#14. Smudged

My hands find her eyes from behind the big arm chair and close over them.

She doesn’t let go of the book she’s reading; instead I feel her smile and rolling her eyes.

I laugh and put my lips to her ear lobes, tenderly kissing and biting it. I move over to her forehead, without losing contact with her skin.

I release my hands over her eyes, kissing them, then moving to her nose, her cheeks.

I find her mouth, but i don’t kiss it. I move down, towards her exposed shoulder and neck and collar bone.

As soon as my lips touches her neck, she moans. I’m a goner.

She pulls me closer, and I have to move towards the front, which, frankly, is how i should’ve started in the first place.

I take her book out of her hand and toss it behind me. She protests a bit, but when i find her soft spot, I made sure all she thought about was me.

And this moment.

Something I kept imagining in class instead of listening. I wish I went at least halfway, but I like it here, like this.

This is the Spring Palette for the Heart, by Parvathi and Me.

 

#3. Eyes Light Up

#3. Eyes Light Up

I take the book from you

admiring the cover

and trying to figure out what gave you that

dreamy look on your face. 

I put it in the cart

when you try and reach for it.

“I’m buying it,” 

your eyebrows are all scrunched up,

and your cute little mouth is pursed in 

…annoyance? Anger? I can’t tell.

But it is adorable.

I take the book higher, out of your reach,

lean in close and say,

I’m buying this for you,”

You smile, 

like your soul is contented and happy.

Damn. 

If buying you a book will get me that

look on your face,

I’m ready to buy you a bookstore. 

This is probably the most cheesiest thing that I’ve written but I wanted to write! This is The Spring Palette for the Heart, by Me and Parvathi.

Arul Mani’s Prompt #2

“The aftermath of a small loss”

Abhi was 8. He’d only just started reading story books and was very fond of them. He would run away clutching the book to his chest if someone asked him to show the book. Also quite possessive about them.

Someone had once gifted him what he thought a “boring” English textbook of a different school. He never touched it for a while. He couldn’t resist any longer. He just had to read it. And he did. And he fell in love with it. For there were stories from around the world: Japanese folk tales, a short Mowgli story and so many such stories that were filled with adventure and excitement and emotions, even though he couldn’t understand emotions that very well. He would never leave it alone. He went to bed with it. Took it to school and was also caught reading it. Several times. Such a rebellious boy.

Since he took it everywhere, it only seemed right to take it to his grandparents’ house for the Summer, every Summer, though his grandmother had lots of books (only for older people. yuck.). He was allowed to read his book. Even if it was for the hundredth time and even if he knew all the stories word by word. He and his grandmother sat and filled up all the quizzes after each story. Fun times.

After returning home, a dead-beat Abhi did not remember his book at all. The next day, he searched frantically for it. But in vain. He even refused to go to school after that. He’d called his grandparents, crying and asking them to search the house for his book. They said they didn’t find it. He was devastated. Devastated that he lost his best friend, who understood him during all his emotional mix-ups. He would never find someone like that. Ever again.

*

Abhi is now 18. There isn’t a day that goes by without remembering his friend. He goes to every bookstore, every book fair and looks and looks and looks for that book. For now, he is a major. He is free. Like Mowgli was even before he was 10. He never searched for the book at his grandparents’ home again. He took their word for it.

He remembers the Japanese New Year folk tale in times of trouble and a happy Spring poem when he’s, well, happy. He remembers the book more than God but thanks Him for the book all the same.

His mind goes blank when he hears that his grandmother’s health is not keeping well. He doesn’t remember the book. But, there were memories of him and his grandmother with that book. By the time they reach their home, they already learn that she has passed on. He doesn’t want to see her. He peeks from behind a door, goes back to hiding and continues to cry and curse the Universe. The last time he saw her was two summers ago, when he became too old to spend his summers with his grandparents. Teenage complex. And of course he regrets it.

After all her funeral rituals, he goes back into their house. A cozy, warm house in the middle of the forest. He would never find peace anywhere like this in the city. His grandfather calls him and tells him to clear out the bookshelf. Also permits him to take some, if he was interested. Because definitely he was old enough to read them now.

As he was doing so, he learns that life is full of surprises. The books that he finds there are mostly poetry. English and Kannada. He picks a Kannada mystery novel and reads the synopsis. Hmm. Interesting. But he doesn’t want to take anything. He is, after all, a grandson who did not see his grandmother, did not stay by her side, before or after her death. It doesn’t seem right for him to take any of the books. After clearing them, his grandfather asks him why he didn’t take any. He says it doesn’t feel right. Then his grandfather gets a book out from under his grandmother’s pillow and hands it to him. It is his book. His friend. Best friend. And all this time, his grandparents had it. His grandfather explains how it helped her sometimes, and that she was glad she kept it for a while and had also asked him to return the book to Abhi. He breaks down, right there, at his grandfather’s feet. And he treasures all her books, and of course, his best friend.

The Day I Changed My Life

(I’m scared to put up my fiction. Especially one that was published. But this wasn’t. This is really close to heart and I hope you like it. Share with us if you’ve had such an experience.)

The day I changed my life was the day I picked up my very first book. And, as of today, it has been exactly seven years since I did that.

I was sixteen years old, with a younger brother who loved his books more than me. I couldn’t see what was so great about them. They’re just black ink on white paper! With the exceptions of picture books. And while I didn’t have the time to read my school books, where could I find the time to read stories and useless works of fiction?

My brother always told me to read. He told me that it would give me a broader sense of thinking and a whole new perspective about people and the world and also the way I look at things. As an older sister, I always shut him out. But deep down inside, that little voice inside me always told me that he was right. Naturally, I shut it out, too, even though I knew it was a mistake. How I wished I’d realized it sooner!

One day, I was waiting for the bus to arrive when it started raining heavily. As I opened my umbrella, I saw a second-hand book seller on the side walk across me struggling to keep himself and his books dry. My heart reached out to him. He could suffer a great loss if his books got wet. And I didn’t like anyone suffering knowing I could help. I ran up to him and helped him gather his books, cursing the sudden rain. It took all my will power to not even read the titles of the books. But curiosity won over my will power. I just had to see what it was! When the last book was in my hand, I squinted over the letters saw that it was written ACK on the top- which I immediately recognized it to be an Amar Chitra Katha, the same ones my brother used to brag about. And this one was a collection of adventures of a young detective, Ajay. The illustrations were remarkable! I immediately fell in love with the boy on the cover, which, for some reason, made me want to buy it. I asked the vendor its cost and he asked me to keep it as a gift for helping him. An appreciation of my help. And it was the best gift I ever got so far.

It’s crazy what jealousy can do. I read the whole thing on my way home in the bus and I realized that I was quite a slow reader. This made me jealous of my brother who could read big, fat books in just hours. True, it depends on the interest but also on the fact that his reading habit was longer than mine. Way longer. And it’s this jealousy that led to me reading all my brother’s books and wanting more. I spent all summer with my brother reading and shopping for books, which made him happier than ever.

Today, as a business student and and literature lover, I stand tall with my very own bookstore, called Adopt Books Here! And I’m not sure who’s more proud: My brother or I. This ‘adoption of books’ theory was introduced by book lovers all over the world. So, it wouldn’t be fair on my part to take credit for it. But my brother and I loved it so much that we decided to ‘adopt’ the idea. Along with fresh, crisp new books, second hand books, which are usually neglected, or which are thrown away, are also sold, since my first book was also a second handed one.

On Saturday evenings, the whole store and its costumers engage in some sort of event: be it a book club meeting, workshops, reading to the blind/old, or even book launches. On one such evening, my brother and I had attended the launch of a debut author’s children’s book. After the event, we were closing up when someone yelled at us from behind, asking us not to. He got down from his bike and ran up to us. He was a little older than me, I guessed, and I felt a pang of familiarity. He resembled Ajay from Ajay Adventures! Like, a lot. He said, “I need to buy a signed copy of that newly launched book.”

I was about to answer when my brother spoke up. “Sorry, we’re closed. We open at 9 tomorrow morning. You can come and buy one then.”

“No, no, no, no, no. I really, really need one.” He insisted. “It’s my niece’s birthday, and I promised her that I would get her that book. I want this book to be her first. Please. I don’t care how much it costs. I just want one.” My brother and I are excellent at reading each other’s expressions. And I’m excellent at giving him dirty looks. So, at last he gave in. Instead of opening the doors for him, I fished my signed copy of that book and handed it to the biker. He stared at me in amazement as he took the book. He gazed at it for a moment and then looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you. It means everything to me.” And as he reached his pocket for his wallet, I said, “Please, don’t. It’s a gift.” And he asked me to sign the book, along with the author’s signature. “I’ll make sure my niece remembers you.” He smiled and left with a satisfied look on his face. I left the place with a happy feeling and a nice memory.

That was the first book I owned that I gave for adoption. And it was the best feeling ever.