Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a land of dreamers

Either you are living a dream
Or you are chasing a dream
Neither if you are

You are a weary soul with a baggage staring at the star studded ceiling upon the sand stuffed bed

SHAIKSPHERE

The Brunch Sequence

It was a long line outside the restaurant. Being a famous brunch place, it had to stand up to its name by making sure the waiting lines were long enough. Since he was the one who initiated the brunch plan, Edward had to be in the line. Zipping up his sweatshirt to keep the San Franciscan morning away, he took his spot at the end of the line. The guy in front of him was all by himself. Fully immersed in his music collection on his iPod.

The line moved by just two feet in the last three-quarters of the hour, or so it seemed. He did everything to keep himself occupied. Pinging all the friends he had invited to join him in the Saturday morning ritual. Refreshing Facebook incessantly. Logging onto the iPhone app which provided some solace in the form of nearby headless torsos. But at the end of it all, it was just a lonely wait in the line.

Interestingly, he knew by now that none of his non-replying friends were going to join him in the line. But he continued on. Not because he was hopeful the new set of text messages would do the trick, but because the guy in front of him was worth the watch. Endowment wasn’t an issue. Neither was the smile. Losing that oversized jacket wouldn’t be a problem, but for now, all that Edward cared was a perfect rear view.

Edward decided that when the friends of the guy in front of him arrive, he would leave.

By now Edward focused completely on the dreams he was weaving. From long walks to lengthy talks to starry nights to windy afternoons to peaceful siestas to raunchy Saturday live shows to serene beaches. Someone just jerked him to reality.

As Edward woke up from his daydream, he realised he could finally see the front of the guy in front of him. He was talking, but Edward couldn’t hear. After jolting himself to reality, he muttered, “pardon”.

* * *

The sweetness of honey would have had to compete in here. Well, Edward was a hopeless case.

* * *

The guy in front repeated himself, “my friend can’t join me now, and they have a table for two available. I see that you are all by yourself as well, I was wondering, if we could get a table together, I am starving”.

Edward was expecting to be still in a dream. It was impossible for this thing to be really happening. Why would a stranger propose something as bizarrely romantic? How could the stars align perfectly on a chilly Saturday morning? What might be the divine plan behind this random occurrence?

While he pondered answers to those self-asked questions, he replied, “sure”.

They were shown their way to the table in the farthest corner by the handsome host. Or so seemed everyone around Edward. By now he had come to realise that he was probably still in bed and all this was an early morning sweet dream. He played along.

Reaching their table, the guy in front finally ditched his oversized jacket revealing a perfectly fitting t-shirt. Removing those sunglasses revealed impeccable ocean-blue eyes. And the gesture to pull the chair out revealed the flawless strength. Edward advised his head, ‘it’s a dream, remember’.

He once again spoke, “I hope it’s cool with you. I am starving and was in no mood to wait any longer”.

It was still not sinking in. It was neither Hollywood Boulevard nor Beverly Hills for cameras to be rolling, so it couldn’t be a movie scene. Once again Edward’s senses were numb. All he could muster this time, “no problem”, at least they were two words.

He continued on, “cool. So, have you been here before, what’s good here”, and all the while flipping through the menu card. The waitress arrived.

“Good morning gentlemen, what can I get you two?”

“What do you recommend?”

“Our famous bottomless brunch mimosa with freshly squeezed juice!”

“One of those then”.

“And for you sir?”

Edward answered, “Just the freshly squeezed juice, no ice”.

“I will let you guys decide on your order while I get you your drinks”.

There was silence again. Edward was still in a dazed phase, trying to read the menu card while figuring out ways to make his brain believe it was all real.

* * *

If it was a dream, he can’t be hurt. It’s his dream after all.

* * *

Edward extended his hand and said, “I am Edward”.

“So sorry man. It’s so rude of me. I am Andrew”, and the hands met. The touch of flesh made it sure it wasn’t a dream.

Edward looked at the menu and pointed out items that are famous yet not good.

Andrew asked about the other items which read well but wasn’t sure if they tasted as good.

They made up their minds on their orders just in time for the arrival of juices.

“That’s indeed a good choice!”

“Thanks to Edward, he helped me pick”.

The smiling waitress left with the menu cards leaving behind no reason to continue on the conversation.

“Where are you from?” asked Andrew.

“Two blocks from here”, and Edward was silent again.

“I am visiting from New York City. Been a busy work week with no time for anything else. All I could do was visit the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight. And I am leaving first thing tomorrow morning. Decided to have an early morning brunch and hit the streets with my friend. But she’s stuck at her office even on a weekend and looks like it’ll have to be a lonely stroll on the streets. What do you do Edward?”

The look on Edward’s face could have been a study material for the physiognomy student.

“I work in the Silicon Valley”, and the trademark silence again.

“Cool”, and even before the next sip touched his tongue, he continued, “It’s a nice city. Not as fast as Manhattan but running along. Cold mornings even in summertime. How long have you been here?”

It seemed that Andrew was trying his best to keep the conversation going, by always ending with a question. Edward by now felt bad that he was being a bad host to this visitor. To be truthful, he was just flabbergasted with the turn of the events. Though that was no longer an excuse to keep away from the reality. It was time to face the prospect. And so Edward marched on.

“Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he experienced was the summer in San Francisco”, Andrew chuckled at this reference and Edward took the cue and went on, “it’s actually pleasant today. It’s been a little over half a decade that I arrived in this city. It can run as fast as Manhattan but prefers to tread along. That’s how we roll in California”.

They both smiled.

Edward felt good about the ease with Andrew. He wanted to continue on the conversation. Though there was no question on the table to pick up from. So he decided to frame a question, “what brought you here?”

“I work at a finance start-up in Manhattan and our potential customer is based in San Francisco. I am here as part of the song-and-dance team to get them on board and the whole week was pretty much putting it together for them. Hopefully it’ll convert for the good”.

“All the best for that”.

“Thanks man. It will be good for the company”, and before Edward could say anything, Andrew announced, “Oh, here comes food, come to daddy…”

Edward put up a faint smile and received his plate. Maybe it was the ambiance but the plate and its content were pretty eye-pleasing.

For a while, there were no spoken words. It was all munching and gulping. Someone was really starving.

When half the plates’ reached their demise, Andrew spoke up, “that feels so good. I must say it was worth the wait. And thanks for taking me up on my offer. This could not have happened in Manhattan. For San Francisco”, and he raised his glass. Edward chimed in, clunk his glass and sipped on.

When they were almost at the end of their plates’ contents, the waitress returned with a suggestion of the special dessert. Though there were two yeses, the unison of their timing made it sound like one big one. Probably a spark was popped somewhere, the happy waitress left.

By now, both seemed to understand the fact that unless one of them broke the silence, it wouldn’t end by itself. This time, Edward decided to take the first step. He wanted to enquire about Andrew’s plans for the day.

“What are your plans for the day?”

Edward was shocked to see that Andrew was a mind reader as well!

“My friend is not available today, and it seems you have been in the city for a better half of the decade. I was wondering, if you are available, how about show me around your San Francisco?”

Edward wasn’t sure how to respond to the offer. On one hand it was straight out of a dream sequence, on the other hand it was presumptuous that he wouldn’t have anything better to do. On one hand it wasn’t going to be bad to spend the day with a handsome guy like Andrew, on the other hand what if he was a sweet talking jerk. On one hand it wouldn’t hurt to have a gorgeous company for an otherwise lonely day, on the other hand there was no other hand.

“Sure”.

The dessert was better than what the waitress had built up.

When the bill arrived, Andrew snatched it up, slid his card and thrust it back to her. And seeing the question mark on Edward’s face, he answered, “My treat”.

“Thank you”.

Andrew was courteous. Another checkmark in Edward’s long list.

“Where should we start from?”

“Since we are close by, it’s time for a quick walk to the Union Square. Then we can decide further”.

“You are the boss”.

Edward was back to his original more logical explanation of the turn of events, it had to be a dream.

San Francisco didn’t seem prettier before. It wasn’t pleasant before. It wasn’t sunnier before. It wasn’t friendlier before. It wasn’t San Francisco before.

Andrew was an avid photographer. Even with his smartphone, he knew the accurate angles and the vivid colours. He was adept of the right moment of the shutter.

The more they walked around, the better their comfort grew. Edward was no longer defensive nor was Andrew a jerk. There was a camaraderie between them.

Edward offered a great view of the city. And Twin Peaks wasn’t as cold. It was an overwhelming hike and based upon both their calorie conscious brunch, it wasn’t a great idea. But neither of them expressed any visible signs of gasps. Just the wows of the views. Edward slipped in, “fancy an ice cream?”

“Sounds good”.

They made their way down to the famous Bi-Rite creamery. Another famous place so the ritual began: the line was half a block long. But the wait wasn’t bothering much. Most of the time was spent viewing the photos interspersed with light humour. Ice cream was good enough. It was better when they tasted each other’s.

Andrew enquired, “Isn’t there a place without a line?”

“Oh yes there is. And it’s quite interesting too. Though we need to walk there so that we burn off this ice cream in time for the next one!”

“Lead the way”.

Edward was elated. Andrew was not only handsome, sweet-talking, courteous, playful, pleasant, kind but also spontaneous. Edward was starting to understand what cloud-nine meant.

By now, Edward was inclined on spending as much time with Andrew as possible. So he purposefully took the longest route possible to Smitten. On the way they passed through the murals and trees and the winds of San Francisco. As they say, the company defines all. Edward himself found things previously hidden amidst the fog.

There was no line. Not because it didn’t figure in the famous list. But because it only took a few seconds to conjure the creamy potion. It was satiating, especially after the long winding walk. And with the sugar rush, there was more walking on the cards.

Edward observed out loud, “We had our lunch at Bi-Rite and dessert at Smitten. Let’s aim for dinner at Ghirardelli. You game?”

“Aye, Aye Captain”.

Edward would have kissed then and there. But of course, he knew better.

The walk through the Hayes Valley, parts of the Fillmore District, Japan Town, Marina District, Columbus Avenue…

It didn’t feel like much time had gone by, but then Einstein’s explanation of his theory of relativity was true for a reason.

It was almost sunset time as well as dinner time. Russian Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights… were drenched in the floating yellows of the withering summer sun, still shimmering at its best.

A thought crossed by. Andrew announced, “Let’s quickly order an ice cream, go there”, pointing to the nook in the waters, “and watch the sun set”. By this time Edward had decided not to waste any time putting his brain to work. So they rushed to the counter, ordered the to-go triple-chocolate-sundae. And then dashed to the nook.

To the world, they were the long-lost lovers, chasing each other, playing the game. It never occurred to the universe that they were just two strangers, comfortable with each other, open to the vibes, riding the waves and totally into the idea.

They were just in time. Though there was more time for the dying sun to breathe its last. They sat down pounding hard warm breaths and trying to calm down to witness the spectacle.

The tall Golden Gate Bridge with the backdrop of the dancing golden ocean, the flickering breeze with hints of fog, the sun was still debating about its death.

Then, the horizon was devoid of the burning ball with just the remnants of the shine.

A hand held the arm. Edward cozied up. The hand wrapped on. Edward snuggled in. The darkening skies, sparkling city lights, cooling winds, disappearing bridges, chirping waters, melting cream, closing distance…

Eyes were gleaming at each other. Breaths were mingling with each other. Noses were making a beeline for each other.

The fog horn blew.

Eyes were gleaming at each other. Breaths were mingling with each other.

The fog horn blew again.

Eyes were gleaming at each other.

The fog horn blew again.

SHAIKSPHERE

(First published in summer 2014 release of trikone under the name mohammed shaik hussain ali)

A Little Wish

​It’s raining.

Droplets tipping their way across the window sills.

Rushing away towards their end as fast as they began.

A hand making an imprint on the misty screen.

A little wish, a wider imprint engulfs mine.

SHAIKSPHERE

Lovely Weather

It’s such a lovely weather. The trickling droplets on my window, the tapping sounds on my moon window, the whistling noise of the breeze, the deafening silence of life…

All that’s missing is the warmth of the soul and the presence of the sole. A touch, a breath, a rhythm of the heart beating, synchronised with my own…

I always feel I’m asking for too much, since if it weren’t, I might have had it already…

Nah, isn’t depressing, though wouldn’t lie it isn’t sad…

If I could only send this to the one who I wish needs to read it, maybe to the one who wants to read it…

SHAIKSPHERE

Paheli (Conundrum)

The Blue Jeans

Life hardly moved. If anything, it tended to end up where it began. The sun set and the same sun rose the next day, as if mocking at the stagnant life about its boring existence. Waking up was a big chore yet an unavoidable necessity for anyone who’s alive. As heavy as these philosophies sounded early in the morning, he endured through them endlessly. Finally the time arrived to reduce his weight on the bed. And so he did.

Refreshed, revived and rejuvenated, he wore his next pair of Blue Jeans with his matching smile and stepped into the glaring sun. Within a few moments, it would be the best part of the day after all.

He had been living at this place for a little over an Olympics wait period yet hadn’t been consistent with his bus stops. With the recent change in the bus routes, his choices were limited. And with the need to be at his desk before the lunchtime on the east coast, his choices vanished. And thus, he started frequenting this corner bus stop.

Initially it felt to be a mirage in the midst of the desert of nothingness. His only desire was for the bus to arrive to alleviate his misery. Not that the gods ever fulfilled it. And then the proverbial odds fell in his favour. Someone else started using the same bus stop.

The new guy was quite the handsome one, with a smile that would enlighten the darkest time of the night; a pair of hazelnut eyes which brought candles to life with a flicker; and lips which knew how to move.

Wishes were simplistic, to become a dream of his. Dreams were down-to-earth, to become a wish of his. Life wasn’t the same after that, nor was the corner bus stop.

The corner bus stop became usual, occupied by the familiar people – the Green Shirt with his perfect kissing curves and the Black Tee with her typical smile.

He tried to overstep, overtake and overwhelm Mr. Green Shirt yet nothing seemed to have attracted those eyes. Each brawl he witnessed made him crave for more. Each kind gesture he observed led him want for more. Each angle he viewed pushed him yearning for more.

Without even talking to him, pretty much all information was already gathered – the city of work, the location of residence, the morning schedule, the evening rota, the dressing pattern and the phone-call timetable.

There’s been a time immemorial debate to decide whether a romantic is hopeless or hopeful. But somehow that didn’t seem to matter in this case. What made sense was the simple fact that the Green Shirt was so wrinkled that he wished it would have been because of him.

The journey reached its first halt. He got off. He followed suit. Walks paced, horns blew and wheels moved. The sun had four more days to rise before the weekend slumber.

The Green Shirt

The only thing not already in the laundry bag was staring in his face, wrinkled and crumbled. The other choice was a naked torso; not too difficult to figure out. And so he wore the Green Shirt, half tucked in and walked out of the apartment.

The bus was about to close its doors when he leapt to get inside. The centre seat was available and so he grabbed it. The better part of the location is its line-of-sight across the whole interior of the bus. Everyone and anyone could eyeball him without straining their pupils.

Women were instantly jealous of the one who probably was the reason behind those wrinkles. Men were envious of him for having had a lovely time. The other men were envious of the one who shared his time. Everyone had a reason to romance him. Once his stop arrived, he disembarked, so did the sights.

The corner bus stop was as usual, occupied by the familiar people – the Black Tee with her night coloured hair and the Blue Jeans with his typical smile.

Forbidden fruit is the best kind, tending to be grab-able yet out of reach. Ms. Black Tee was just a step away yet she seemed a light year away.

When he first started using this particular bus stop, it was always empty. After what seemed like a drought, one fine morning the gods smiled at him and blessed him with a lady in her finery, running to make sure she didn’t miss the bus. Being a gentleman, he stepped aside to let her in and gave up his seat so that she could be comfortable. More so to make sure that she could view him in all his glory.

Though déjà vu had eluded him ever since. That didn’t stop him from romanticising the days, loving the moments and liking the waits. Something of which had transformed this sleeping stallion into a perfect timer!

He tried his best to get her attention. Some of the days, he even got into a brawl, just so that she could look in his way. But apparently he failed, miserably. As they say about hopeless romantics, he still continued his battle. Some days filled with armour of stupidity, others with ammunition of foolishness and remaining with ocean of idiocy. Yet, his persistence persisted.

His dream was to become her dream and his wish to become her wish. His heartbeats knew when to skip their rhythm, they knew when to pump the blood in its fury and how to make sure the endorphins were funnelled well.

The journey reached its destination. He got off. She followed suit. Walks paced, horns blew and wheels moved. The dream stayed a dream and the wish unfulfilled.

He smiled to himself as his phone screen splashed the day of the week telling him about the four more days to follow before the weekend famine.

The Black Tee

Time has been her foe ever since she learnt how to read it, and so has been the case till date. Irrespective of multiple alarms, a contraption to splash cold water and a poodle to follow suit; leaving the land of dreams was the hardest of all. Though it’s a well-known fact that bad breath of a canine, first thing in the morning, accompanied with the germs on its tongue are enough reasons to ditch the pillow.

A day which begins with reluctance doesn’t store much promise in it. Neither does the corner bus stop she had been using for her first leg of the journey. In a world filled with hurried souls, the stationary point added grimace of the umpteen levels. Since the belief in gods was nonexistent, there was no logical entity to blame it all on. Endurance was what the misery christened as. And then, one fine morning, the sour grapes turned sweet.

She hadn’t seen him before but nevertheless she didn’t mind another sole soul at the bus stop. In addition to making her feel as a part of the crowd it also triggered the senses which generally are stimulated after becoming a bulls-eye aim of Cupid. Misery was a thing of the past. Invisible cheerleaders had started performing their acts.

He seemed to have the right sense to dress up; was always punctual; knew the times well; and filled in the appropriate spaces. She drooled and dribbled and drivelled, and wouldn’t have minded to have his Blue Jeans to herself. Times changed suddenly.

The corner bus stop was as usual, occupied by the familiar people – the Blue Jeans with his adorable sparkling eyes and the Green Shirt with his typical smile.

The skill of knitting dreams had been engrained in her. There were no dearth of scenes, locations and vistas where she hadn’t travelled to with Mr. Blue Jeans and yet never had the courage to smile back to him. There wasn’t a moment in her waits that she didn’t want to move closer and yet she maintained a distance lest her breathing might pick up its tempo.

She wasn’t wishing for much, just enough to make sure he longed for her. She didn’t dream too much, barely adequate to push him to aspire for her. Fantasies had a new address and imagination knew no skies.

The short bus ride gave her an opportunity to look for and then at him. Even though, it was less than a quarter hour, it was enough for her to fill a lifetime. Gods were still nonexistent for her, but she wasn’t averse to the concept, if that would mean a longer bus ride and a comfy distance. The proverbial ice turned out to be hard frozen to be broken even in the middle of summer.

The first leg of the voyage ended. He got off. She waited and followed suit. Walks paced, horns blew and wheels moved. Dreams were dreaming and wishes were wishing.

Just then the ticket collector announced that there were still four more days before the alarms could be silenced for the couple of days.

SHAIKSPHERE

(First published in summer 2012 release of trikone under the name ali)

My Enviless Jealousy!

The soothing breath, the calming touch, the peaceful presence and the cooling nudge; thus made me realise it was time to wake up from the serene sleep into the placid life.

Though the dreams had just begun to form and the colours were just being short of getting added, I had to drag myself out of the abyss. After all, it was not a request, but a command. Reluctantly did I get myself dressed, well, just slipping into my previous night’s escapades! I have had multiple compliments to the pleasant way I smell, so I took liberties to skip the ablutions. When Trump is all over oneself, it isn’t much of a problem.

The first rays of the dancing sun hadn’t been visible yet, but the city that never sleeps was awake for sure. All I had to do was bring on the drooling appetite in the eyes and there was everything around to fuel the insatiable hunger. It surely is the apple of the eyes.

Visiting from the Pacific has its perks amongst the peasants of the Atlantic, trailing their ways through the walls and its streets. I was allowed to be perched in the navigator’s seat to the one who never needs any navigation. But the sheer pleasure of stealing the coveted spot from others was exhilarating enough.

Driving in the most sought after ride was a reason enough to rule the roost and then came the additional indulgence that I get to own what gets carried over the music waves inside those glass walls. The additions to our baggage, both lively and inanimate, brought the realisation that I was indeed on the path of capturing another of my fears. The apple just puffed up its size.

The first stop was a place where the prayers are placed. Along with the ones by the rest of the half century surrounding me, I placed mine too. And no, it had nothing to do with helping me to overcome my fears; on the contrary…

And then the bliss began.

The peeking yellow amid the dark veils, the hiding twinkle amidst the marching sparkles, the glistening mirage on the flickering roads, and the perishing moment into the ephemeral lives; were all but a canvas. The painting was the glowing smile.

It’s not an easy task to appease the music palate but not difficult when most of the ears are lost in dreamlands. I was in luck. I was able to spend my time in more important tasks. Keeping my eyes glued, ears open and mind racing. The sun was making its grand entrance.

Pretty much all the breathers inside the glass walls were known figurines. The couple of those who weren’t were too lost in their reveries that it wasn’t of importance. So I transferred the energies at revelling with the ones on the other rides.

The ride was reaching its destination. As much as I wished it continued on, I knew that the flowing waters need to reach the ocean some time.

My lady was standing there. The one who always reminds me that my signature is what lies between me and my life. The one who’s behind it all. The one probably a long lost sibling, though our names say otherwise. And only the second time did I willingly sign the death form.

Whenever she’s the herder, I get to adorn tights, hold plastic wrapped sceptre and wear the crown. This season I decided it was time to add some colour. After all, I was able to walk on my two feet rather than confined to the jaws as last time!

I was the quintessential newcomer. Someone who apparently travelled over the meadows and deserts and mountains to drown in the waters. So as much as they all disliked, I had to be made a part of them. Sometimes it’s not easy to let go of a grown person acting like a child. I can assure it wasn’t sympathy, just an apathy.

So, there we were, the group who would be conquering the rapids, a battle to win the waters, a struggle to overcome and a desire to survive. Well, after all, I was the only non-swimmer on the team. I had to watch my own back!

The captain of the raft began on an interesting note. Making a snide comment at the blue blood. But more harm than help that did. Thus was born the team panache.

We were a lot of sorts. From the ups to the lows. From these to those. And from here to there. Not that I can forget them, who could – the queen, the reader, the friend, the bag, the big O and his smaller version, and the ultimate companion. While I was the eighth wonder on the group.

The quick lesson of ducking and holding onto the raft using feet were all I remember. Rest I figured would be better handled by the adrenaline. There was no doubt that we would be the winners at the end. Did I mention no one else dared to stand against the queen and the companion? All that we had to do was make sure we clung on to our raft and displayed our prowess. I took my seat as the third-rows-man, whose job is just to stay in sync. The roar of the water had just begun.

When the memories find their words, they cease to exist. Probably I am being selfish to make sure they exist in their original form and stay intact than be a part of history. Thus were the ensuing moments, where we jerked, rowed, pushed, flowed, jumped, stuck, pulled, shoved, yelled, laughed, heaped, ducked, plunged, roared, rafted, shouted, ignored, smirked, gasped, enlightened, loved and lived.

I don’t think it mattered anymore as to what and why and when and where and how time went on.

We reached the calm waters. The captain allowed us to let our guard down. That was the moment when we got a chance to look at the shimmering waters for the first time. The sheen of the divine lights performing their eternal piece on the impeccable radiant waves, choreographed by the winds amidst the glowing sounds of the flying birds and swimming plankton surrounded by the existence of the mother christened nature. I turned my head, the glowing smile was now blooming, realised that prayers are indeed answered.

Reaching the shore was a mixed feeling. Arms were sore. Rear end was numb. Extremities were dulled. Breathing was heavy. Heart was unfilled. Mind was roaring. Emotions were hungry. Adventure was driving. Life was living.

There I was, completely wet, walking in the sand, with cars whooshing by, whispers crossing ears, comments making their way and compliments flowing endlessly.

We captured the moment in one large panorama of dental show and shining armour.

The sky was still alive, the sun was still prancing, the breeze was still blowing, and the love was still smiling.

I was jealous. The one with no envy.

SHAIKSPHERE

Serendipity

Serendipity. A happy accident. A pleasant surprise. A good fortune. Or, just plain luck…

For the many romantic souls out there, the mere mention of the word brings in hope, excitement, dreams, wishes and something totally inexplicable. It’s a feeling tough to experience and hard to come by yet the charm lives on and the desire burns on.

It all began, on my many escapades, with me making myself comfortable by the window of the corner coffee shop. Sipping my hot chocolate and making sure I get the glimpse of the fast moving life out of the window, I trained my eyes to set them away from the setting sun. It was a cosy Friday evening, when going home wouldn’t make any sense unless it would be to alleviate the waiting of someone in there…

There he walked out of the mall, blue shirt and black pants, tired of the tiring week and bored of the boring work. Ordered a cup of coffee and found a spot out on the sidewalk in the middle of the rush hour footfalls. Boorishly he started charting the apps on his iPad making sure the chaos was still alive. In between he would take stock of his surroundings with a quick glance, sip the bitter water and swipe back to his charts.

He was part of the eternal crowd keeping track of the time they wait for someone something somehow and somewhere bump into them.

In the distance, the sun was setting and the twilight brought in a sudden breeze. He was three blocks away, clad in black, one shoulder shouldering the laptop bag and the other brandishing the phone call. He was part of the undying crowd, thinking about the past, planning the future, missing the present.

He was two blocks away while the ballet of glance and sip and swipe had just ended the circle.

He was one block away.

The traffic signal went white.

While taking the sip of the coffee, the glance fell on the black suit crossing the road. While brandishing the unending call, the sight caught the blue shirt sipping.

The distance began to subside though neither the glance nor the sight lost their beeline.

The call ended, the sip finished. The phone went down, so did the cup. Both the lips curved into smiles. Irrespective of the life around, their eyes only caught their smiles.

The barista had a chance to make another cup for the gentleman. Once outside, a quick look clarified that the only spot available was on the table in the middle of the sidewalk in the midst of the dwindling footfalls.

The coffee cups were just props. The table top was just a support. The air was just the enclosure.

I was an audience to their moments. The missing glances, the absent-minded touches, the misplaced gestures, the omitted words and the lost world. I was glued to the story with the rest of the universe just nonexistent.

My hot chocolate wasn’t hot anymore, nor the time any lonelier, neither the wait worthless.

Someone once said – there are no accidents.

I beg to differ.

Life is an accident. An accident that is impossible to avoid. Life is a surprise. A surprise that is sufficient enough to amaze. Life is a fortune. Life is just plain luck.

Here I was, witnessing what can be feasible when the universe conspires.

The sun had set, the lights were on. The day ended, night began. The empty slot was filled, wait was over. The present was being lived, the future being worked. An accident just happened, surprised me with its awe, fortunately, luckily!

The Friday night wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe one day, I shall wear the blue shirt.

Just then the barista tuned on the radio. And the sidewalk had the subtle kiss, the quiet embrace, the hands held, the walk walked and the song played

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

SHAIKSPHERE

(First published in winter 2011 release of trikone under the name ali)

My Cake Baked!

The biggest mixing bowl in the top most shelf; the ingredients next to it; the oven powered by the electric company and the clean granite kitchen top. None of them knew that within a quarter of the next triplet hours, they were going to be the messiest battleground of my culinary disaster.

I think I might have to beg to be a little different. It can’t be a disaster after all. Well at the end, I was able to figure out, how wonderful some things are.

So it started with each ingredient getting added themselves into the bowl, actually missing the target of the kitchen top and by mistake making it into the bowl. Nonetheless, they made it. As they say, alls well that ends well. The only concern was, it was just the beginning.

Figuring out the right movement of the beater was a skill in itself. Clockwise, counter clockwise, ups, downs, tumbles, wobbles, and all the directions that I don’t even know exist in the dictionary. As always, for one mixing two beaters had to sacrifice their existence.

Once the white, pure, soulful and sweet smelling batter was ready, it was time to excite the baker to get red hot. I think I calculated a little wrong; the baker was an electron powered one; which needs not even a single click to be hot and ready to burn.

In goes the batter into the baking pan, and the pan into the baker and the baker into sublime tranquillity.

My mobile has powerful software developed for the purposes exactly opposite to what I use it for. Set the timer to go off when the three quarters of the hour finish themselves.

Well, that was the silence of the hurricane yet to strike the beautiful coast of my homely beach!

My chemistry teacher had once warned me, not to over heat sugar else it burns into charcoal. Not to excite the heat to the extent that the soft spots cannot handle it.

But who cared? I didn’t. Neither then, nor now

Within one quarter of the hour, beautiful fragrance of the burning sugars filled the room. Within another, smoked the very space

At first, it seemed to be a simple fog. Later when the shock of the overhead smoke detector paralysed me, I realised that the power it had to summon the red dressed men and drench the whole place just to find that the culprit was the chemistry teacher who couldn’t imbibe sense into her students.

As expected, instead of the golden, crispy, edgy piece of white cake it was the black, coaly, harsh piece of, I don’t even know what the chef of the recipe would have called it.

Then started the actual war! Steps that need to be taken when we underestimate the prowess of the enemy; when we over estimate our skills of converting the typed words into sweet dumplings; when we don’t even care to estimate the reach of the so called saviours from the Smoke(d) Angel.

All fans, all windows, all exhausts and all newspapers gone into just one purpose, keep the sirens at bay. But alas on it goes. Just at the right moment. Just at the end of the three quarters. Long Live Nokia

Once the initial outrage was dampened, it was turn to look into the contents under the burnt top.

One thing I forgot was that, though sugars burn, they also form a protective layer to save the other things from blackening.

Once the layer was ruthlessly cut and thrown and disposed off the gargling wash basin; the golden, fluffy, edgy, cutie and some other words from the romantic part of the same dictionary evolved out.

So soft, sweet and that 4 lettered word of caution; it was brilliant

It pained to cut it out from the unyielding pan. And the cake that should have been a 9 by 9 piece was nothing more than 2 pieces of the size 8 by 4. The better part though, instead of one cake, I now have two.

I tried to see what could be my best option at this hour. How can I cover up the disaster looking face so that the test subject I had readied would not be able to find out?

Then it dawned about the two cans of spray I had got as a free add-on – the Red and Blue icing machines that can give my disaster a look of Madonna.

No looking back, just pouring on, on to the cake top to make it look as if it was made just out of the glaring recipe printout.

As nothing can be copied or reproduced, the icing wasn’t a victory as well.

But as I always held, who cares! After all, what matters is, it’s a cake, with the icing, with the colours, with the eater, with the test subject and the Universe mute enough to accept it. So, nothing to say when nothing is asked

That reminds me, the baking pan still awaits my hands on its rickety, rugged and rough curves to get it back into its smooth shape.

But the legacy lives on. The legacy of making the black into the white, filled with the speech of the first Black Presidential candidate into the fluffy grounds, added with the colours of the very country and topped with the cover up of the very existence.

A cake is born, that not only baked but also baked its baker and the bake maker!

SHAIKSPHERE

My Skitrip!

With a strong gust of chilly winds came a white blanket of snow covering me with its weight. Staying still underneath was the only option lest I might drown into the ocean of whiteness. Far above the hill were the church chimes ringing. With the rushing winds in my direction the sounds raised. Intensity was building up, strenuous grew my ears and weight drowned me with it. I couldn’t bear it anymore, I couldn’t deny it anymore and with courage I stood up – switched off the fan, shut down the alarm and threw off the comforter.

It isn’t dawn yet, but that’s how it should be, I am on time. Freshening up for the refreshing day was necessary; which followed by the call of prayers. But as always, with nothing more to do after that and the cosy little world of dreams pulling me in I resigned into the sweetness of darkness into a multitude of light remembering that waking up at 9 was essential.

It isn’t uncommon for the mind to slip, heart to sink and body to slink into the arms of life dreaming what isn’t there and living what isn’t true. Even when the church belled the chimes, nothing moved. But yes something made me realise, I am way past the past 9 O Clock commitment.

Then what, that which I always do; a sweet message to the organizers to wait for me even if its eternity. Walking wasn’t my cup of coffee any day. Chills always chilled my legs. But I knew today it wasn’t even 40 Fahrenheit to say its cold. It was the excitement of what I would be doing in a couple of triple hours which made me numb all over and had to have the honk of the tailgating car to tell me I am almost there just a 12 feet of asphalt apart to join the crowds going for the ski trip that would, at the end of the day, convert into a skit rip.

Driving was fun. Sitting two rows behind the driver was funnier. French, Arabic, Hindi and garnished with English was the breakfast. Camelback Resort was 2 hours away but the driver took 3 hours. It was worth it though for the curves and cuts and cuffs of the roads which showed that the driver was in fact an acclaimed hill climber with a very bad taste of music.

Finding a place to rest the tired tires led to know each other better, who knew those I didn’t know before dawn would be the best known after dusk. Fully covered as I am always, having two rovering balls in their sockets I found my way down, well I agree I was led my way down. After a winding trail of slush and dirt and splash finally we reached the ending of the queue which had a never ending beginning. But we were saved, much to the respite of the Sweet Cute Organizing Lady so we don’t have to wait for the queues to end but reach a place which ends the queue.

There I met with the ones yet unknown – a Boston without a ‘T’; a Lay On without a space between Lay and On; a Praised without much to praise and a Similar Name with no similarity. Well that’s how strangers meet in a strange land. Not knowing who each other is; yet knowing fully what each other will be.

The queues were the call of the day – to pay-n-pick the French fries; to siphon off ketchup; to sign the death forms; to wear shackling shoes; to see the weird dance from Boston; and finally to pick up the blades of glory. Well not exactly glory but why the world at large should know it isn’t!

Walking was fun – white all over with faces as pink as always. Not the blushing pink but the shying tinge. The moment the blades came underneath my feet I was over my palms learning the first lesson how not to stand up even when a cool guy from the Canadian Plains offers a hand. Lest he realised I was heavier than he thought. No wonder I was told to stand up by removing my blades. Anyway, I learnt a lesson, with the blades to glory shackling your fallen legs, there is no glory attached with it anymore. But come to think of it, it was just the beginning of the turmoil of falls.

My next fall wasn’t far away, well not exactly near too as it came after I was carried to a height of 40 feet. I lost count of the jumping numbers in the process of finding words to remember Almighty. But He said, He will never help me until I help myself by jumping off my seat.

Falling was the call of the day. Every member of the organizing committee tried to help me – the Driver who is also a good skier, the Canadian with his diving skills and the Soft Spoken Lady of the helm. As destined, all advices were falling on my numb ears and I was on the numbing ice.

Thrice was fun, fourth was ok, fifth was worse and sixth fall was the grand finale. Blades were on my shoulder and I was walking down the white floor.

I was saved of the grace when I knew that I walked, someone else had swept the floor clean with her prowess. Nonetheless the moments after that were lovely. Watching the dancing sun, fearing similarity and laughing at the praised added to the much respite needed to drown the fun.

Cafeteria was never so much fun. Knowing the hitherto unknown, understanding what was unsaid, saying what shouldn’t be uttered, kicking something which shouldn’t be publicly kicked and laughing out loud when smiling in was the norm.

Fun was the peace, love was the show, gentle was the shower and cool was the hospitality. But I wasn’t yet satisfied of my anger of being left alone in the whole wide world by the Frenchmen who promised will be part of my misery. But it only took some promises and hot chocolates to douse it off. Back I was to the van which was to carry us onto the road back to that world of darkness which always promises that which can never be promised.

The only problem, the driver was the same tasteless music freak. Anyway, after all, the Driver was the boss on the floor. With another 3 hours lights were in sight to be switched off soon and I drowning into the slumbers so that my paining arms be cooled and my aching thighs be calmed.

Though I had decided that it was to be my first and, by the end of the day, my last; I think I can anytime rethink my decisions. It’s not very clear out in front but may be after 366 days, I may suddenly be woken up by the gust of wind, the blanket of white and the sounds of chimes to convert this year’s skit rip into a proper ski trip.

SHAIKSPHERE