the bus back to school after our break. David and I became friends during that final semester at college, and rather quickly slid down to marriage.
It was to be today or never, well almost. This snow will delay my meeting with the attorney. Guess a day this way or that doesn’t matter when you are looking at a whole new life ahead. Questions with no clear answers swim around in my head, swirls of cold snow coat my thoughts chilling them to inaction.
It was one year ago in March on a cold day that I had considered distance as an evolutionary blessing. Yes, last March it was cold and grey, an overhang of gloom had settled in to steady the clouds.
There I was, my pillow hugging my head that just would not stop. I had to stop thinking or die. I had tried for a whole year, to stop all thought, but they just were like weeds, coming alive in moments and ever so frequent too. Yet, they had stayed dormant for so long that I had forgotten that thoughts could exist.
“Penny, indeed,--an apt name your parents found. –You worthless bumbling idiot…zero now that fits --just like the ones you produced, all good for nothing…” David my husband muttered his disgust that slid down the banisters as he walked up the stairs to his bedroom.
He would be leaving in the morning on a trip to start his new job in Florida. I tried not to be bothered by his rants. Besides, I had gotten used to it over the past two decades.
We are a family and families come through always. Of course every family has its ups and downs. Being transformed from penny to a blank.—to nothing, to zero. Guess I could perceive myself as nothing but a floating life form in a vacuum, waiting for death, one day to the next. I tried, I truly tried to stop thinking, but I had loved infinity from the first time I wrote it,  those  slow curves brimming with possibilities.
Now I have to choose between zero and infinity, and then again may be I don’t have to. David always sleeps in the master bedroom and I use the spare bedroom or the sofa, carrying my blanket and pillow with me. That night I chose the spare room. I was in a phase with a burst of nightmares. I like nightmares because it is not the death of sleep...
I woke with a rather vague dream, but still it startled me. The darkness cast odd shapes on the wall as it hugged the cold air. Shifting in bed I heard a door close.  Then as I drifted back to sleepy comfort, Eva my daughter screamed; rather a muffled whiny cry of “mommy I am scared, mommy” as I came up to wakefulness.
“It’s just a bad dream little one”, I whispered then as I rocked her to sleep. I held her nine years of fears and smoothed away the hair from her forehead as I scanned the darkness. I saw the darkness cluster into shape and slide into David’s bed.
I lay there listening to every creak of a bed, every movement, as each room waited for light. David, he would leave by three AM, leaving me freedom to sleep for four hours before I got up to go to work. Eva would wake too and I would watch her get on the bus, before I left.
I closed Eva’s bed room door, then moved my purse with our passports and IDs from the pillow to her book bag and pushed it further back under her bed. Then I lay down on the floor, placing my feet firm against the closed bed room door.
I guess a choice of sorts had morphed from my thoughts. The snow continued to pile higher, blown about in the cold retreating darkness.  I would have to reschedule my appointment. Slowly I moved to the phone as the Zero in me unraveled to form a different curve.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yet a dance (a short story set in 1980s by pc3 )

The evening sun painted the western sky; hues that stirred a certain feeling of restlessness tinged with future dreams in the minds of mortals who were given to romantic notions. The peacock’s cries resonated with a restlessness that echoed of a certain despair. It echoed to the far off place where demons stand guard, the place where your fate was seemingly tangled in itself. Looking down from the apartment terrace Maria could catch the last rays of sun glinting off of the peacock’s feathers. Maria scoured the landscape below, searching for that one peacock that will show off all its grandeur. Hopefully it would spread its feathers today, instead of strutting around in the brambles down below.
“Oppa, it is defenitly going to rain today.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I can smell the rain coming…can’t you?”
Tasha’s long face glanced at me, with her unruly curls blowing in the breeze. “Here, let me help you with her.”
Tasha was cradled in her mother’s arms as Maria lifted her small body onto the porch. Maria pointed out all the sights possible. Tasha loved listening to Maria’s stories of peacocks dancing before the rain god, a beggar down the street who lost his leg running away to the Mittaiwala. Maria’s stories were always entertaining. Even the vegetables tasted good when she came.
Suma Aunty would come to visit whenever Maria came. She would put on    a show in the backroom that comprised of the new dance moves she had learned. Then of course Maria would try to do some dance steps, mimicking the way Suma Aunty twisted her body. Once Suma Aunty even told her that she was sure Maria knew more dancing than she let us onto. Suma Aunty had to practice so long to contort her body in the exact way, whereas Maria could do it without any practice. She felt Suma aunty was right in that opinion.  
               “How can you predict so definitely that it is going to rain? There isn’t even a drizzle now.”
“I’m sure. I can smell it, Oppa.”
“Thomas you have such a wonderful wife. She even predicts when it is going to rain. You are really lucky. She is so kind - and no pretenses even.” Oppa’s words trailed off into the kitchen. It was no snide remark, just a statement of the obvious, as Oppa always did.
           Tasha played with her dolls, but kept her ears open for any lull in the conversation. She liked to play with Maria, but now Maria was with her mom and aunt. Even Thomas Uncle was there with them drinking that horrible liquid. Kesh (their neighbor who practically lived with them) was so loud today. He would be smelling of them drinks too. They wouldn’t even enjoy the tasty vegetables, a waste really if you asked her. But nobody ever asked her, she was just the little child...
           “You must visit us more often. It’s no trouble - we can always add a handful of rice and a few more pappadums. That will be enough to feed ten more like you,” Oppa said.
“Take good care of Maria.” Oppa’s advise followed them like the distinct smell of liquor as their goodbyes floated across the air. Earlier she had read about wives being burnt at the stake, as though they were witches on trial. Even this, however, could not bring Maria down from her bright mood. After all, how could she be angry on such a sunny day? She was happy that they took a detour through the Mogul gardens in Central Delhi. She wanted to walk barefoot, dream about the grand times of the past, close her eyes and see the Sultan ride majestically through these gardens.
Maria closed her eyes and took off her sandals. She could see the tigers among the wild animals that the king Akbar kept at the back of the garden. She recalled reading about Akbar in her small third grade social studies textbook and saw history come alive before her eyes. She could hear the music and smell the aroma from the “gulab jamuns” and “ rasmilai” that were served to the courtiers. She let her imagination soar, just so briefly. Then, Thomas took a turn.                                               
        She had lost him and this alarmed her quiet a bit. She back tracked few steps and called out, but no response. She went in the direction where they were heading and called, still nothing. Beyond the reeds she could not see. She called out and walked fast along the path that lay in front of her. Yet there was no sign of Thomas. Now stop panicking, breath; Oh God; Then, suddenly Thomas appeared at the far end of the path. Maria ran up to him, grabbing his sleeve she said , almost inaudibly, “I was so scared.”  Maria wanted to tell him how afraid and upset she was.
     “Where the hell did you galavant off to? Let’s go.” he glowered. Did she do something to anger him, upset him, her master and God on this earth, sent from heaven to care for and protect her.‘ Pathi vruthe, bhavathi’—words from some ancient Sanskrit text rang through her mind.

        They walked through the ornate gates and the arbor covered in jasmine. The scent of the jasmines trailed behind as they walked towards a nondescript shop front. The place, called Kulfi palace was overcrowded, people expectantly waited for a seat and strayed as a feathery crowd. Tired and sweaty men and women spilled out of the Kulfi palace and onto the sidewalk. Children waited with the adults cranky and impatient, anticipation written all over their faces. Looking at all those who were waiting, Maria felt exhaustion, no it became an  awareness…Yes, an awareness of exhaustion.
                She wanted to try new flavors, may be Chaat from the Chaat-Walla at the next corner, “chatt”, Thomas had spat out the words in disgust. ‘What even that coolie wont eat that if he had a choice”, he shook his head in the direction of the sweaty crowd that the green bus had regurgitated as it groaned away .The day progressed to  “Rasmalai” at a sit-down palatial booth in south Delhi followed by Paratha and thick buttery chicken curry from a roadside vendor as  take home fare. ‘ Chaat is for stupid people from the south who apes the northerners, mindless fools like Rajesh’ he  expanded by way of an apology. Well she is the wife , now its almost  two months . if only that  hefty dowry was all  cash, then…at least the stupid girl cannot read his thoughts.
          The city crowds thinned out and then thronged along the theaters—people milling on the roads after the movies .These are times and places where one can be lost, never to be found again.
       “Please hold my hand, I don’t want to be lost. Can we go home quick, please”.
       “wait” . .. the rest of what  was said was drowned in the  noises of the evening .  
                Maria wanted to cry. Life was supposed to have certainties, not confusions
She was quiet the rest of the way. Somewhere along in the span of just a day, fear had crested to panic. Now this gave way to anger, an anger that tried to stay at a quiet simmer. Yet the earlier part of the evening was so peaceful. The crowds thinned out as the hot air clung to the city like a canopy. Their tiny room renamed as an apartment breathed in the heat from the concrete and stiffened more. Cry of distant peacocks mingled with the sounds of traffic and lulled Maria to a fitful sleep.
          “Once can we go nearer to a peacock” she asked some time during the night. Thomas had grunted as he turned away. Later as he left for a meeting in the library, She just listened for the whisper of a breeze. “Think not” she whispered to herself, as she uttered prayers to keep company in the night.  Intruders in here dreams  came in through the broken window, carried on the thin cool rays of the half moon, to taint her sleep with fear as she turned, so she prayed again. Oh how she wished she could feel the depth of a restful night, if only those windows had locks, if only they at least pretended to look secure.
       Tomorrow being Sunday Thomas and Maria will start their dance of the day. They will drive past the fields beyond IIT, to a church in Carol-Bagh, on the decaying parts of Delhi. Maria will seek out any wandering peacocks in the field during their drive. The peacocks will strut and move in the thickets then stray into the fields, scratching up the newly tilled soil.
                 “A pest” the farmer will curse “protected bird”, he will say as he lay poisoned traps. The rat-snakes and cobras will sway and slide into the undergrowth as they try to avoid the peacock. But today they all have to beat the heat and rest for their dance tomorrow.
             She didn’t know when or how Thomas landed beside her, his drunken fitful sleep punctuated by an occasional snore. She was only aware that as she tried to snuggle he had turned away, yet again. Out of habit she said another prayer for her ‘God’ prayed for his health and safety, trying not to wake him even with her gentlest touch.