Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dear Santa - The year as I retrospect

My room,
India, Asia

25th December 2008

Santa Clause,
Teens wish granting wing,
Head post office of Artic circle,
North pole

Dear Santa,
Thank you for my new patiala dress my mother bought last week. Everyone told me that I looked pretty in my pink patiala. And also thanks for giving me 'gone with the wind'. I wanted to read that book from so many months. Would you get me 'Andromeda' by 'Micheal Chricton' this time? Please do something to convince my parents to take me to a trip to Araku valley and Vizag. I'm dying to go there! Please give good marks for my li'l sister in her boards. Please keep my parents healthy and happy.
I tried baking a cake in the new oven we bought, Santa. But it didn't come out well. Never mind that. When I'll be sleeping on my bed at night, leave Andromeda novel by my bedside.Please don't forget to bring some other nice gifts in your sleigh for me. I have hung extra-large sized socks by my bedside so that you can leave many gifts. And yes, the socks are not stinking. They are washed and perfumed.
I want to relate to you some notable events which happened to me this year. I'm alerting you, this is going to be a long letter!
I’ve seen bright days. Dark days. Been happy. Been sad.
I had an eventful and momentous year. Last Christmas I wrote a letter to you asking for fulfilling some wishes. They had been granted. My heartfelt thanks to you.

My birthday in April went fine. But I couldn’t enjoy much as I had to take 2nd year exams the next day. I am happy with my 2nd year results…77%…I couldn’t have asked for more.

I had a great summer. I had been to an adventurous trip to Bengaluru, all by myself, for a whole month. I had a great time with cousins and old friends --Sup, Souj, Prash, Skanda and Pri. I miss Bengaluru now. My heart roams in the streets and lanes of Jayanagar. While I was on a morning walk in Jayanagar one day, I saw a beautiful Bungalow built in wood and bamboo with creepers adorning the gates and with a green garden around the house. I had decided that I would come back to B'lore to buy that beautiful house when I started earning money. It would be mine someday. Hopefully.

And then 3rd year started…back to the same routine of college and studies. I took part in poster presentation on the topic ‘microsponges’ in Vishnu College. We had pharmacy week celebrations in our college. I took part in the essay competition. As a part of pharma week programme, we pharma students went to a nearby village for surveying the commonest diseases people suffer and the drugs they use. We had a rally on the topic ‘safe use of prescription medicines’ and we had to convey the message with banners and pamphlets. It was a nice experience. That day I felt I was a true pharmacist and I did something to help the society in my own small way.

Last Sunday, I was very happy. Nobody could be so cheerful and merry. I was the happiest person in the world. I was flashing smiles to everyone I came across, for some innate happiness was surging inside me. It happened for the first time ever with me that I was that happy. Until then I thought I was an unlucky girl and that my wishes were never granted. I had a spree of jolts and sad moments one after one, again and again, few years ago. I forgot to smile then. But on that Sunday I was happy. But something was constantly warning me and I had fears that smiles at present are a premonition of ensuing predicaments in future. It is a sin to be so much glad when so many people are suffering. Some omen was hinting me that this was just the calm before the violent and boisterous storm and sadness would claim my smiles.

And precisely then I got a call from my classmate saying that the results of 3rd year, 1st semester were out and I didn’t clear pharmacology. I was so shocked! I couldn’t believe that. She had to be wrong! I wept bitterly for sometime. There was no way I could have flunked in it! It’s my favourite subject and I always scored well in it. I wanted to do Masters in pharmacology. And here someone tells me I failed in it! What could have possibly gone wrong?? Why did that happen to me? How could I show my shameful face to my parents, who expected so much from me, had so many hopes pinned on me??

Later I got a call from her again, that she heard the results wrong and that I had cleared all the subjects. Thank god for that! I was so much relieved. For a few moments I thought that all the world for me was lost and that the ground was swept off my feet! I was in utter confusion and distress. I would never forget the despair I went through. But it made me realize...what if I really couldn’t clear a subject? I promised myself that I will always study well and never allow such a situation to ever rise. Santa, please promise that I will fare well in my studies and career. My studies are always my priority.

Tonight I will celebrate Christmas with my sister on the terrace with some nice music playing. I have nicely decorated there. Hot and tasty bread sandwiches are on the menu. I’ve downloaded ‘Rab ne banadi jodi’. My sister and I will be watching the movie on the terrace.

Have a merry Christmas Santa! Thanks for giving me such a wonderful year and I hope that all the years which follow will be as promising or even better than this year for me, for my family and for everyone in this world!

I have been a good girl this year. You know what exactly to give me right? If I stayed up late, will you hug me?

Say hi to Rudolf for me. He might have a tough time tonight carrying heavy load of Christmas goodies in the cart.Is it very cold there? Get yourself red coloured warm woollen clothes. I will write to you next X-mas again. Happy New Year in advance! Bye!

Love, Aparna, Age 19

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Of Promises Kept And Broken


I ran out of sunscreen in Iraq! I must have turned atleast 3 shades darker, shooting in the sultry sun !”, she was complaining.

“Your smile is breathtaking”. I said and broke her chain of conversation.

“You liar! You don't notice my smile! You are always lost in your own dreamy world and stare bleakly into my eyes!”, she said.

She was immersed in an animated description of her latest adventures in Iraq. She was proud of her brave stunts of acquiring an exclusive footage of shocking war revelation. That's her job. She is a war journalist. She is posted to terror stricken and tension centered war zones of the world.

She trekked the rough terrains of Zagros mountains in Iraq, in a camouflaged dress, survived only on the water of River Tigris for 2 days and shot secretly at the enemy's camp from behind the rocks. The video footage was to be submitted to the BBC news channel and the anti-terrorist intelligence. She captured the terrorist's conversations, all by herself, in their camp which revealed their strategies and future targets.

I wasn't listening to her talking about her experiences in Iraq. I was transported to the beautiful land of Kashmir...six years ago....that was where and when I first met her.

And fell in love eventually.

I was a tourist to Kashmir. A bomb raid broke out by terrorists. Everyone who were boating in the Dal lake previously were fleeing for their dear lives. I ran towards the shelter of apple woods. In the midst of all this chaos, I saw her shooting with a video camera from behind the thick apple trees.

Love at first sight.

There was a mystique glint of bravery flickering in her eyes.

That's what I liked in her – her eyes and her bravery.

There was no one around. She was startled at first. Confirming that I was harmless, she came forward and dressed my bleeding hand with her scarf.

That was just the start.

During my stay at Kashmir, we exchanged our mobile numbers, talked late into the night and went out in the snow every other day. I must say she talked a lot. A very talkative girl she was!

Our love blossomed in the beautiful land of Kashmir-- rightly called ' heaven on earth'.


I was scared for her...for her life...of her dangerous job.

I pleaded her, persuaded her and pestered her at many instances to quit the job. I wanted us to get married, move to Dalhousie and happily live ever after...always...forever.

She was very adamant of her journalist job. At first I thought she was being headstrong.

One day she told me, “my parents died in front of my eyes in the hands of the terrorists. I was barely seven then! I've dedicated my life to do everything possible in my own small way to uncover their strategies.”

It was then that my love to her took a new dimension. I started respecting her job. My love for her grew even more in intensity.

Relating to those horrid childhood incidents there were tears in her eyes.

Nonetheless, the mystique glint of bravery flickering in her eyes didn't fade away.

That's what I liked in her – her eyes and her bravery.


I was scared.

I was scared for her.
A lie.

In truth I was scared for myself. I can't live without her! I can't envisage a future for myself without her being beside me.

“Hey don't be so gloomy! Do you think I'll die so easily and sacrifice you to the other pretty girls !!?? No way! I'll be there for you...always...forever.” She teased.

I asked ,“ Promise?”

She replied, “ Promise! I rarely promise anyone. But if I do, then I value it with my life!”


When she was away covering news in the war zones, my time would go out of sync with the rest of the world. I would lose track of days and dates. My time was divided into two phases-- the time I was with her and the time I waited for her. I would wait frantically clutching my mobile in my hand for that one call from her, assuring me she's safe and sound.

She feared nothing. She was brave.

She had her priority – her aim of exposing the activities of terrorists.

I had my priority – it was 'she'.


I was in the airport. I got a call. I could not believe my ears! My head was whole world went topsy-turvy!


It was 2 days for my birthday to arrive. She was in Sarajevo reporting the war there live.

I urged her to come back.

She said yes.

It was a promise.

It seemed she had a surprise gift for me and wouldn't reveal it till we met. I pretended to be very much interested to know what the surprise gift was. I didn't want to be a spoilsport.
In truth, the gift didn't matter to me.

It was her coming back from Sarajevo after 2 months which truly was a gift to me.


It was the day of my birthday. I went to the airport to receive her. I was waiting for her eagerly. Finally the flight arrived.

But... there was no sign of her.

I waited for her for another hour.

I heard my cell phone ringing. I was sure it was her. Smilingly I answered the call...but ... it was a male voice.

“I am from BBC news. I'm really sorry to say...but she is no more. She was killed in the war at Sarajevo”.

These words changed my life. For worse.


She did keep her promise to come back on my birthday. But it was not the intact her. Her body was flown in a coffin to the airport. Her luggage was recovered and handed over to me.

I thought I would celebrate my birthday with her lively self around.

I was wrong.

I laid beside her lifeless body and for the first time in my life I cried.

I don't know for how long I cried.

My tears were exhausted. Nonetheless, they could not alleviate the emotions which burnt my heavy heart.

At night, I was flipping through her luggage. The surprise gift she planned for me was a hand woven kerchief with my name embroidered at the center.

It was as if she was consoling me not to cry and wiping my tears with the kerchief.

I preserved everything belonging to her....somethings tangible which lay safely in the cupboard...and as far as those intangible moments were concerned...they were there to stay in my memory, always...forever!


It's been 3 years now. I still couldn't forget her.

Every night, from that day till today, I get scary dreams. She would be writhing and wriggling in pain just in front of my eyes. She would scream at the crest of her voice for help. But I would be handcuffed and helpless to rescue her. She would die every night again and again in my dreams.

I fear sleep.

Every day, those beautiful moments I spent with her keep flashing back. Everything and everyone remind me of her. No matter what I do, I think of her and her thoughts send pangs of pain in my heart. I try to suppress the pain, but the feelings gush out and churn my heart. I take sleeping pills to switch off from the pain.

I fear being awake.

Someone said that love is a bucketful of emotions. So true!

Her voice reverberates in my ears--“ Promise! I rarely promise anyone. But if I do, then I value it with my life!”

She did really have to value the promise with her life. She had to forgo her life...our life!!

It was a broken promise...a promise unkept...a promise unfulfilled.

I am so frustrated that, I want to kill her again and again for her broken promise. Why did she leave me alone??


“You liar! You don't notice my smile! You are always lost in your own dreamy world and stare bleakly into my eyes!”

Yes, I used to lie about her smile. It wasn't her smile or lips that I noticed. I used to look deep into her twinkling eyes. She had an unflinching flame of bravery flickering in her eyes and the brunt of the horrifying images of her parents dying in front of her.

Her eyes spoke for her.

He eyes said it all!

That's what I liked in her – her eyes and her bravery.

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