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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Anna Tower
What Would He Say
it's me
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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:41

Firstly the disclaimer: what you're about to read is a book that was sent to me by someone.  All she'll say on the subject matter is this and I don't know any more:

"I am a writer about to publish my first novel. Technically, it's not the first though. I wrote another one before that [ . . . ] and it wasn't meant for the general public. It's for the Clooney fans 'only' Razz  Anyway, I wanted to release it online for a long time now, and with my new novel coming up, I think this is the right time. It's sort of fact + fiction and I'm not telling you how much of it is true. Or who's the protagonist. The book doesn't name her, so there's no problem there Very Happy 

I think it might be fun for book readers in clooneysopenhouse to pore over the details and figure out the identity of the protagonist (obv an old girlfriend of George's who he dated for two seconds). What do you think?"
It's a long read, folks (I did tell you it's a book, right?) and I've no idea whether any of it is true or if it's all a work of fiction from start to finish.  

A word of advice: the author is a member of this forum, although I don't think she's posted very much, so before you let loose with your opinions, please remember she reads here.  She's welcome to introduce herself if she wants, or she can remain anonymous.  

You can follow her on twitter: @Clooney_Looney or download the book as a pdf file from here: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] (note you have to register to download it).

So, reader read on!

Last edited by Katiedot on Wed 04 Sep 2013, 16:08; edited 3 times in total

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:45


Is it about the how or is it about the why? Really, it’s about the who—dumped who

It‟s a good thing people take white women seriously around here. Not a chance that my flaky, unruly self would make its presence known when people around me speak exactly 18 different languages and dialects, none of which I can grasp a word of! Why am I here again? Oh right, social work!

Landing up in India wasn‟t one of the most brilliant ideas I had. But I just didn‟t want the predictable, mediocre life I considered living in L.A for some time. Predictable in a wider scheme of things. In a more general sense it was far from! It was L.A after all. I was one of those happy-go-lucky-go-sexy females everywhere I ever went. I was also an Ivy Leaguer with a double major in anthropology. I loved dressing up like a bimbo—all the bangs and curls I could gather, patterned outfits and huge belts, chunky high heels and the works—and then flashing my IQ to crumple the next leery smile that came my way. I was open to fun and all the wild adventures that my cronies could come up with, but when it came to guys, I was a shut case. They were all dumb. Not my fault.

I was in India just once before when I was in college. I was here to study the origins and culture of a primitive tribe called the Chenchus in order to correlate my finds to the Myth of Aryan Invasion theory. I found no such proofs though, the philosophy of the Chenchu culture being no way related to Hinduism and a more professional anthropologist would have called my thesis utterly ridiculous. Which they did of course, after my submission. But I was just on a „thesis thing‟. I had the chance aka funding to go anywhere, study anything and if I had chosen to study a culture a little less oblivious, I‟d have had to work a lot more on it than I intended to. I just wanted to travel, test the waters around the world, get to the bottom of the Hare Krishna syndrome that seems to have penetrated the west and well…trek the Himalaya‟s and indulge in philosophical babble while high on weed! Some friend of mine had a cousin who married a girl whose brother had a nervous breakdown, ran away in search of the soul and did that. All through my college years, I heard what a bore a career in anthropology could be. And nobody in my trendy social circle got it. Especially, the few guys I dated. Well, I was going to prove it to them what great fun it could just be.

Unfortunately for me, the tribe I picked randomly from an old archive in the library was in a bit of a mess when I got to India. There was a civil war brewing and guerillas were rampant in the area where these tribes lived. So I just picked up bits and pieces of information from rusty old professors in Indian universities who had horrible accents and little English vocabulary and then twisted the data into relevant or irrelevant information and got the hell out of the havoc. A long time after that, I received a letter from a welfare activist who told me that the civil war displaced thousands of tribals and literally untouched from modern civilization as they were, they were in quite a dire condition in their refugee camps with nothing but starvation to look forward to. Having studied their civilization, she thought, I could figure out a way to communicate modernization to such people who do not even know what currency is. How could I tell a woman who believed I so genuinely cared for these

people that I crossed half a world to study them that I was just a shallow American who was looking for an escape, an adventure? I couldn‟t. So I went.

I reasoned that it was an opportunity in disguise. I had nothing to look forward to but a boring job as a professor which contrary to my perception did not include sexy ruffled male colleagues. My boyfriend, the only guy I seriously fell for after fifth grade, turned out to, not boring. Not remotely. He had an exciting life, over the roof ambitions, glorious family and icing-on-the-cake gorgeous women all around him. He had so many stories to share and I felt so dull in comparison. And he wasn‟t even that smart! AND…he was behaving as if I‟m not interesting! Me, the sexy „anthropologist‟, the child prodigy who got into an Ivy League college at the age of 17, a professor at 22! They don‟t make people like me anymore. In fact, they don‟t make people like me ever. I don‟t care if I‟m head over heels for this guy, I have to dump him before he does. And this seemed like a great way to do that.

“Yes George, I can‟t be with you anymore because I have to go save the world.”

And that is how I dumped George Clooney. In the autumn of „89. The year he got married. Talk about heights of rebound!


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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:45

Book 1              

1. But I found George again

A miserable night in the plane, three sweaty greasy rides in awfully slow trains with sweaty greasy people and a back breaking journey in a noisy jeep over Indian Ghat roads later, I finally reached the NGO that contacted me. Lavanya Devi, the person who contacted me, was ecstatic to receive me. Having foreign support is really brag-worthy for the organization considering a cartographer couldn‟t locate the place I was at. She threw snide glances at her male colleagues with seemingly vainglorious attitudes as if to say, „and you grouched about having me on your team just because I‟m a woman‟. Feminine pride rose through my chest and I gave a knowing wink to Lavanya. She was my only friend and confidante in all those frustrating months in the forest.  

In my defense I really did try. The whole problem started when, some twenty years ago, some one in Bengal started a violent uprising in the village of Naxalbari to fight the injustice dealt on tribals by the government and by the landlords. They called themselves the Maoists. And soon after, many parties erupted all over the country with similar causes and methods. And what they principally did was to fight over territories and they did virtually occupy several! It was a war. Against the government and there were no rules. There was territory and the territory had to be expanded. Period. If the villagers in the territory in question stood up to them, the villages were burnt and people thrown out. If the government had a strong hold in the area, the same was accomplished overnight leaving thousands of people homeless and without livelihood in the midst of dense forests or barren lands. The little town I was stationed at had about 50 villages surrounding it. The displaced people I had access to, were living in temporary shacks or worse, in makeshift tarpaulin tents. It was a hilly area, so supposedly there was no dearth of clean drinking water and nobody bothered to check. Local landlords gave menial jobs to some of the men and women. It was downright slavery, but at least there was food in sight. Astonishingly, these people were declared OK. The real problem was with those displaced in more interior areas. These people did not go where the government asked them to. Being nomadic in nature, once thrown out of their digs, they moved further deep and encroached forest lands. But instead of relief, they found more abuse from the forest department because of illegal occupation and they had to keep moving. In addition, the officials picked bunches of them for questioning about the insurgency, tortured them and dropped them off. Even fake encounters weren‟t unheard of. Meanwhile some groups of tribals we began a rehabilitation program for, were allegedly involved with the naxalites (Indian civil warriors) and were planning a coup without our knowledge. Overnight our access to these areas was withdrawn and we were faux-politely escorted out of the place. The naxals were on to the police, the police were on to the naxals, the people wanted to escape from both but were suspected of allying with one party and so were coerced by the other and vice-versa. There was gunfire, forest fires, dynamite, unrest, violence, starvation and hopelessness all around me, engulfing me.

“Hmmm…(cough, clearing throat), so you want me to derive a solution for all this from the tribals‟ „cultural perspective‟,” I asked, flabbergasted.  

Everybody looked serious as if I was being a fool to not see the bigger picture. And one guy, young, mustached, handsome and clad in beige Khadi, even snickered from behind.  

“These people don‟t have food or water! They might just be raped and mass murdered by tomorrow. They are not in need of rehabilitation, they are in need of rescue!” I squealed high- pitchedly in desperation.  

The Khadi explained patiently as if talking to a kid, “our organization wants to address the root of the issue. It all started in a small tribal village by tribal people, the whole insurgency against our modernistic government. We believe that it is because of culture shock and inadequate measures to make these people aware of modernization and how things work in a „country‟ instead of a region. We plan to file Public Interest Litigations based on your reports on appropriate rehabilitation and assimilation measures and our political supporters would push these stipulations in the parliament bills, etc.”  

I was always a fan of wider perspective, so the plan of action was inspiring but there was just one question, “So, who‟s taking care of the victims now?”  

There, that‟s the moment when I knew it was over. That look on their faces. The answer is nobody. It was too risky…There‟s some organization in Orissa….they might expand operations next year…The government might review the situation soon… The tribals are strong people, they live in the wild! They‟ll take care of themselves…

That night, in my dimly lit room, I lay awake for a long time. The fan was whirring loudly above my head and a calendar that hung on one corner was fluttering wildly. It had a picture of Kali, the goddess of death, her eyes wide and tongue extended in predatory ecstasy. Hanging precariously on the nail as it was, I expected the wind currents to overthrow the calendar any moment. And I was transfixed watching it, waiting for the malevolent avatar to hit the ground. I thought about how different my life is now compared to all that I left behind in the U.S. All the partying, the shopping, men, my simple and fun friends with no great ambitions, my over-ambitious boyfriend. The simplicity and predictability of my life, I felt then, was shallow, pointless. Now, in retrospect, I was no better a person, neither did I have any power to bring even a flicker of light in the many hopeless eyes I have seen. And Kali still fluttered.  

I remembered that story of Raja Vikramarka, where he lies in a cave, shivering in cold and shameful retreat from battle ground. There he watches a spider trying to reach its web, but losing grip every time. He watches it with attention for several minutes as it climbs up, falls down, gathers its bearings and tries yet again. Again and again. Again and again till it reaches its web and savors its prey. So Vikramarka tries again to defeat the invader. (Genghis Khan? I can never remember names!) He plans coups and battles for eight times until he wins the battle. I could almost see the power of persistence in his eyes wearing down his enemies, bit by bit. And Kali still fluttered.    

Surprisingly, it was George‟s face I saw when I envisioned Vikramarka in all his battle splendor, wounded but determined. Oh George! I felt a sudden twist in my heart when I

realized I missed him. I wished for his cool composure to embrace me, his wiser-by-six-years eyes to show me direction, his strength and determination to reach to me. Funny he never seemed that way when we were together. Distance really mangles your perspectives…or makes you see them the way they are. Or you‟re just 22 and romantic.  

In the morning I woke up to the bright rays of sun burning my face. I still remember the first sight that hit my eyes. Kali still fluttered.  

Talk about persistence—of the evil!

Nevertheless, I dunked into work in full gale. I was here after all. What choice did I have? I studied tribal cultures and lifestyles extensively. Graphed the changes that decades and centuries brought in these civilizations. Worked my way into the most untouched cultures, studied governmental reforms, saw corrupt officials, savage landlords, unimplemented laws, violated laws and abused civilizations. I filed my reports, participated in the litigations and gave interviews. Oh, lots of them. A white woman, young as she is, leaving everything and working for the downtrodden people of India was indeed brilliant news. Except I didn‟t leave anything that mattered and I wasn‟t making any real progress. I‟m working towards bringing in more laws and solutions when those already conceived were still unimplemented and violated to the core. The NGO was happy, their political affiliates received a lot of media attention, but nothing significant (to the lives of the tribes) ever happened! By next September, I opted out. Without as much as a word to all those people I worked with.

Dejected, disoriented and disgusted with myself, I got out of the taxi near the crowded Mumbai airport and looked at the building with distaste. And from the corner of my eye, I spotted him. He was wondering which car to pee on in the parking lot, his tongue hanging out and ears wobbling as he proceeded. He had a brownish muzzle, wise eyes with the thick lashes, black markings on his head and a shiny black coat. But the interesting part was his significant jaw that set as if he was amused. His lips twisted at corners and he looked as if he had a private joke in his head. As if he is reluctant to divulge the reason behind his smile.

“George?” He wagged happily!

“Oh George! Did you die and were born here again to find me?” George looked smugly amused that I figured it out. “Oh, you could have just taken a plane!” I hugged him happily.

Last edited by Katiedot on Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:47; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:46

2. George

George didn‟t die. Instead, he got married. Fine, whatever. Really, I‟m on a different plane now. I have evolved. Was it all those months swatting mosquitoes, breathing in air so thick it was hard to breathe and the heat rashes in ungainly places? Well, whatever it is, I was beginning to look at things from perspectives I have never seen before. Feeling things I have never felt before. Resurrecting feelings I overlooked before. And the last part didn‟t really help.  

“Clooney? Oh…how lovely! Did you get him from India?” crooned Mischa, my unhappy girlfriend still pissed with the fact that I left her alone when I went to India. Yeah, the saving- the-world aspect didn‟t work with her. After I told her all about my year‟s work, all she said was, „The tan suits you.‟ Translate: „So you‟ve done nothing significant in the name of social work except waste one whole year of your life.‟

“Yeah. He‟s an Indian Pariah dog. Picked him up a few hours before my flight.”  

“Oh an exotic Indian breed! Great souvenir you got yourself.”  

“Mischa stop being so annoying!” I ranted unreasonably, “Souvenirs are for visitors who never plan on going back! And I am going back. I like India, I love the people and their culture. I love how diversified they are—each with a unique and astonishingly vast heritage—and still find harmony in their diversity,” I paused replaying what I said in my head, “Well, for the most part. Just because I had a debacle doesn‟t mean I‟m giving up on the people I love.”  

Mischa was wide-eyed. Obviously, she wasn‟t hinting anything with the „souvenirs‟ or with the series of comments she issued in the past three weeks which I delved on for far too long and found new meanings. So much for finding „meanings‟. Oh, what a load of crap, I was! Even with all my newfound wisdom.  

I smiled, “Clooney is not an exotic breed. He was a stray dog. In India, Pariah dogs are never welcomed as pets. They aren‟t exotic enough for them. So the native Indian dogs never get a chance.” I tried changing the subject.

“Honey, I wasn‟t saying anything. I know you got your heart in this cause! I wouldn‟t say anything even if I…”

“Wanted to,” I filled her ellipsis.  

“But I don‟t want to! It‟s just that…I‟ve missed you,” she made her puppy face which I always loved and made fun of for hours on end.  

She winked and said, “So „Clooney‟ huh? Still missing him?”

“No! Of course not! Why would I name my dog after him if I did?”  

Mischa smiled knowingly. I wasn‟t one to follow the clichés and just looking at me and Clooney, she would know how much the dog means to me. She patted Clooney.

“Put a fugly bushy wig on his head and he‟d also look like his namesake.”  

“George‟s hair wasn‟t fugly! I loved his hair!” I protested.  

“Oh please!” Mischa dismissed, “anyways, what‟s it to you now?”  


Why does it bother me still? It‟s been a year and our relationship could hardly be described as special. „Described as‟…I pondered over the phrase. And whose description am I measuring our relationship to? It was hardly a relationship at that. Maybe just two people crossing paths all too often. Two very different people I might add.  

George‟s friend who lived in the same building as Linny, my childhood friend, was inviting her awkwardly to an impromptu party at his apartment. George was standing remotely by his side not looking at any of us. I have seen him in the building of course. And vaguely remember being curious about him.  

“Starts at nine. See you there Lin.” He said and started shuffling away when George said to Linny, “And do bring your roommate along.” As if he was embarrassed by his friend‟s forgotten manners.  

“Oh I‟m not her roommate. I just stay over sometimes. When the bedbugs in my—” I stopped irritated with myself for bringing up such a lame subject.  

“Oh I thought you lived here too,” So…he noticed me too!  

Linny didn‟t want to go to the party. She hated the whole noisy bunch upstairs, especially since one of the guys who lived there asked her out on a date and stood her up. Worst part was, he came home with another girl that night and the dear-friend-of-the-window Linny watched them enter the building drunkenly. She never had any kind words for George‟s friends after that.  

“Maybe he wants to make amends! Apologize and all! Fall on your feet…” I tried in my sincerest silly-tones. But Linny dearest always succumbs to ego-boosters no matter how ridiculous they are.  

Linny‟s guy was not to be seen. A rowdy bunch of hooters clogged the TV. Beer spills made the place smell and there were only a couple of women in sight, each busy snogging someone‟s face. And we were only one hour late (respectfully I‟d say).

Since George was the only person in sight who wasn‟t actively pursuing the game on TV or the women, he came over and handed us some drinks. I had no idea Linny wasn‟t actually friends with any of the guys. They all looked ok and they were apparently fun when they weren‟t sloshed! God what‟s wrong with Lin, I thought as she scanned at the crowd wondering who to talk to.

After Linny walked away to some guy who greeted her, we got to talking, me and George. He told me he was an actor, threw around the names of some TV shows I never watched and a movie or two I hadn‟t seen and wouldn‟t place him even if I did. I told him I was an anthropologist and that I went to India to study a remote tribe. We smiled. He told me he loved basketball and I told him I never watched or played any sport. We smiled. He told me his dad was a newsman and had a lot of siblings. I told him my dad was an arts professor, divorced from mum and I was „sort of‟ an only daughter. We smiled. We talked about our jobs, he told me how he jumps from appearance to appearance, job to job and is still waiting for his big break. I told him I was about to get a job as a professor and I would be the youngest woman in the university to achieve the feat. We smiled. But with each smile, I took a part of his face and my next smile widened.

We had nothing in common. No common friends either. And by the way Linny was going on about Patrick in front of his friends, there wasn‟t a chance in hell we were ever getting invited to that apartment again. No reason to exchange numbers, no excuse to meet. We looked at Linny thinking the exact same thing and smiled, said our good byes and left. Which was exactly why I didn‟t have a reason to think it was him on phone one late night about three weeks after the party.

“Yes, speaking. Who‟s this?”

He didn‟t tell me who he is right away. Or maybe he did, but I was busy trying sorting the mess on the couch, so I could sit, and didn‟t hear him. But, George didn‟t repeat his name. He never does. It‟s one of his celeb-things. I usually get irritated when guys play guessing games with me because a lot of them turn out to be lousy dumb-fucks (and I‟m going to use this term a lot) who spotted me somewhere and wanted to go out. But George‟s voice had a sense of familiarity to it. And a tint of fine humor that I didn‟t want to pass up.

“Well it‟s really late and I…” smile in my voice, “I heard you before but I can‟t place you. Why don‟t you just tell me.”

“Well I could but I wanted to find out how much impact I had on you before I can make an ass out of myself proclaiming my real intentions.”

“And what intentions might they be?” I said fingering a strand of hair.

“To take you out.”

“When?” When? What when? You don‟t even know who this is!


“Now? It‟s pretty late…” Maybe if you tell me who you are…Please god don’t let it be that shaggy barman from last Sunday with whom I left my number in case he finds my purse!

“Besides I don‟t even know who you are. This is ridiculous!”

“It‟s George. George Clooney.”

I pretended as if I didn‟t recognize.

“Ah, don‟t pretend. I am not forgettable and I know that.”

“Is that how you keep your gonna-be-superstar bubble inflated?”

“Ha ha. Look, do you want to go out now or what?”

“Ahh…touched a sensitive point, did I?”

“It‟s not that. It‟s getting late. It‟s already eleven.”

“Hmm…do I get a second chance if I say no now?” He lets out that tiny laugh of his with the a-ha sound. I could almost see him bent over the receiver in a candid stance, teeth in full flash.

“Oh, I don‟t know…Do you want a second chance?” That put me in a spot. I wanted to postpone the decision to accept his date, but he wouldn‟t have it my way.

“I guess,” I said slowly.

“Ok. Gotta go. Bye,” and he hung up. What? Why the hurry! Was he going to call another woman now? Oh god, no!

George didn‟t call me after that. I didn‟t cross paths with him in Linny‟s building either. She told me something about seeing him in a big T.V. show. “You know the one with the fat lady.” I wouldn‟t know. I never watched television. It was odd, but I spent a lot of time on my books and journals, aimless walks in the city while everyone is busily bustling past me, at the book club which met more often than is necessary, hanging out with friends or shopping. There was also the minor fact that I broke my T.V and was too scared to ask my dad to replace it because a. he gave me a list of things I could never violate while using his old apartment, which included not breaking the T.V. set and b. my dad was a scary person in general.

It wasn‟t like I missed out much except bits and pieces of my friends‟ conversations. Besides soon after I took up my job everything I did seemed like a waste of time. I could‟ve killed myself if I watched T.V too. Firstly, I was talking to a wall carved like a giant stony face called „class‟ every day because I was „too young‟ to handle any advanced classes where there is a possibility of challenge and intellectual stimulation. To brighten my situation, I wanted to publish papers, participate in conventions, contribute to journals, etc. but I couldn‟t get a move on anything because I don‟t know, my pen was stuck to the paper or something. Suddenly everything was important and nothing was, there was too little time and there was too much time, there were tasks that seemed important and also worthless, my research was full of possibilities and was also pointless, important people I was meeting who were also

interminable bores, my body jittered with excitement but there was nothing of worth I could do. I was struck in the prime of my life by the duality of the universe!

Funny that I had to meet George again at the peak of my worst. I forgot my jacket (I got distracted a lot) and was shivering in cold, but was reading a journal (long due!) and biting into an apple (forgot lunch) as I was walking towards my apartment. As another mighty shiver ran down my spine, I dropped my apple. I suddenly got out of my reverie and was looking at it morosely, wondering whether anyone would notice if I still picked it up and finished it. Superb timing for the guy I‟m interested in to bump into me. Absolutely!


I turned around and saw it was George. My heart skipped a beat. He had a different haircut and a sheepish grin on his face. The kind that made his eyes crinkle.

“And cold,” I sighed, discarding my journal into the backpack (I should probably call it sack) hanging by my arm.

We went to eat at a deli. He was telling me he came to meet a friend in Linny‟s building and he wasn‟t there. I was busily munching on a sandwich and doing the „umm‟ sound whenever needed. I wondered how non-awkward it was to be with him considering it‟s been almost three months since I first met him.

“I was watching you there for about a minute. What‟s so great about the book you were so engrossed in?”

“Mmmm…” still stuffed, I made a face in reply.

“You look a lot thinner than the last time. One of those crazy diets?”

“Huh!” still stuffed, my eyes pointing his to the dribbling cheese.

“Why are you so famished anyways?”

“I didn‟t have lunch. What‟s up with you?” finally licking off the cheese from my lips.

“Nothing much. I‟m on Roseanne,” he said simply as if that‟s supposed to explain everything, “And you? What is it you do again?”

“I‟m a professor in anthropology. You didn‟t call after that night,” I stated matter-of-factly not really bothered what his reasons were.

“I‟m sorry about that. I was…actually seeing someone at that time.”


“Still am.”


“You‟re monosyllabic,” he said attempting humor.

“You‟re pretentious.”

“You‟re rude!”

“I‟m sorry,” I said and asked him why he called me if he was seeing someone else. He said something unintelligible about shaky grounds and complications and suddenly

“You seemed different. You weren‟t the type of girl I‟d normally date but I was…I guess, intrigued by you.”

I smiled demurely at that and he quickly changed the topic and inquired about me and my job and my apparently emaciated state. I laughed and told him all about the mad rush I felt to do something and the inability to actually get to it.

“It‟s like I‟m sitting in a pressure cooker and I can‟t get the whistle to blow!”

He laughed and told me about his own experiences with unfulfilling jobs. And there were so many of those! When I was deeply engrossed in one of them, he said abruptly, “You‟ve been rushing all your life, that‟s what your problem is. Who has a bloody Ph.D at 22?”

I smiled and said nothing. It wasn‟t something I haven‟t heard before. Normal people didn‟t get it. But did I get it myself? the thought crossed my mind for the first time.

“So, what did your boss say when you said you quit?” I prodded diverting the attention from myself.

“What would he say? I was ready to throw fists at him!” and he went on.

George was intuitive and every time he made a statement about me, I dodged it and asked something about him instead. I was in a bad phase when I first knew George. I was a genius extraordinaire when I was studying and suddenly nobody was taking me seriously when I wanted to share what I learnt. „You are too young‟ Hey wasn’t that the best part not so long ago?! My colleagues were old bores and my students too cocky and leery. And George could see through me like no one could.

“You sound low. Not enough winks from your students today?” he said in one of the many phone conversations that followed our late lunch together, “Oh wait, the research assistant forgot his usual pat on the bum!”

“Oh, Puh-lease! You‟re not sounding so upbeat yourself, the Lady of the Casting Couch didn‟t want you today?”

“Ha-ha, so not funny.”

“Oh I‟m sorry, serious business, ooh!” And we would keep flirting back and forth till I settled on some comfortable topic like his job or his friends. We weren‟t seeing each other and he

was still in some sort of „complicated‟ phase or relationship or whatever, but what‟s a little harmless flirting and sharing, right? Besides, we had nothing in common. So…

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:50

3. Lana

I was walking Clooney to my sister‟s house one morning. She had a baby just before I returned from India and I haven‟t been to visit her even three weeks after getting back. Thing is, she was mum‟s daughter. My mom ditched my father when I was just three months old and my sister was five. She didn‟t run off with another guy but she wasn‟t „fulfilled‟ in their marriage, she said in the note she left him. A month later, she returned for her daughter. Not me, Lana. Cruel, I know. But I was in the middle of my exams when my dad broke down one night and told me the story and I just forgot about it and went on to be the topper of my class. I was just as good as a first child to my dad—“you‟re the one I changed diapers for”—and that was enough for me. No time to cry over cruel moms. We all came together as a family on several occasions after that, just like we were supposed to. And Lana happily played big sister on me many times, but I always felt like an only daughter and never had the sisterly feeling towards Lana. We were just friends. Casual friends.

Lana‟s daughter was beautiful. It was the first time I felt genuine affection pumping through my heart for anything that was „Lana‟. Awkward emotional moment…here comes the lame remark.

“You had a daughter! Daughters run in our family or something…”

“And divorces,” Lana said wryly.

“What!” I jumped almost dropping the baby. My big sister was getting divorced?!

“Our marriage was pointless. Forget love, I‟ve been living in a huge bubble of pure hate for the past one year.”

“Oh...I didn‟t know.”

“And the baby didn‟t change a thing!”

“And I‟ve heard that before.”

She gasped at that and began to apologize profusely. With my slightly charged emotions though, I wouldn‟t hear any of it. I blamed her and mom for being such fickles unable to handle their emotions or lives and expecting babies to fix things. I went on and on cradling the baby in my arms until I realized Lana was weeping silently.

“Oh sweety!” I ran to console her replacing the baby in her crib.

“Oh Lana…you‟re gonna be fine! The baby is going to be fine too!” Lana sobbed, “I turned out ok. See!” She smiled a little. We changed the subject and talked about what all we missed in my year away. After listening to my side of things, my big save-the-world project turning to ashes, Lana gave a look and said, “You know what else runs in the family?”

“What?” I said waiting for a big word like „social responsibility‟ or „compassion‟ or „trusting impulses‟ or something like that. Something feel-good.


What?! I looked aghast for a minute and started giggling a second later. Lana joined in. Then we had a giggling fit thinking about all those things that are wrong with our family and it lasted just about fifteen minutes! “What a miserable fucked up family!” I said and she looked shocked. I looked shocked. And we burst into giggles again.

Coming home from Lana‟s, I pondered on the quitting remark. I was never a quitter. I was an all-round achiever (except for sports…I was petite, I had no choice!) till I got that miserable job in the university. Around March the previous year, I wanted to quit my job desperately. That is when I heard from Lavanya, the anthropologist in India. I remembered how harried my last visit and how botched my thesis was. I was still smarting from it being rejected by the board. People were blowing places up! I was lucky I got to meet at least 30 members of the coveted tribe. How was I supposed to pool hundreds of resources, prototype socio-cultural elements, blah blah blah when the human resources sported guns and axes! Lavanya‟s angle was different. She had no interest in the Myth of Aryan Invasion. Instead, she was worrying about the invaders who are acting up now and the approax.10,000 people killed or missing after the movement picked up when I left.

A month or two after my correspondence with her started, I finally quit and spent my days reviewing all the notes and information I collected back then, reading newswires from India, meeting people living as far as Seattle and discussing what could be done, etc. This was also the time George and I finally hooked up. He landed in my apartment one night, looking scraggly. We‟ve been talking at least thrice a week for the past seven months or so, meeting

for a casual lunch occasionally. Flirting every time and leaving in a haste. George‟s life was complicated, I made mine complicated and so we had to be careful with each other (the only spontaneous thing that happened to either of us in a while). Why?

“Hit by a bus?” I asked casually, though concerned.

“Just pissed off,” he said and made his way onto my couch.

“You know you should stop making these late night calls on me,” I said referring to our first phone conversation, “I‟d think something‟s actually going to happen between us,” I joked as if the thought itself was ludicrous. He didn‟t react and stared into my dysfunctional T.V set instead.

“I feel like beating the shit out of someone!” he remarked violently after a minute. I was taken aback. George was quite boisterous. He talked a lot, laughed a lot and was charming only when he wanted to be. In comparison, I was calm. I could never match up to his energy.

“Is that why you‟re here?” I said in a tiny scared voice. He looked up confused and then guffawed. Thank god! I went and sat by him and asked him what‟s wrong.

“Everything! Don‟t you know anything about my life?” he asked angrily.

“Oh common! You told me just weeks ago how things are looking up for you.”

“Not anymore. Everything is so frustrating!” he said, still mysterious and stressing on „everything‟. Everything involves relationships.

“And you thought it‟s a good idea to come over and take it out on me.”

“Yeah,” he looking at me squarely and gave me a half smile, “I thought it is. You‟re the only uncomplicated part of my life,” stress on „uncomplicated‟. We kiss.

You could be so foolish at 22. Not delving on facts but only worrying about losing opportunities. I didn‟t care that he had a girlfriend or used to have (I never asked), didn‟t care whether we would see each other later, didn‟t care if he was using me. He was nice and sweet and it felt like the right thing to do. Period. Many times in life, I wondered what happened to that spontaneous girl who didn‟t have to think a whole bunch of things even as she‟s kissing a guy for the first time.

I just quit then and George was my present. „And I have quit again. Will George land up in my apartment again?‟ I thought and smiled to myself, reaching for my keys at the apartment door. “George Clooney,” I said aloud smiling and suddenly, „Oh shit, I left Clooney in Lana‟s backyard!‟ and ran all the way back. He would be safe at Lana‟s but I was worried nevertheless. I hadn‟t let that dog out of my sight ever since I brought him home. Almost at Lana‟s door and breathless, I heard someone I passed by saying “Hey!” Not „Hey, you knocked me over!‟ but „Hey, it‟s you!!!‟ types. Clooney was sniffing the pavement near

Lana‟s house. I rushed over to him and hugged him and made an awful amount of PDA (public display of affection). After Clooney calmed down and I calmed down and I was suddenly conscious of all eyes on me, I was also conscious of the “Hey!” I just heard. I slowly straightened myself and turned around. And yes, it was him.

He came over, we hugged and exchanged a ton of pleasantries and stood smiling seeing what has changed in each other.

“So who‟s this little guy?” He asks pointing at Clooney.

“He‟s umm…Matt. How‟s Max?” I say inquiring after his pet.

“Matt?” Shit!

“Yeah! After my uh…father.” He laughed out loud and started Hey-Matt-ing Clooney. Of course he didn‟t respond.

“He didn‟t start responding to his name yet,” I said, lamely adding something about Indian dog not responding to American name. I was literally shaking meeting George after so long and was at the peak of awkwardness. But he was all cool and easy. Why wouldn‟t he? The married bastard!

“Heard you were married,” I asked with my biggest fake smile.

“Yeah. Who told you?”

“Nobody. Read it in the papers.”

“In India?” Oh, don’t flatter yourself.

“Yeah!” I shrugged. I didn‟t pursue further. I never did with George. Before we got together, I worried too much if his girlfriend looked better than me (which of course she did, as I will learn a decade and half later), after we got together, I worried if he was still seeing her, after we split, I didn‟t want to know who he‟s with. Ever. The worst thing about dating a guy like George was, you could always dig up a few newspapers and find out what he‟s up to or you could just ask him and he would tell, but you have this nagging feeling inside somewhere that you wouldn‟t like what you‟ll learn. And you cover up that feeling by not dwelling over it. Easy-peasy. For me, it was an unnecessary complication in our already nameless, simple but fragile relationship. So I never did ask and he volunteered only once. When he told me about Talia Balsam. Damn the world that that should be the woman he got married to!

“Hey, I still got some stuff of yours in my apartment. I‟m sorry I left in such haste I didn‟t even check back then.”

“Oh, that‟s ok…You did have important stuff to do. How‟d it go in India, I meant to ask!” He said suddenly remembering. I gave him a sarcastic smile and rolled my eyes.

“I have some of your shirts, records and some pictures I guess.”

“What pictures?”

“I don‟t know…some weird experiments of yours with my camera, some of Max‟s, a few of ours…But you can‟t have those.”

“Ok…I‟ll uh..pick them up…”

“I‟ll leave them with my doorman. Pick them up anytime.”

Hug?-Kiss?-Hu-Ki-Kiss-Hug. And we left.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:51

4. Dad

Packing up George‟s stuff wasn‟t easy. I (totally lamely) did not take his calls after abruptly breaking up with him so that the issue of his things wouldn‟t come up. He did not move in with me, but stayed over an awful lot for his stuff to be strewn all over the place (I wasn‟t very organized and I especially did not pick up after others). In the few empty nights before I caught the plane to India, I liked having them where they were. They were gently symbolic of all that I was leaving behind in my insane attempt at following impulses. When I came back they were still there, only laden with dust, etc. (which I did make an attempt at cleaning up) till Linny came home bursting with gossip and blurted out that he got married. From then on, they lay at the bottom of my old barren closet. Because the dustbin was full.

What went wrong? Stare three minutes into the open closet. What went wrong? Lift-flick- fold-toss. What the hell went wrong? Lift-flick-fold-angry toss. What the hell??!!! rummage- organize-stack-hurl. I don’t remember. “Fuck!” Slowly pick up after my mess--pack--ring for the doorman. Looking at things from newer perspectives had this minor disadvantage that you can‟t see things through your past perspectives anymore, try as you might. And suddenly your own past actions become baseless and unaccounted for. Like when I found that painting I made when I was twelve. I remember the painting having a profound life changing meaning for me at that time but all I could see now was a bunch of twigs around the sun, some sort of halos without heads and wait…is that a penis?!

Maybe I was tired of all the restricted communication between us. Maybe I was bothered by his paying little attention to me—all my doing of course, dodging questions or remarks directed at me by feigning undue interest in him (defense mechanism!). Maybe the stagnancy of our relationship reflected too much on my own state of affairs, like my job and stilled ambitions that I had to keep moving even if the only way to do that was to move on. I could only say this much that we had a great time, we totally communicated, our romantic evenings were literally timeless and we laughed—a lot. When things ended we packed our emotional baggage without a word and left smiling. Yeah, totally adult—You stupid screwed up, STUPID bitch!!!

One of these days, I‟ve got to do something about that voice in my head. For now I‟ll have to do deal with something scarier. Meeting dad. Dad followed a job he always wanted to do in Seattle some time after I moved out. We met only occasionally after that. Short meetings with dad meant we spend the whole time discussing my career and this is especially not a good time for me to talk about it.

He didn‟t ask about my career right away. Instead he asked me all about India and listened out of genuine curiosity, instead of just waiting to pass judgment. Warmed by his interest, I reiterated everything. Answering his questions, I told him about the deep rooted corruption, the prevailing law of the land instead of law of the country, governmental reforms that were more of an intervention to self-sufficient tribal communities and my own inability to directly reach the victims of insurgency, my being used as a publicity tool by political parties, the ineffectual petitions I filed, my research and suggestions being branded as too modernistic to be implemented in India and the sense of futility that washed over me every second of my stay. In spite of my narration turning into a squeaky whine at the end, my father said, “Honey, I‟m so proud of you.”

That was the first real praise I heard after coming home. I realized that it is my own whining and self-destructive analysis that made me feel so small. I was the bang opposite of attention- lady of negotiable affection. No wonder George used to say, “Where do they make such stupid bimbos with Ph.Ds like you?” If only I had a little more confidence, all my frivolity and impulsiveness would have had an impact. „At least I‟m pretty‟ I thought only to realize again George took that away too! Why does the man have to date vain actresses all the time?

Putting all thoughts of mind-creeping George in the closet again, I looked weepy eyed and asked dad if he really did think so.

“Hell yeah! You weren‟t a commando to march into gunfire and rescue the victims. You were an anthropologist and you did what the country should have done long ago. They should give you an award or something!”

“Oh dad!”

“And they would‟ve if you didn‟t chicken out and run off with their dog.” So much for emotional moments. I laughed out loud.

Dad pulled me close after the laughter died. “Modesty is a fine thing baby. It keeps you levelheaded, makes you view things in different ways. But you need to balance it with pride, so you can hold your head up and see the right way in all those different paths and…to know for yourself what you‟re worth,” he said a little cryptically, albeit mirroring my emotions.

That‟s the good part of dad‟s visit.

“What the hell did you do to my T.V?!” and…there goes!

After we finished dinner and I scrubbed away at the plates, I found dad in his full business mode on the couch. All set to talk about my career. What else? Damn, I should‟ve gotten a new T.V. After discussing endless possibilities and realizing I wasn‟t into what I originally meant to do anymore, he said, “You could get married you know. Have a peaceful life. You are well provided for, you don‟t have to earn a thing. I told you that since you were a little kid. And I can tell you now, after I die, you‟re going to be a rich woman,” he winked, “don‟t bet on it happening anytime soon though.”

“Dad!” I exclaimed, “What about Lana?”

“Lana? What about her? It‟s my money. My mum gave it to me and I can pass it on to anybody I choose to!”

“That is so unfair! She‟s your daughter too.”

“She was! Till she went all weepy and bawling to your mum, „Momma, take me wichyuuu!‟” he mimicked her.

“She was four years old!!!” I yelled, my lungs threatening to burst out with laughter like they do every time my dad replays the whole scene of mum coming back for her things, a month after she left him.

“Five. And, that‟s a pretty mature age to decide between fickle moms and dependable dads I tell you. Why, you were summing squares in your head by then!”

“Dependable? Huh! You think Aunt Jen never told me about the diaper rashes I had till I was two and smartly learnt to use the baby toilet?”

We went on like that, laughing, throwing abuses at each other, mum and Lana till finally dad threw up his hands and said, “Fine, I‟ll put her in the will somewhere!”

“Oh please, you‟re going to be fair and I know it.”

“Well then, what was all that about?”

“I just wanted to hear you mimicking her bawl again.”

“I can‟t believe the poor thing is getting divorced,” dad said shaking his head sadly.

“She‟ll be alright…” I said treading on thin lines, “Marriage is so overrated anyways. I‟m never going to get married dad.”

“Now, what‟s that supposed to mean?”

“Lana says divorces run in our family. Divorces and quitting,” I mentioned sullenly.

“Ah, what a pile of crap! Don‟t you blame your whimsicality on the family lady. Your mom and I are extremely successful in our careers. Though we haven‟t been able to do it together, we did give you both secure childhoods, didn‟t we?”

“Yeah…I didn‟t mean it that way dad.”

“I know what you meant. So I‟ll give you permission to blame your nature on your mom,” he said with a poker face.

“Dad, you‟re unbelievable!” I shrieked hitting him with the pillow.

“Three divorces!” dad yelled over my shrieks, “Innumerous jobs and now she calls herself a serial entrepreneur. If that woman isn‟t a fickle, who is?!” And we both doubled over in the unbelievable incomprehension that my mom was.

After dad left, I thought about all that the evening was not. Scary. It wasn‟t scary or uncomfortable, there was no exchange of harsh words or sullen remarks. It was because there were no reviews on my performances and no urgency to resolve issues. It was because, for the first time in my life, my dad thought I was capable of making my own decisions. Also because, we both realized the meaninglessness of grades, scores and pressures or the indomitable urge to advance. Life was relaxed. I could go any way I want. And he seemed to believe I‟d take the right path.

If only he knew.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:52

5. London

It occurred to me when I went for a swim in dad‟s club. There is something about swimming… “From the outside looking in, you can‟t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can‟t explain it.” Who said that?

When I was in India, I was baffled by their systems and was always comparing them to those in U.S. I was inside looking out. And that was why I could never explain it. Hotheaded though I was when I told Mischa that I loved the country and the people, I meant it. And my inability to help them really hurt. „I tried‟ is not good enough for me!

I remember arguing with George at my apartment once about my plans for the adivasis in India.

“Really, you want to go all the way over there and help?”

“Yeah! People are dying every day and I feel like I have to do something.”

“People die everyday everywhere,” he said callously, “Violence is killing people in L.A everyday. Right where you live! Don‟t feel a thing?”

“But they have hospitals, they have welfare programs, correctional facilities, psychiatric help! Those people have nothing! I‟ve seen it George, they don‟t even have electricity or clean drinking water,” I retorted and then added, “They actually believe that the trees and cobras they worship will show them a way even as they suffer from starvation and know not what strange disease has attacked their clan now! Tell me, if you see such a man lost in the midst of an uncaring civilization, would you or would you not attempt to show him the way, at least?”

“That‟s a line.”


“I‟ve relayed enough lines to know one when I hear one sweetheart. I thought we were talking objectively here.”

“Ok…I might have gone a little overboard, but it‟s still true!”

“What kind of romanticized notion have you got into your little brain about rescuing entire tribes based on text books?!” he laughed, “I‟m sorry, but I still don‟t think you can really help them.”

“Whoever asked for your expert opinion darling?”

“I‟m no expert, but I can tell as much. Ok, consider that education program you got all mapped out. You tell me these people don‟t even have a native script!”

“Some of them.”

“Whatever. What makes you think ABCs will help them better their forest produce trade or their village governments? You can probably advocate their situation to governments and diplomats. But changing them from the inside? Changing their systems and ideologies and beliefs? They are a whole different lot sweetie. You will never know what they want exactly.” he said incredulously.

“I specialize in socio-cultural anthropology. It is my job to understand different cultures. Not that you would ever know about it.” I answered curtly. But, he just shrugged as if dismissing the argument so I went on raising my pitch, “Because you‟ve never made the smallest effort to know what I do! Because you love yourself too much to care about others!”

“Oh shut up! You told me yourself your job is such a drone that I wouldn‟t want to know about it. Since when are you into drama by the way?” he asked, the corners of his lips twitching into a smile.

“This is not drama! This is serious stuff. This is my career and my…dream! And all you could do is to sit on your uncaring ass and pass judgment about it.”

“More drama!” he laughed coming after me as I was leaving the room in a huff and hugging me from behind, “Ok I‟m sorry I can‟t get myself to care about people half way across the globe! But I care about you and I know this is a big step for you. And that is exactly why I‟m asking you to look at all the angles. You‟re leaving everything for some people you don‟t even understand. Do you really think you can help them?”

“I think I can George. I think I can.”

He leaned his chin on my shoulder and said after a moment, “At 22, it does seem like you got everything figured out, I suppose.”

“And at 28, you already got everything figured out, huh?”

He inhaled into my neck and said quietly, “Screw you.”

“Screw you too.”

I hate it when men get it right! It is women, W-O-M-E-N who should always get it right. But I did not understand how things work in tribal India. And that was the plain truth I could see with my head inside the water. So I decided, then and there in the pool, before I could take my next breath, to live in India. Look at the inside from the inside and all that. This way I will definitely understand everything. I didn‟t feel the rush anymore, like I realized when talking to dad. I‟ll just get to know the people better, take part in welfare programs one by one and make the change little by little. It seemed like a great prospect. Besides I haven‟t been to the cultural hubs of India yet. Travelling would be a great prospect. If only I could find the right sunscreen!

I began my great Indian journey in…err...London. You know, most of the best parts of India are supposed to be in England now. Like the Koh-i-Noor diamond…or the first printed book! …Ok, let‟s just call it „a‟ journey. The plan was to visit the British Library and read the

journals and books written by the British explorers of India in the 19th and early 20th century. That was the only time real explorations were performed in India. The modern stuff is mostly hearsay developed from these historical accounts. Arriving in London, I found out there were unfortunately so many of them! It would take me months to even make a dent. And on a totally different note, I‟ve never actually shopped in London or seen the queen‟s palace. There were a lot of friends to meet too (yeah, I was big-time pen palling when I was young. That and all the dorky things you can imagine). So I stayed for a while at Kara‟s place. She was one of Lana‟s friends who moved to London to work as a computer analyst. She had an incredible place (computer analyst since the „80s! You can only imagine), lots of friends and a mind-boggling European wardrobe.

But Kara did not like Clooney.

“Oh why not! He‟s such a lovely little boy!”

“It‟s not about liking! I‟m shit scared of dogs. All dogs. Just looking at that thing makes me want to pee-eee-eeee!”

“It doesn‟t work that way darling. Peeing in pants things.”

So I had to find another place for Clooney to live temporarily. Having already taken advantage of sister‟s friends and friends of friends for various reasons, pen pals were the only other option. Man, this is going to be awkward. But there was Vinay, fortunately! He was one of my closest friends (pen pal, imaginative friend, first crush, all included in his portfolio) and the only other person I knew who lived in that part of London. I didn‟t know that till his mom wrote back to me a day before I started to London, telling me he moved there and is not living at his Liverpool address anymore.

“A nice Indian boy should live with his parents at least till he gets married. Why, I lived in my in-law‟s place until Ram brought me and Vinay to England. But he is all English now and his parents are too old for him. At least you remember us darling. So nice of you to mention me and Ram at the end of your letter.”

„How about not reading the mail and forwarding it to his address you old cow!‟ I remember thinking when I read the letter. And…leaving it by the kitchen sink.

Kara started screaming from the living room, “Go away! Go away you mad dog! GO Awa- aaaaa—aay!” I had to take Clooney for a walk not knowing what else to do. So I called Lana, who moved into my apartment with the baby and asked her to find the damn letter. I took the address and was about to go when Lana yelled (way) above the baby‟s wails, “Oh by the way someone called George called for you this morning.”

“What?! …George who?”

“I don‟t know. Some real estate agent.”

“I don‟t know any real estate agents by the name George. Lana, this is important. What‟s his last name?” I asked with urgency.

Baby wails. Heart thuds.

“I can‟t remember! Can‟t you hear that little monster? You think I can remember anything else in the world including my pant size?” Lana pauses taking deep breaths, “God, I don‟t even want to talk about my pant size. It sounded something like a dog‟s name sis. That‟s all I can think of for now. Sorry.”

“Dog‟s name??! Lana, is it Clooney?”

“That‟s the one! See, I told you it sounded like a dog‟s name. Oh wait! Isn‟t it your dog‟s name? Anyways…gotta go darl. She gives me bad nipple sores every time she cries too much. You take care. Mmmuah!”

“Lana wait, why did he tell you he‟s a real estate agent?” Click.

Vinay lived in a fifth floor apartment with no lift. By the time I dragged myself all the way up with sniffy-snifferson Clooney, he stood at his door with a huge sheepish grin on his face.

“I can‟t believe this! It‟s you!”

“Me either.” I said faintly. I couldn‟t believe it was him, really. He was about six foot two inches tall, had an amazing build, wavy black hair with character more unique than the fashions of the time and a smile that knocked my breath right off. And oh, the complexion! George‟s was nothing in comparison to Vinay‟s brown skin that was only a tad deeper than a perfect suntan.

“Man, you‟re sexy! Couldn‟t have made that out in all those dorky letters you wrote.” That was him. Almost as if he stole the words right out of my mouth.

“You‟re handsome too. Couldn‟t have made that out in all those whiny letters you wrote!”

“I was sixteen! And my parents were living my puberty instead of me!”

“No wonder you mom read my letters to you instead of just forwarding them.”

“She did?!” He asked with an incredulous expression mixed with a comic amount of anger that made me laugh outright.

We kissed in less than an hour and three months later went travelling in India together.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 14:58

6. Vinay

Vinay was a wonderful tour guide, driver, entertainer and lover. He was the one who first told me about India in his letters and was thus partly responsible for my infatuation with the country. We bought an SUV, remodeled for Asian terrain, with great storage space and an awkward sleeping arrangement. In that we went all around the country, me, Vinay and Clooney. You wouldn‟t believe how much Clooney loved travelling. If we stayed at a new place for more than ten days, he would start getting finicky and scratch the car doors to be let in and driven away! Totally un-dog-like behavior.

Not that we stayed anywhere for long. „You were meant to live here, not visit!‟ a siren went off in my ears every time we did something very touristy. We visited the temples of the south, the palaces of the west, the tombs of the north, the wildlife of the east. We visited the great Shivaji‟s birthplace, the battlegrounds of Panipat where Muslim invasion of India began, we took crash courses in Tanjore paintings, visited the French colonies of Pondicherry, the Parsis of Goa and the Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupathi. We clicked away at the earliest Christian graves in India, we looked inside the tombs of Mughal emperors, prayed at Buddhist shrines and lounged at the beaches. I even took Vinay to what I called the Naxal spots. Simlipal forests in Orissa, remote towns called Maredumilli and Chintapalli in Andhra, where the insurgents have been and left their marks. From there, we went to a town called Srisailam set in the midst of deep jungles and hillocks. We met a honeymooning couple there, who were both famous South Indian actors. There was a historical Shiva temple in the elevated little town and a million steps or so to reach the bank of Patala Ganga (hell‟s waters) where you can wash your sins away (duh!). We made the trip to the bank along with the other couple, both dashingly handsome. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if I could‟ve been making such a trip with George. Silly me. George would never have left his cushy little world in L.A. to travel the third world tourist spots with me. I was glad I was with Vinay instead who had all the time in the world for me. We said our good- byes to the couple and promised to keep in touch. I heard later that their cottage had been blown up by the naxals. It was horrifying news and since we already left for the north eastern states by then, it wasn‟t until a week later that we learnt that the couple had already left by the time the cottage was blown up.

Vinay was more affected by the whole incident than I was. He was new to all this. He was a peculiar kind of visitor to the country. Though he had rich childhood memories, his inability to connect with his native country was more profound than what I felt. He tells me, people with immigrant parents like him often end up writing books about not finding their roots in either country. I tell him it is not so, that I‟ve known many Irish, Jewish and Hispanic families who are as much home in America as they are in their native countries. He lamented that it‟s not the same with Indians and showed me his strangely vulnerable side.

After three months of intense travelling, we decided to take a break and settle in a small hill town called Matheron near Bombay. It had pleasant weather, lots of monkeys and red mud. The only mode of transport in the muddy lanes were horses. We rented a little villa and stayed in a lot of time making love. Meanwhile Clooney would paint himself red with the

mud outside and jump on us wagging and licking to match our frenzy. When we got bored in that town, we took the SUV and went to Mumbai, where Vinay and I both had friends. When we got bored with that too, we took off to Kerala to check out the annual rowing competition or to Andhra Pradesh to see how the beautiful silk sarees are made on single-person looms or to gawk at the architecturally amazing Brihadeshwaralaya in Tamil Nadu (or its sexually provocative sculptures) or any place that we read about in the guide book and took fancy to. Sometimes we just stopped at a little village or town and took pictures with the locals. Sometimes I talked to the village heads or administrators to learn about the practices and livelihood there and we stayed over in little rooms or even thatched huts that the villagers accommodated us in. Many times we would pick up a sport or a song or even a handcrafting skill that these villagers had in display for us. We witnessed weddings, rituals, temple dances, superstitions, elephant parades, animal sacrifices, bullock cart races, kite festivals and all that madness that defines the race called India. Almost everybody we met was friendly and open, smiling and chatting away in some strange tongue I could never place. They seemed flattered that a white woman should take interest in them. This point had always baffled me even if it worked for my advantage.

I remember a little girl in a frilly yellow dress I met at the Brihadeshwara temple in Tanjaore. An elephant was blessing the pilgrims and she was shying away from its trunk hiding behind her papa‟s legs, shrieking in that adorable way kids do. She was absolutely beautiful with little curls framing her head. When I said hi to her, she held my hand as though it were fragile, felt its texture as though I were alien. Showing her approval, she then smiled right into my eyes. I felt a lump in my throat as I remembered Lana‟s little daughter. She must be one by now. I so wanted to see her growing up but wistfully shook that thought away as it did not seem plausible in the least.

Almost six months later, around thanksgiving, the actual madness started. Yeah, really! Vinay‟s cousins arrived at our home from Jaipur along with some of their American and European friends and we began the whole travel-n-party brigade. Doing the same that we‟ve done all this time, except being louder, rasher and wilder. Bombay and Goa were first and then we took off for the mountains of the north. We had every kind of intoxicant in our cars and when I protested, “This is India babes! You can always „tip‟ the police.” So we went— driving, riding, rafting, sailing or paragliding—conked out of our heads anytime and anywhere.

Kashmir was closed to visitors at that time because of Pakistani terrorism. So we were at the snow peaked mountains in Ladakh when some of the guys fetched cruisers from a rental. We rode them on a high and mighty road famously known as the Highest Motorable Road in the World. As I rode behind Vinay at a speed that made me dizzy, the valleys and mountains zooming past me, I realized these past six months have been spent exactly like this. Like I was in a raft without oars in the fastest of streams and I had no control whatsoever over the course I was taking. And I wondered why, even as the drive felt so damn good. When we stopped midway to take in the view, I lit up a joint and walked away from the crowd, vaguely remembering that cousin of a friend of friend of mine who did the same thing on the Himalayas. I smiled and settled on the parapet wall. I could see Vinay bouncing along with his friends, his youthful charm lighting up his entire personality, not a care in the world. A tall red haired woman ruffled his hair and he was dragging her by her waist and laughing. I realized at that moment that I should be jealous, but I wasn‟t. It completed Vinay‟s picture somehow. Not the woman, but the whole setting. Vinay‟s picture of a carefree lifestyle, no choices to make, no races to run, no big ambitions, no concerns or even big passions. His parents were moderately well-to-do and he would supposedly join the family business soon. They gave him the money he needed to come to India because they wanted him to learn more about his country. Which, he of course, wasted on immoderate partying.

Vinay was being goaded by his friends about something now. I could see him raising his arms in playful protest and the girls reaching for his t-shirt. He was wearing a soft black t- shirt that made his brown skin glow even more. “C‟mon man, show us some of those famous abs!” I could hear a loud fat cousin of his yelling. He finally succumbed and took off his t- shirt and stretched his arms in the wind standing on a rock, his long hair fluttering crazy in the wind. I envied his simple life at that moment and realized I have fallen into his ways and forgot mine altogether. It was his stream and I was in the oar-less raft. Contrary to this unsettling feeling, I also knew then that I fell in love with him. So I went over and wrapped my arms around his lean athletic body and said it out loud, “I love you”. Vinay looked confused for a moment and then kissed me long and hard on that breathtaking mountain. Everyone around us boorishly hooted. Ah, the thrill of showing off when you‟re with a young unruly crowd!

For Christmas, we were back to our villa in Matheron where we left Clooney with the housekeeper before leaving for Ladakh. He was ecstatic to see me again and licked me top to bottom. Literally. I missed him too, so I let him do it while discussing Christmas decorations in answers to his whimpers. A moment later, Vinay came back from lighting the fire and looked serious.

“I want to go home,” he said. It was a topic we never broached even during our worst fights (mainly because it‟d ruin the make-up sex). Vinay never came to live in India but was just on an adventure thing, while I always made it clear to him what my plans were (which at the moment I couldn‟t recall). I believed then that I have lost my conviction to make a change or maybe it was just my love-sick heart wrenching itself to glory yelling „Don‟t do it again! Don‟t lose him too.‟ This moment echoed the time I followed my impulses instead of George. But that incident had taught me a lesson, never to let go of a guy without knowing my full feelings for him. And especially not after I do!

“Which home? Your home or my home?” I said being silly but biding for time.

“Mine,” he said looking pained.


“And you, will you be going home too?” he asked not looking me in the eye. I looked at him and thought of a cheesy line to say but remodeled it just in case it bounced.

“Is it ok if I say home is wherever you are?”

“Yes, that would be a nice thing to say,” He came grinning to where I am, hugged me tight, bounced in mirth and said he loved me more than anything in the world. After he calmed down, he gave me a cheesy look and said, “Is it ok if I licked you all over like Clooney did?” but by the end of it, he looked as if he wished to reconsider.

I laughed at his expression, “Should I wash up first?”

“Yes, please!”

I lived with Vinay in London for a little more than a year. We had a mostly enjoyable relationship. It would have been totally enjoyable if only my thoughts from my Ladakh didn‟t make regular appearances. In addition to worrying about following his idea of life instead of mine, I was also beginning to wonder if I became dependent on him and if that was the reason I tagged along when he decided to leave India. I sure as hell could not think of going back to India and treading alone in the hot sun now and I hated myself because of my weakened will. For losing my individuality and independence, even if it was for someone I love.

So my mind began a subconscious campaign to make me fall out of love. The most clever one of those, I should say (albeit depreciating on both ends) was the comparison game.

Vinay Singh Rathode
Very handsome
Has a sexy name
Nice voice
Flaky like me. Likes the flake in me
Always in a good mood. (because good things always happen to him)
When bad things happen, quits.
Social issues: Doesn‟t have an opinion
Loves me
Has no clue about my actual profession. Doesn‟t give a shit „coz he doesn‟t have one.
Presents: lavishing (in parents‟ allowance)

George Clooney
More handsome? No can remember. So...„Forgettable.‟
Has a plain common name. Funny last name. Clooney like in loony. Clooney Loony… Me? NO!!!!
Nice voice too. Sexier sex-voice. Sorry Vin.
Witty (preferable over Vin‟s loud jokes I don‟t get sometimes.) Still, a bit too boisterous for me.
Not a flake. Too busy to realize what I am.
In a good mood most of the time, despite all the crap that happens. Scores.
Persist to the point of madness. Still scores.
Has an opinion on some. Not matching mine. A bit of an opinion pusher too. (grudgingly) scores. On Vinay, not me!
Doesn‟t give a shit. But knows about it and kind of respects me for what I am. Scores of course (I have two shitty boyfriends. Now deciding which one‟s shittier. Bear with me)

If you do not count all the half eaten candy bars or free muffins tossed my way, just one. A thin gold chain with a long stone-crusted capsule pendant, a scroll inside, “thought of you when I saw this” Aww. (That‟s it??!)

As I always do, I started getting more and more fastidious as time passed. There were several things I could see are wrong now and there‟s a kind of static feeling settling in. Just the type I dreaded most and escaped many times in past. When all chances of a confrontation failed due to Vinay‟s ridiculously good mood all the time, I resorted to the one final discussion about „that which shall not be discussed‟. He brought Clooney a new collar pendant, gift wrapped and bound in black satin for me to open. The casing had enough look of an engagement ring, so I jumped at the opportunity and said, ignoring the gold dog icon on the top, “Are you proposing to me?”

“No way!” he laughed, “What would I do marrying a silly chicken like you?”

“Are you ever going to marry me?” I asked with a pained but I‟ll-kill-you-if-you-joke-now expression. Vinay looked distracted. He always did when he could figure out trouble‟s on its way.

“God, do we have to talk about that now?” he said taking off his shirt and kicking off his shoes.

“Vinay listen, I am here because I love you. I had so many places I wanted to be but I gave it all up because I couldn‟t bear to live without you. And I know for a fact that it is the same with you. So why are you hesitating to take this to the next step?!”

“It‟s…complicated,” he said sitting on the sofa edge with his head down.

“Why is it complicated? I don‟t understand! Vinay, help me out here. I‟ve known you my entire life and more so in the past two years. But, for the life of me, I cannot understand this!”

“Actually you can if you tried. It‟s not something I talk about everyday but I did tell you once. I can‟t marry you because it‟s not my choice.”

I just stared. I knew what he was going to say and I couldn‟t believe it. I mean those were just unpleasant facts and attributes which never had any effect on our relationship. A nasty deluge that would soak us at some point but could hardly flood the „us‟ off of our relationship! Or was it just my assumption?

“It‟s my family darling. It‟s not the done thing for us to marry outside…the clan. And I‟m not joking about it. In fact, as we speak, my parents are looking for a bride for me in Rajasthan. I‟m sorry. That‟s just the way it is.”

I couldn‟t believe what he just said. And, so nonchalantly…even darling-ing me! I knew that Vinay‟s family could easily describe the superlatives of conservativeness for Indian families world over. Though Vinay had no real ties with his Indian counterparts, his family was very much connected even after all the years spent outside the country. Normal Indian immigrants wouldn‟t have had much objection to our union, or they would‟ve come to terms with it eventually. But Vinay‟s family was into provincial Indian politics, on both sides. All his dad‟s siblings and the generations before were the political bigwigs in but a small district. And marrying a gori wouldn‟t look good on the family profile. But still, it was Vinay. He was very European. He has a perfect oh-so-sexy British accent, he hardly talks about his family, and he has no idea about the family‟s political canvas. And he never, ever gives a shit about anything! Let alone the tandems of regional patronage. How could he? After all this time, all he had to say was they were looking for a bride?! On my face? I went into a screaming fit after that, the details of which I mostly blanked out.

We decided to separate (that or getting kicked out after the „bride‟ comes. You choose).

Days after the resolution were a blur. I considered staying over at Kara‟s but again there would be the question of Clooney, so I stayed. I finally accepted an offer to volunteer with a human rights group in Bombay, that I have been lamely coordinating with over many months. Dad was supposed to come over for Christmas, but I asked him not to, detailing my next project. Every night Vinay would come home very late at night and I would jerk up from deep sleep, heart pounding and tears threatening. But he wouldn‟t come into the bedroom. Instead I would find him in the couch in the morning, his tall body twisted into an awkward frame. After I returned from Clooney‟s walk, he wouldn‟t be home or would be still sleeping. If we did speak at all, it would be about how my plans were going or about Clooney.

Before I left, I asked Vinay just one thing, “Why can‟t you find the courage to say no?” he stared at me blankly.

“It‟s not about the courage to follow your impulses. It‟s about resisting them to make the people you care about happy,” he said without a trace of emotion.

“And you didn‟t care about me?”

“Family is different,” he said with a closed look and shook his head adding unfairly, “I thought you understood Indians.”

I stood in the doorway holding two heavy suitcases and launched into a heady monologue about how he is imagining things and how more people are accepting interracial marriages now-a-days and how I did get the whole arranged marriage syndrome the Indians had and how his family was sort of like royalty in the little province, blah blah blah, “But people could change! Look at Sonia Gandhi!”

“Stop stereotyping in your bloody American way!” he yelled all of a sudden. I cowered. Why am I always such a chicken when men yell?

“Sté-? Ameri-?” I gulped hard, my voice breaking as tears pushed out of corners, “how could you?! How could you say that after all that I have done to understand Indians?”

“Yes, you know about my culture, my family and its intricacies. You are so smart, congratulations,” Vinay continued yelling, “But you are not living what I am living! You wouldn‟t understand! So why don‟t you bloody give up?”

Give up? Easily. Hadn‟t I been doing that a lot lately? But this time, it felt like I was really giving up a piece of my heart, one which I would never be able to retrieve…for more reasons than the situation demanded. I was giving up understanding the brown race that I had always mysteriously felt an intense connection to.

Vinay broke the silence by grabbing my suitcases and trudging down the stairs. Downstairs, he took a long time saying good-bye to Clooney. He would ruffle his head, then hug him, run his hand over the length of his body and hug him again. I looked out of the window as the cab took off and there he was still, standing tall with tears streaming down his face. I lost him after all, didn‟t I?

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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:00

7. Disaster

The concept of Human Rights was new in India at that time. People were not aware of their rights, many worked for far less than minimum wages, lived in slums, were exposed to industrial pollution, suffered domestic abuse, disease, gender discrimination, communal abuse, succumbed to prostitution, driven to begging or worse drug business, gangs and mafia. There were a vast variety of sufferers when I arrived in Bombay and there were so many of them! Months before I arrived here, a series of eleven bomb blasts occurred which were supposedly aimed at killing Hindus. The event is marked in history as the Black Friday. There was serious unrest between the Muslim and Hindu communities at that time and the ultimate sufferers were the poor people who were being uprooted from their dwellings because they belonged to a different community, their employment suddenly withdrawn or abused.

Since I was fluent in Hindi and could speak broken Marathi, I was assigned by the commission to the awareness camps they conducted. I spoke to groups of slum dwellers, individuals, scary eyed women and physically abused children. My co-workers were often aghast by all that they saw and many broke down along with the victims they spoke to. I, however, stayed strangely dispassionate from the whole scene. Some part of me closed down after I pushed Vinay away from my life. I did not think of him, did not think of the suffering women and children I met everyday, and did not think of life back in U.S. I indulged myself in work totally and completely. For me, it was just that…work, not „people‟ and I made sure I was very efficient in accomplishing the tasks. Not waiting for justice to be served in hopeless cases, instead moving on to someone who can actually be helped. Not establishing any personal connections with the victims or conducting follow-ups like others did with the cases they were attached to. It was about numbers for me—so many households educated, so many women received health benefits, so many made use of employment scheme, so many filed cases in the human rights courts and so on. I was lauded, criticized and even hated but the white-woman syndrome prevailed and I was never objected.

After work, I just lounged in my apartment in Andheri, watching Indian television or entertaining friends. I had many friends in Mumbai. Mostly Indians and several others who settled there from European countries. Economic liberalization was the word in the street and nouveau rich were being produced by the dozen. I went to parties with the younger women at nightclubs and emerging discos and played poker at kitty parties with frivolous women of all ages. They all knew what I did and were always full of praise. They did the cursory widening of eyes when I told them gruesome stories and made profuse offers to help which I mostly refused. Because I knew they weren‟t being serious. Some had important jobs, some had huge households to manage and most had their social life which they could hardly do without. Social life had a whole different perspective in Bombay, like the famed English societies everybody wanted to be a part of. And it was easy to be a part of them in Bombay as long as you had the money, so nobody wanted to let up. I was like them in many perspectives with my own selfish priorities, except my job was to help the downtrodden societies. I wasn‟t deeply attached to it. I always wanted to do something meaningful in my life and I was trying. But at the moment, I definitely wasn‟t a saint and never felt like one.

One day at camp, there was a woman sitting at my desk telling me the most gruesome story I‟ve ever heard. She was a daily labor at a small scale book binding industry. Her job was to staple notebooks in the middle. Just one task all day long. She had three kids at home, a toddler she lends in the mornings to a beggar woman to paint her a meeker picture, a small boy of five who cleans tables at a roadside chay parlor, another girl who is married at the age of twelve but has suffered domestic abuse and returned home with a half burnt body. Despite all those efforts to earn, she still lives from meal to meal and so do her children. Her husband is never home and if he is, he grabs all her money, beats the shit out of her and leaves.

And I remember distinctly, that December evening, looking squarely at the distraught woman I had no idea how to help and thinking, „Christmas Grinch‟. I don‟t know why the thought sprang to my head and I berated myself for being such a horrible person. I guess, I was seeing so many distraught women everyday that I had to desensitize myself with dark distasteful humor.

I told her some options we could provide, like filing a case against her abusive husband, seeing to the medical treatment of her daughter and possibly enrolling her son in a Christian missionary school we had ties with. I told her sternly that she cannot put her baby in the beggar‟s hands and berated her for not being strong in the first place. You can tell a woman by the look in her face. If she looked like she could help herself, I used compassionate methods to turn her around, if she didn‟t, I had to be harsh because if I showed compassion she‟d start another weepy tale and end up wallowing in her misery. And that just made me furious.

Ah, here comes the waterworks!!! I disgustedly packed my belongings even as she was weeping helplessly and left for the day. I scared my timid driver by demanding him to drive faster, a few decibels above my normal voice. I was still fuming and thinking to myself I had so many bad thoughts in my head that I am unfit for spreading any good. I recollected my chance visit to Mother Teresa‟s ashram when I was in India for my thesis. Now, there was a woman with heart. Good intentions and lots of time on your hands wouldn‟t just do! You need to have…what‟s that again…faith. Which I didn‟t. I only saw the problems, even the possible solutions, but did I see hope? Hope in spite of everything that is wrong with the world? No.

That was when it struck me. No, It STRUCK ME! The fucking truck. I don‟t even remember seeing it. I was deep in self-discovery for one moment and the next thing I know, I was lying on a blood stained sheet on a stretcher screaming my lungs out. I couldn‟t believe it. This is not happening to me!!!

I fractured my left leg in three places and broke a couple of ribs that thankfully did not cause internal damage. Huh! The irony of life. Of course I was also „very lucky to be alive‟. Visitors poured in and wilting marigolds defined my hospital room. I was something of an icon already and a journalist or two even managed to take bytes. I was disgusted beyond limits. I couldn‟t stand any of them and the big accident did not abate my disgust by any level or bring in any revelations. Another poor woman who was helped by our program coming in

and bawling over my broken body and I would have slit her jugular with my IV needle. I was distraught because what happened to me was unfair but, I didn‟t want anyone‟s pity and certainly didn‟t want me being insanely compared to something of a war hero. All the attention from the emotion-on-the-sleeve Indians was making me remember how horrible I am in reality.

Finally hope came in the form of a surgery. There was a complicated ligament tear in my leg which needs to be operated on. The infrastructure and surgical expertise was available in Indian hospitals but the peers from my organization persuaded I get it done in the U.S. so that there wouldn‟t be any further complications. How the Indians believed us Americans! But I did leave since it was going to take at least half a year for me to recuperate fully and it would be useless and frustrating hanging around like a cripple.

Lana received me in the airport all teary eyed. I was in a wheel chair and was to be escorted directly to the hospital.

“Oh please Lana, as if I‟m not making a spectacle out of myself already,” I chided her.

“I don‟t understand why god should wish this upon my big hearted little sister!” she cried, all set to let out a wail anytime. Strangely, it didn‟t feel awkward, nor did I hate the pity that was coming my way this time. She was, after all, my sister…

After the surgery, I was allowed to go home in a week. I stayed at Lana‟s place, my old apartment, obviously. She went out of her way making room for me, uprooting little Wyona from her pink wallpapered bedroom. Dad and mom came to visit and so did Mischa and Linny and all those friends I left behind. That was the first time my whole family was together in so long. Everybody was happy to see me and only a little sad that I broke my leg. There were gifts and cards, phone calls and cozy long hugs. There was graffiti on my cast, little unruly braids in my hair by little Wy, there was wine and laughter, even barbeque that dad made to entertain my friends. I was so warmed by all their attention and genuinely happy that I was…home.

Not that it lasts! They all went away and Lana went to work, Wyona to the day care center and I was alone again, seething and bored. I couldn‟t move much and absolutely abhorred using the crutches, so I just sat on my bed or couch wondering if bed sores could kill. I read some books but couldn‟t concentrate. My whole existence begun to seem surreal. I was a scholar and professor, I treaded deep forests hoping to remedy a violent situation, I fell in love, made friends all over the world, travelled, travelled and travelled, met downtrodden people many of whom died of starvation or disease, yet here I am immobile, broken bones, broken spirit. Empty as a shell. In addition, someone seems to have struck a tuning fork in that shell lately and it‟s been going hmmm-mmmmm-mmmm….all the time, reminding me, chastising me, rankling me, also accompanying me.

In the weeks that followed, I was abused so totally by the too-many-voices-in-head syndrome that one day I forcefully decided to shut those voices out. By watching T.V. I haven‟t watched American Television in god knows how long. And man, was it an escape! Indian

television was rather too far-fetched from reality that its predictable trance like drama wouldn‟t have prevented my thoughts from making regular invasions. For once, I was glad I wasn‟t in India. First I was checking out some documentary television and I have to say they were good, though depressing. There were people from all around the world who have survived incredible tragedies and chaos and were now reflecting on their lives, before and after. I remembered the essay Christiaan Bernard wrote about his realizations on the „business of living‟ based on his own experiences after a gruesome accident. He met a couple of crippled and abused children and through them he had life changing revelations. He wrote: “I had been looking at suffering from the wrong end. You don‟t become a better person because you are suffering; but you become a better person because you have experienced suffering. We can‟t appreciate light if we haven‟t known darkness. Nor can we appreciate warmth if we have never suffered cold. These children showed me that it‟s not what you‟ve lost that‟s important. What is important is what you have left.”

And oh man, was I suffering! And man, have I seen all ends of suffering already! All of a sudden I wanted to reflect too. I am a humanitarian. I should‟ve done this long ago. But, now that I have suffered the world‟s greatest tragedy too—a broken leg from bugging the driver to go faster—I was all set to find the inner meaning of life. But, as it is, no life changing revelations sprung to mind immediately. So I resorted to documenting the stories of all those downtrodden people I have seen myself. Maybe there will be something to reflect on over there? As I write I will find out.

Man‟s wife picked up by a landlord in a tribal village, raped and killed. Police seek no action, so he joins Dalam, a Naxal force to extract revenge. Landlord killed by other forces before he gets there, and so Dalam asks him to kill some forest official. Man gets scared, runs away, but is shot by his team mates in the leg. His children are unattended, leg amputated, put in jail, man attempts suicide, is stopped, but turns out dead the next day anyway with a head injury. Police report he banged his head to the bars and killed himself. Case closed. Note: Can‟t reach children because Naxalites circled that area. Declared as no-go zone. Reflections: What the….

Lost kid rescued from the debris of a burnt building. No stone left unturned in finding parents. Finally parents are found, but they deny knowing or ever seeing the kid. Kid stays in the hospital even after wounds heal. Kid throws a hysterical fit when offered a place in an orphanage. Stays in the fit for three days straight. Wrong parents summoned again and questioned threateningly. Mother breaks down and tells us the kid is hers, but is so demanding that she had to abandon him. Husband beats her because of kid. Note: Kid, now refuses to go back to parents either. Still maintains the fit. Reflections: Do not let kids demand too much? Kill insensitive fathers? Err…

Woman, 25, four children, worked in a businessman‟s house since she was 10. Jealous wife suspects affair between maid and husband, angrily throws boiling water on toddler. Woman doesn‟t want to complain to the police because she will lose her job. We promise another job, still doesn‟t complain. Sits there bloody weeping! Kid dies. Still no complaint. Wretched coward. GOD I CAN‟T DO THIS!!

I change the channel and watched soap operas after that. All the life-and-death-life-after- death drama seemed like harmless stuff. I was flipping through channels when one show caught my eye with ample promise for drama. There were a lot of women in it, after all. The plot was pretty intense and I was totally hooked and suddenly George was on the screen. Hhrrrmph! Despite my bad mood, I was transfixed, my heart going crazy against my broken ribs. He was cozying up to a pretty woman, behaving just a little different than how he is normally. He seemed a bit too finicky and was either looking down a lot of the time or the camera wasn‟t on him much, but I was fighting with my sore neck to see his face properly. He looked strangely cherubic in that show. Or maybe he was always like that.

It had been a long time, I don‟t even remember all those good times we had (and I wasn‟t about to look up my lovesick notes in the diary) but a warm feeling crept over me. Then he looked towards the camera and smiled. I smiled. Wondered how he was doing. Shut the T.V. Smiled again. Went to sleep.

I spent most of my days corresponding with support groups all over the world, discussing issues and keeping myself up to date with the ongoing welfare activities in Africa, Middle East, Sudan, Vietnam, Korea and of course, India. Rest of the time I watched soap operas and movies. My prognosis was slow and I was advised to rest, rest and what else, rest! There were talks of another surgery which made me weepy on the examination table (and of course reminded me of all those helpless women I silently chastened). When I reached the peak of boredom, I decided to drag myself out of bed and see what else I can do. There was a pile of my stuff in the store-room cum Wyona‟s play-pen which I slowly sifted through. That‟s when I found some old notes Lana dumped in my miniature sandbox. They were the calls I have received ages ago. Misha finally got pregnant—Inform.

Some Mr.Rodrigues. Law professor, UCLA (?).

Mischa miscarried. Wants contact no. India.

I was fuming already that Lana never bothered to tell me all of this. But then, I called home very infrequently. There were so many of them and as I sifted, I was actually piqued by Lana‟s code language and her obvious inability to remember things she just heard. Her frequent (?) marks were quite hilarious indeed. I was silently laughing when it suddenly caught my eye.

George…something. Realtor. And number. Sharp intake of breath. Hurt ribs. Ouch!

This has got to be a sign right? I mean I was watching George on Television and exactly twenty-one days later, I find this. Of course, it‟s a sign! So, what if he‟s married? I can always say hi, right?

“Umm…Hi. May I speak to George please.”

“He doesn‟t live here anymore,” some extra perky voice squeaking, “May I know who‟s speaking?”

I tell her.

“Oh! Ok, alright. Fine. You can reach him at this number,” still extra perky, fast relay of numbers. What’s with the excessive expressions lady?

“Tha—” bang.

I didn‟t call him right away. Something wasn‟t right about that phone call. I waited till evening before I got the courage to call the number again. Lana came in with Wyona just then. While I said my hi‟s I didn‟t realize that the call went to the answering machine.

“Hello?”… “George? Hello?” I hung up.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:01

8. Clooney

Three days later when I was munching popcorn with Clooney on the couch, Lana answered a call.

“Hi. Lana here.”


“Oh no, you don‟t have to apologize. She‟s here actually. Been here since the accident.”

“Oh, you didn‟t know? Ah…actually why don‟t you speak to her. Here,”

And Lana gave me the phone and went into the kitchen. Lana takes her single-mom-dom pretty seriously. She‟s always busy! And when she isn‟t, she pretends to be. “Who is it Lana?” Loud clanking of vessels in the kitchen.


“What accident?”

“Umm…who is this?” Pause. “George?” Boulder rolling where the heart should be.

“Yeah. Hi.”

“Oh my god, hi!!! How are you?”

“I‟m fine. Actually there was a message on my machine the other night and it sounded like it was you. I didn‟t know you were back in L.A…”

Pause. “Yeah…I called some other number you gave Lana years ago and a woman gave me this number. George, did you tell Lana you were a real estate agent?”

“What? Why would I!” he laughs, “actually I might have. Can‟t remember. Lana is your sister right?”




“What accident?” he asked again. Oh crap! Not him too!

“Accident? What accident? It was nothing actually. Lana keeps exaggerating. It was actually a scrape in the knee. Yeah, big one. Bloody!” I said kicking myself.

“Oh and so you left wherever you were and came home to your sister to recuperate?”

“Yeah…you know what a drama queen I can be.” I giggled. Unfortunately for me, just then, Wyona threw a ball that hit Clooney who was snoozing beside me on the couch. Out of

reflex, Clooney jumps up, then jumps on me, goes down and chases the ball. Clooney‟s aim couldn‟t have been more perfect for I threw the phone and doubled over in pain certain that the rib broke again. Lana came running and set me back up and ran to get pain killers while Wyona stopped clapping and was looking terrified. “Lana hand me the phone please,” I yelled after recovering from the shock. Little Wy comes over and looks really cute handing over the phone, her blond pigtails frolicking around her pink face. I smile at her to say everything‟s fine.

“Huh! Sorry about that. So you were saying,” I say still breathless and hoping he would hang up.

“Sweetheart what‟s going on over there? Are you ok?” Sweetheart? Did you just call me sweetheart? You don‟t call old girlfriends sweethearts you married psycho &@#$!

“Yeah „George‟…everything‟s fine. Actually, it was just, I was in the Bombay blasts last year and they had to amputate my leg.”

“WHAT?!” I couldn‟t help laughing at that and then yelling ouch as my rib hurt again.

“Oh relax, it was nothing so dramatic. Just that I was gang raped by some mafia men and now I have AIDS.”

“Your humor is getting sadder as you grow older,” George said in that warning tone of his that always made me jump, “Tell me.” “Nothing George. I‟ve been in a terrible accident in India, broke some bones…so they shipped me back here.”

“That sounds awful. I‟m sorry,” he paused, “Something big is always happening with you isn‟t it?” he chuckled.

“Listen, I‟m going to be in the neighborhood tomorrow. Can I stop by?”

“Sure…” I said thinking of something else, “What? NO!”

“Ha ha. Zoned out as always! I‟ll see you.”

“George!” Click.

People should stop hanging up on me like that!

George was a morning visitor. He came just as Lana was about to leave for office. I was horizontal on my bed, pulse hitting the roof. I could hear them talking in the living room.

“Sorry about bothering you at this time. You must be Lana.”

“Oh not at all. My sister‟s friends keep stopping by all the time. They‟re worried she might just pack her bags and disappear any day!” They laughed.

“Have I seen you on T.V?” Lana asked skeptically.

“Yeah, you might have.” “Thought so! How come she never mentioned…” Lana said mostly to herself and came to tell me about the visitor.

I dragged myself into the living room, ugly cast and all and plonked down on the couch. Lana was eyeing us with curiosity as she was packing a light lunch for Wyona, so we didn‟t talk much when she was around. When they were leaving, I called for Wyona and she came running, her pink bunny backpack bouncing and gave me kiss. Hit me with her hanging sip- on, and I was ouch-ing again and finally they left!

George smiled, “So you‟re living with your sister!”

“Yeah, can you believe it?”

“Not at all! Thought you hated her.”

“I don‟t hate her! She‟s been nothing but wonderful to me all this time.”

“You so did back then. You pretended as if she didn‟t exist. Told me the first time we met that you are „sort of‟ an only child, remember?”

“I did?” I said pretending not to remember.

“Don‟t tell me! Every time you spoke to her on the phone, you‟d make a face.” I made a face because when I was with George, I didn‟t want anybody disturbing.

“You look awful,” he said, genuine concern in his eyes.

“And you‟ve put on weight,” I said diverting the topic. It worked as always.

“Nah..I didn‟t.”

“So did.”

We sat looking at each other and smiling stupidly most of the time. Not believing we are actually with each other, not believing so much time has passed, not knowing where to start. Awkward as I am with silences, I told him in bits and pieces about London, the whole touring of India, Vinay and the year long gig as a human rights activist in India.

“Human rights huh?” he said in wonder emphasizing the difference between our two worlds, “You must tell me all about it someday,” then added, “you must be great at all this stuff.”

I laughed wryly, “Not really! I‟m like this stern old fat woman in the soup kitchen who‟d give you only two lumpy meatballs in your soup. „Enuf for ye lazy skinny bum!‟” I mimicked

“Ahh…I missed that dark humor of yours!”

“And I missed you,” I murmured to myself. It was an unsettling revelation, even to myself. Talk about revelations! Here I was trying figure out the meaning of life one moment and was mooning over a long lost relationship in another. I shouldn‟t even feel this way for what was

supposed to be just a short romance. Almost four years have passed. It‟s utterly ridiculous. I blamed my feelings on my currently vulnerable state and went on making small talk as George made coffee for us. He blurted out that he was divorced. I didn‟t know what to make of that, so I went on with insensate babble. He didn‟t have to work that morning but had an audition at twelve. But I guess he got bored after sometime and made as if to leave. I felt this huge pull inside me to ask him not to. But I didn‟t.

“Can I do anything for you before I leave? Are you comfortable?”

“No, I‟m fine, thanks.”

“Ok…alright then…”

“Actually…there is a little something you could do. But…err…I don‟t know. Maybe not!”

“It‟s ok, tell me. Need to use the loo?”

“Oh please!” I giggled, “I can manage that on my own. Thank you very much. But, I was wondering if you got time…if you could take my dog on a little walk.” Clooney looked up from the carpet at that hopefully, “Actually Lana promised me but eh…she‟s always busy. He‟s a really outdoorsy dog. Travelled with me everywhere I went. It hurts me to see him bored at home all the time…because of me.”

George looked confused at my request but said ok. I was overjoyed. I was really worrying about Clooney for a long time.

“Alright then lets go…umm…what‟s his name? Matt right? After your dad?” George asked me with a comic expression. I laughed. Oh what the hell. “He‟s Cloo—”


“Yeah! He‟s uh…really good at finding clues. So…”

“Hey Clue! Hey come here boy…Clue, come here...He doesn‟t seem to respond.”

“Ok fine, his name is Clooney! I‟m sorry!” I said burying my face into the couch. George let out a loud strange expression that hadn‟t been added to the urban slang yet. “You‟re unbelievable!”

“I missed you so much in India and Clooney looked just like you….!” I whined, still buried.

George experimentally called Clooney and he jumped up from his place. “Ah! You really are a Clooney, aren‟t you?” he said ruffling Clooney‟s head. George left with Clooney asking him if he did really think of himself as George Clooney, laughing to himself.

I sat the whole time smiling to myself and looking at George in T.V. In a wave of teen-ish fatuous indulgence I thought, „Wow, it‟d be so nice to marry an actor. If he‟s at work, you can see him on T.V. and that way you‟d never miss him.‟ Till he kisses some red headed

bitch on screen of course, which George was doing now. Wait, did I say marry? Be Friends with! That‟s what I meant. Really.

I‟ve been to places I never thought I would be, did things I never thought I would, grabbed every opportunity at sight and leave it be after some time. The reasoning module in my brain must be dysfunctional, surely. I read somewhere that women have less gray matter in the frontal lobe and more white matter than men, maybe that‟s the reason behind all my indecision. You can bet on it that I‟ve never encountered any man who went career—cause— fun—love—another-cause—passing-time and is ready to go full circle again! All the jumping from one intellectual (or not-so-intellectual) zone to another and one emotional level to another totally different must be because of the abnormal white matter infestation in my brain. Did the scientists have me as the prime specimen for their studies or what? Anyways the point is, even if I was to think of me and George seriously and pretend that it is the kind of finding-someone-you-lost-and-vow-to-never-lose-again thing, I would just lose that belief in a jiffy and be packed and ready waiting for my next escape. I let out the hugest sigh in my life (if such a thing is possible). For all that I might be thinking, George could just be showing pity in my current state. Seriously, who just drops in on someone you broke up with a million years ago? It‟s unnatural. Have to be the pity. Shucks!

It didn‟t seem so unnatural though when George came back with a hyper-happy Clooney and kissed me good bye on the lips. Not a simple peck that reflects the affectionate familiarity we share, but one that reasserted his claim in the two seconds it lasted. Even with the ugly voice in my head resurrecting itself “What the fuck do you think you are doing??!” I didn‟t resist. Then I wondered what must be going on his head. Is it just me or did everyone in the world stopped thinking and started „doing‟?

Why can‟t we ever talk of our feelings for each other like two normal people? Why didn‟t we ever? “I like you and I still miss you. Can I kiss you good bye?” Two lines, how hard could it be? Or “George, why did you kiss me?” “Because I still like you.” End of story. Finito! But, did either of us speak? No.

There was no other guy in my life who made me feel like two words are too much. It was always non-verbal (even in our heads!) communication between us and I can tell you now that it‟s highly overrated. In fact this was the first time that I ever gave it such deep (verbal) thought. With George it always felt like, even born and living in the same country, we are from two different worlds, so disparate that we could as well be starring in one of those alien movies and people would totally buy it. I could see it now. He would be like, “Where are you from?” and I‟d be “Hmm-ting-ling-ding” “Oh, I see. Do you like me?” “Ding-ping- ttttrrrrrrrr!” “Awesome”

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:02

9. If Life Isn’t A Surprise, What Is?

It all started after my second surgery. A series of events I would never have anticipated. All this while, my actions were never dictated or even remotely influenced by my friends or family. They were all independent in a total and complete sense. And I have to accept now that it had been awfully long since I actually thought about anybody except myself. Even when I was in a relationship with George or Vinay. But they were all there for me, even when I skipped Christmas presents or forgot to wish them for their birthdays, dad, Mischa, Linny and now Lana.

It was Mischa who originally started it, “Will you be going back to India after you recover?” Her face was a mix of hope, dread and anger. A minute frown, slightly narrowed but downcast eyes, slightly raised eyebrows, pursed lips, oh, she was a sight alright!

“I don‟t know sweetie. I‟ve left so many things in the middle when I left here. I feel obligated towards that organization and some of the people I helped.”

“So you‟re going?” Pursed lips gone, angry but sad eyes.

“I said I don‟t know. I might. I have to go for a while at least.”

“But you are not happy there!”

“What? What makes you think that?”

“Oh I know alright! You start with your whole needy-people-need-me drama and take off without a word and then come back a year later with a sad face and dead eyes! I‟ve been seeing you, haven‟t I? Ever since you declared out of the blue that you want to leave everything for hungry people in the east, you‟ve lost that spark in you.”

“That‟s bullshit!”

“Oh yeah? Then how do you explain falling for that dork Vinay?”

“Wha-ah..What? How is it even related?”

“You‟ve become someone else Cash!” Ahem…that‟s not my name. There was a point of time when I talked about nothing else than money, shopping, shoes and more money. Mischa and I became best friends at that time and she nicknamed me that. That was a phase which passed as well.

“But what about Vinay?”

“Oh please, I know he‟s a dork. You would‟ve never gone out with him if you weren‟t so confused and restless in the first place.”

I didn‟t have an answer to that. I never thought of it that way. I mean Vinay was fun…right?

“You were fun—”

“I‟m not fun now?”

“Shut the fuck up and listen,” really mad eyes now, “You were fun as in you loved things you know…little things. Like going shopping or that ass-clown book club of yours or just sitting around doing nothing. And now you‟re like, you pick up a book or even a thread of conversation and mid way you‟d be like, „What the fuck am I doing?‟ I know you‟ve seen horrible things where you have been and that might have changed you. But it did not make you happy! I wouldn‟t know about high ideals and sacrifice and all that honey, but I do know this much that if you‟re not happy doing what you‟re doing, you shouldn‟t do it.”

“It‟s not that simple Misch.”

“It IS that simple! You don‟t feel like you‟re really helping these people, do you? Isn‟t that what‟s always been eating you?”

I looked at Mischa in surprise. Mischa was fun, caring, adorable, frivolous, sweet, but insightful?

“You think I didn‟t know? You know what they say about contentment right? You can find it in people‟s faces! Normal people, who are just enjoying their job or their life have it. And you should‟ve had it ten times stronger. But you never did!”


“I‟m not finished!” she raised her arm, her voice breaking a little, “I knew I might not be able to say all that I wanted to in the way I wanted to. So I wrote it down and you must listen.”

“Mischa! You‟ve spent too much time in the waiting room, didn‟t you?” I asked almost shocked (Mischa pulled written down speeches on me before).

“Just sit tight and listen!” she said, coming back from her reverie for just a second.

“Not like I could run! Perfect timing Misch. Bravo!” She chuckled. Mischa was one of those people who could never be serious for longer than five minutes.

“Ok! Listen now!” She giggled, unwrapping a crumpled piece of paper which was abused a bit too much. And there were tear stains on it.

“Ok, here we go! It is a sad fucked up world we are born in.”

Not the most brilliant opening I heard…Mischa giggled again at my expression and then shushed herself.

“There is so much that is not fair in this world, that you might blame yourself for even being born on the fairer side.”

I was intrigued. It was totally unlike Misha. Mischa looked at me and put a finger on her lips.

“But you don‟t own the world!”

I chuckled. Couldn‟t resist it. Mischa raised a hand without looking at me.

“ You don‟t own the world, you only own you. You don‟t own the world, you‟re not responsible for all things wrong with it. You‟re just a part of this world and you only have one chance at it. You only own you and you are responsible for you! So my dearest, live If just a little, Just for you.

And then it was dad‟s turn. Dad didn‟t turn philosophical on me like Mischa did. Instead, he turned emotional. Mischa and dad must‟ve exchanged bodies surely. People, act like yourself! Especially when I‟m hooked to an IV and can‟t knock your teeth off!

I woke up the next morning with my heart beating loudly. I always feel dreadful waking up in a hospital. It was the same last time and worse in India. Dad was holding my hand looking elsewhere. He slept the night in my room despite my insistence that I was fine alone. He knew otherwise though, thank god for that! I noticed tears welled up in his eyes and my inexplicable dread reached its peak.

“Dad what‟s wrong!” I croaked. “Oh, nothing sweetie!” he said suddenly embarrassed, not meeting my eyes. He was darting his head looking for a place to hide his tears. My dread vanished and I smiled. “It‟s ok. I saw you! What‟s wrong daddy?” I asked pressing his hand. “It‟s nothing actually…” he said and suddenly held my glare. The dread began again, “Sweetie, I don‟t want you going back to India.” “Dad! Not you too!” “I don‟t know what I was thinking when I let you loose on your suicide mission!” “What the hell are you talking about daddy?” “All those bombings, those riots! Seriously, what was I thinking sending you away on your own to some terrorist ridden country?” “It wasn‟t your decision dad,” I said mildly irritated. Not that he bothered to hear. “And now, look at you!” “Ok, that‟s it! I was in an accident, not a bombing. What is wrong with you today?” I asked exasperated. “Dad, please don‟t ruin my morning. I‟m not in an exceptionally bright place here, you know?” I said using my grossly bandaged leg as armor. “You are not going back. That‟s it. It‟s an ultimatum.” He said with a closed look using his favorite grounding-term. “I‟m not sixteen, dad. Stop bugging me.” “Then why are you acting sixteen? You‟ve always acted on your whim and fancy.”

“I did n—” “And I didn‟t object because you were intelligent. But it‟s obvious now that you cannot take care of yourself.” “So this is my fault?” I shrieked pointing towards my legs adding more insanity (and prickly tears) to the already-pointless argument. But dad still wasn‟t hearing me. “Those countries are violent. Those people are violent.” “And people here have the guns.” “Every other day there is some bombing or a riot killing hundreds of innocent people—” “And people here choose to die in war.” “Some white woman raped, tortured and murdered!” “Oh, talk about sex crimes!” “Or it‟s just their sister country ransacking bullet holes into entire towns and villages.” “Lik—” “And then my daughter lands up with broken bones telling me she‟s been in an accident and wants me to believe that.” Huh! “It‟s not that dramatic daddy. You read all this in news and you think all the people over there must be suffering or attacking. But, it‟s just a normal country with a different set of problems than we do. That‟s all!” “I don‟t care. I don‟t want to be old and alone wondering if my only daughter is alive or dead 8000 miles away from me.” “Only daughter?!” “Do you even realize I‟m old now?” Dad asked sadly shaking his head. Old? Hardly! Dad was fifty six. Looked forty-five. He was the one who made me think sexy ruffled professors existed in the first place. And he dates women (all the time!) half his age. Old? Yeah right. Emotional blackmail? Exactly. Mischa entered the room just when I was saying, “What would I do staying here dad…?” “Hey Sweetie! Hey Matt! You guys discussing something? Should I come back later?” “Ye—” “No. Of course not! Come on in Mischa,” that was dad. Like he ever said no to Mischa! I never understood the bond between them both, “So I just told your friend here that she will not be going back to India.” “That‟s wonderful! I was telling her the same thing yesterday—suggesting.” “Oh perfect!” I couldn‟t help but laugh, “You two ganging up now? Didn‟t you hear anything about hospital manners?” Dad ignored me, “So thoughtful of you Mischa!” and looked at me resuming our previous conversation, “Why, you could go back to your career.” “What career!” I smirked, refusing to go into darker subjects. “Or you could go into business with me!” Mischa piped in. “Yes you could! I‟ll invest,” Dad blurted with zero thought process. Mischa looked unabashedly hopeful at that. Business indeed! Her boutique was a shack.

Lana was all in for it too.

“That‟s amazing! We can finally have all that sister time under the same roof that we dreamed about as kids.” Err…what dreams? She did?

“But Lana, I can‟t stay here! Wy is growing up. I can hardly be in your way.”

“That‟s ridiculous. This is a huge apartment. If need be, we can throw out all those ridiculous paintings of dad‟s in the store room and remodel it for Wy.”

“Ridiculous paintings?”

“Oh! Weren‟t they? I‟m sorry,” Lana looked apologetic.

“Actually they are.” She laughed in relief.

“Great! So, it‟s settled then.”

“Nothing is settled! Lana, Wyona is a little kid! What if, say, either of us wants to get dates home?”

“Oh that‟s ok…You can go into your room. I only ever make out on the couch. Didn‟t you know that?”

“No!” I looked puzzled, “But thanks for telling me!” We laughed.

“Seriously, I want you to stay. Wyona is attached to you. And really, what other family have we got?”

So, that was it. Those were the three conversations that changed the course of my life forever. In a good way.


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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:02

10. The Team

After the first physiotherapy session which I whimpered my way through, I resisted the urge to take painkillers. My entire body felt sore and tender. The pain lingered for a long time but it helped me think. I picked up an old sketchbook and began drawing an art form I learnt from some villagers in one of mine and Vinay‟s explorations. The villagers practiced it on mud walls with a special stylus made from a form of coal. The art form made no sense to me at first. It was full of shapes, different yet integrated. It looked beautiful but it was unlike the other tribal art forms which included simple shapes like wheel or the mango or dots and stars. When the artist made the intricate drawing, other villagers were singing what seemed to be a ritualistic song. I had one of the locals translate the song for me and that is when the art made sense. A bull‟s horn and a harvesting sickle indicate livelihood, a leaf of Neem and a fountain of water indicate health, a woman‟s breast passion, a watchful eye god and an encircling intertwined vine connecting the dots of several diversified elements of life. There were no rule to the art form and no end of elements included. It was freestyle and the shapes could be made out only when the artist was drawing them. Later they blended beautifully with other shapes till all that remained was a complex yet captivating fresco. When I was making the sketch, my thoughts wandered from the clouds that represented my innumerous plane rides, tears that distorted the eyes of beautiful women, roads that snaked the mountains, sweets offered to me in barren homes, the tiny wavy pattern on my dad‟s Egyptian muffler, Clooney‟s curved lips and the meeting point at his nose, falling leaves in London‟s autumn, the little girl‟s shape when she was cowering from the elephant in Brihadeshawara temple, the outstretched arm of a beggar girl, George‟s shoulder blades when we were making love, the tiny moon shaped freckle at the start of my cleavage, Wyona‟s pigtails….

I was interrupted by dad who came straight from the airport. He was dropping in a lot lately which irritated me a little but delighted Lana and little Wyona. He semi-retired from his job and was giving guest lectures in various cities now. He was planning to move back into our old house. “To be closer to you.” Mischa and dad were planning the expansion of the boutique in full force, throwing me tidbits now and then. But dad didn‟t know anything about business and I can say Mischa wasn‟t a pro either, so they were waiting for me to join in the expedition with full passion. When I finally said ok, dad came back for an extended stay.

So the team united over dinner for the first time.

Dad: brusque investor Mischa: desperate partner Mischa‟s husband Larry: worried stakeholder Me: unwilling partner Mum (oh yeah her!): cynical business consultant Lana: coffee maker Wyona: interpreter for the dollhouse Linny: comic relief

Point‟s team agreed on:

Mischa‟s boutique is bleeding money.

Business plan revamp

Theme and outlook change (Mischa: Na-ah! Larry: Ssshhh)

Points team did not agree upon:

Changing it into a boutique restaurant.

Wedding boutique based on mom‟s connections (Dad: your designer friend Michelle? Did you ever look at our wedding album?)

Pet accessory and grooming store (Team at me: Sssshhhh! Clooney: Woof! Wy: That means dear Barbies, no more shampoo for me.)

The discussion went on till dessert and a round of coffee later, mostly involving jibes at each other, loud jokes, mockery, sarcasm and laughter. Wyona was put to bed and Lana went on to clear the dishes. Linny‟s fiancée picked her up and Mischa and hubby looked like they might start throwing vases at each other any moment. My sore body reminded me of its pathetic state once again and I was ready for bed. Then out of the blue, dad said to me, “That sketch you were working on when I just came, get it for me sweetie.”

When I did, dad was like, “My, isn‟t this inspired from the wall art of an independent sub tribe of the Warli‟s? They are very different from their parent tribe…”

“Yes dad! How did you know?” I asked in surprise.

“Came across it in a convention for extinct art forms. Not extinct after all, eh?”

“Not at all. Actually, a bit on the verge…”

“Hmmm…you missed the five elements of nature in your sketch,” dad said pointing my folly.

“That‟s not necessary. It is a representation of life. It can include any elements you want.”

“It‟s incomplete,” dad said tossing my drawing aside.

“I didn‟t do it to recreate an „extinct‟ art form dad. I did it for myself and there are no similar defining elements in everybody‟s life,” I made a comeback throwing my head.

“You don‟t understand art.”


“Matt, leave her be. I think that‟s a lovely sketch darling,” mom said studying it, “It actually looks quite modern with some ethnical elements included. You know so much about different cultures, don‟t you?” giving me a sweet smile that I longed to see more of when I was a kid.

“Yes she does!” Mischa pipes in, “she babbles all about them like a geek in full form telling me about some people who worship frogs. Oh, what do I care?”

“Honey, why don‟t you develop the boutique with remote art forms?” dad quipped and suddenly became serious, “You got India, I can assist you with the African and Middle- Eastern art. Wow, you could have your own art gallery!”

“Oh please, Matt! You can‟t just go into art business just because you found some hippie in the mountains charcoaling his way to glory,” mom rebuked.

“Of course you can! And art is not just a painting dear ex-wife. The gallery can include sculptures, handicrafts, décor, jewelry and lots of other artifacts from different ethnic groups! What do you think sweetie?” Dad asked me.

I didn‟t answer. I was sitting with a major frown at an idea that sprung to my brain at that moment. First there was this question of why it never occurred to me before. Squashing that thought there was a volley of possibilities, places and names that were popping up by the second. And then there was the store building itself in superfast animation with colors and patterns, products were being made and designs were already warring each other for center display. And then there was a woman with several large silver rings on her nose and ears, dark skinned and clad in a red cotton saree, smiling. Smiling a smile I have never seen before, a smile so dazzling that it made my eyes prickle with tears.

“She thinks its bullshit. Look at her,” mom said.

“I don‟t think so, but thank you for clarifying why I divorced you.”

“I divorced you.”

“Same thing!”

“Honey, what‟s wrong? You look perturbed. Is the leg hurting you?” mom asked with concern ignoring dad.

“No mom,” I said, “not anymore. Mischa, I need to talk to you. First thing tomorrow. Pack up people, it would be mine and Mischa‟s game from now on. And thank you all for your support,” I finished decorously.

As everybody was leaving, I said to dad, “Dad, that was a wonderful idea, thank you.” Dad smiled and kissed me goodnight.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:03

11. BIG Opening

I made my first trip to India after recuperating fully with Mischa. She was skeptical about the business idea but didn‟t have a reluctant bone in her body to come visiting. My idea was simple, to reach the artisans of deep villages and find adaptable products that can be offered to the market in L.A. Beaded belts or embroidered shawls, silk scarves, patterned dresses, wicker shoes and all those little accessories that America was overloading itself with in the „90s. These artisans are generally very talented. Once I watched a villager make a wicker chair in exactly twenty minutes. But the problem was there is a whole circle of wholesalers before the stock could reach the markets. For example, the famed silk saree which could sell for as much as Rs.20,000 in the markets is made on single person looms in a poor hut and is sold to the traders for as little as Rs.5000. While it takes weeks or even months to finish a single saree, the artisan actually makes as little profit as Rs.500 on his product. I knew a lot of these artisans personally. I‟ve met tons of them in my tours and heard how their systems work and all about their problems. I knew exactly where a certain kind of dyeing is done and where every piece of junk jewelry in Bombay markets is coming from. So I was confident that I would be able to reach and employ some of these people and provide them with a more profitable life. Besides, with the Indian economy cutting down export taxes significantly, as a part of the economic reforms that begun the year before, there was good enough scope for profit. But first I‟ll have to convince Mischa.

The minute we set foot in Bombay, Mischa wrinkled her nose and said, “Oh, what‟s that smell?”

“Which smell honey?”

“I don‟t know that sickly sweet smell. Don‟t you smell it?”

“Must be the humidity. Relax, you‟ll get used to it.”

“Humidity? Oh, is that why my hair‟s all stuck to my scalp?”

Ok! This is not going to be easy.

Mischa looked at my apartment building in distaste. It was in the midst of a dusty street with an open culvert on one side and a pile of waste on the other. She entered with major trepidation and was relieved to find my apartment very neat and very airy. Courtesy Charuma, my maid, who started cleaning up days before we arrived. For the first few days, Mischa complained about everything. The food, the water, the roads, the traffic, the crowd, even the municipality and political bodies. Even in the cleanest shopping districts in the city, which, in my regard are quite modern, she would crane her neck 180 degrees and yell, “Look, look, look, that man is peeing on the wall!” When we were walking home one Saturday, I stopped her from stepping on fresh cow dung and she went, “Eww, ewww, eww” all the way till Sunday.

Mischa did not rest her case till she met the first artisan. He made jute slip on shoes and sandals that were embellished with opaque gems and crystals. Mischa bought five pairs for

herself on the spot. She found carved beads that she would wrap around her arms, neck and even ankles. She would pick up religious symbols made of brass or crude iron and badge herself up, tiny trinkets she would hook to her braid, wrap herself in patterned scarves that tea leaf collectors use in the hills, collect dry herbs from tribal vendors and potpourri my apartment and paint her arms with henna tattoos, not to mention her considering herself an ace henna-printing-block connoisseur. She became this crazy American hippie that everyone would watch in amazement or ridicule as she walked the streets. But, no, she did not go actually wild till we went to Kashmir and she would wear their dresses for days on end like the little kid who wouldn‟t come out of his superman costume.

We mainly collected stock from several towns and villages that month. Mischa didn‟t complain even when we had to stop at a village with no electricity or loos! We had to check the response in the boutique first to give larger orders and form a better supply chain, which as per my idea should support poor families. Some of the stuff I collected in India already adorned the store window and as per Larry‟s reports, people did seem interested. We packed our one and half month worth of loot and had it shipped home.

On the plane back, a very happy Mischa suddenly decided to concentrate less on her chunky silver bangles and neckpiece made of coins and started prodding me with questions. She met many of my friends in Bombay and a couple of human rights activists I worked with and now wanted to know everything about them. She was particularly interested in a tall guy with moustache who was a polo champion.

“Didn‟t you ever hook up with him?” I said no.

“Why not?! He looks amazing and oh, how he rides that horse!”

“I don‟t know Misch. I guess I was too busy.”

“Ok…what‟s up with you and George Clooney anyways? You never tell me anything anymore!”

“What about him?” I asked exasperated.

“Well, you guys hooked up when you came back after the accident right? What happened after that?”

“Nothing…He got busy, I got busy. We haven‟t seen each other much. Not at all in the past couple of months.”

“That‟s because you were in India with me. C‟mon tell me!”

“I don‟t know Misch, there was too much that is unsaid in our relationship that I didn‟t feel like pursuing.”

“Stop shitting me! You guys break up like ages ago and even then you haven‟t had a bad word for him. Then you come back after your crazy hippie phase all injured and fucked up

but it‟s like five years haven‟t passed between you two! You two are meant for each other or something.”

“That or we are just two people taking advantage of each other‟s no-strings-attached status quo.”

“That sucks.”


“So this Vikram guy…do you think he would have gone out with me if I wasn‟t married.”

“I‟m not sure honey. Depends on if he could see through the innumerous colors you were decked up in.”

Back in L.A, Mischa and I stenciled the boutique walls with the designs we brought with us. We hired a good painter to finish it and Mischa took over the rest of the decor. She was too worried that if I contributed more, I‟d make the store look like a tribal museum. We hired a designer to use all the accessories and materials we collected to assemble outfits. We dressed mannequins in colorful Kashmiri shawls and stonewash denim, brass and coin bracelets till the elbow, headpieces and designer sunglasses. We made separate blocks for each look that the designer created for us and adorned the walls with artifacts. Then we set up a little coffee counter with the few handcrafted rosewood tables and chairs we imported and decked them with patterned table cloth with beads falling from edge to ground.

For the opening, we had about sixty guests, champagne and a major star attraction of course, since George was there. That was the first time I and George were out together in public after we started seeing each other again and the first time we met after I returned from India. I was wearing a pale pink tube dress accessorized with chunky bangles made of brass and lac, a thin chain adorning the centre parting of my hair with a small diamond pendant falling at the center of my forehead like a bindi. I teamed the outfit with a gossamer silk scarf woven with gold thread in Kancheevaram style and brass colored stilettos. The outfit was a huge hit till George arrived and after he did, he was. He just started appearing in ER and all my friends wanted to know how I know him and how they never knew that I know him. Until Mischa bludgeoned everyone to look at the collections. She didn‟t particularly like George and was not going to let him steal her show. After the party trickled down to parties of two and three, George pulled me aside and told me the store was lovely.

“So do you see yourself finally settling in?” he asked with a curious smile. I returned it with an unsure one. George was wearing a coffee colored shirt that day with slacks, looking dapper as ever.

“You could have worn a suit! Didn‟t I tell you it‟s my big BIG day?”

“I was late coming from work. Besides you dressed up like a hippie, what does it matter?”

“I didn‟t! I just accessorized my evening gown differently to go with the collection we are presenting.”

“That‟s what I said.”

“No you didn‟t. Walk me home?”


I told Mischa my leg was acting up again and left with George. One of the few virtues of being in an accident is you can use it as an excuse for years later, a privilege which I totally abused. George laughed at my connivance and handed me my coat. I was waiting for him outside under the street lamp when George came out and gave me a long kiss. He looked different that night. He acted different. A little less modest, a little more flamboyant, sly even, cocky for sure. Maybe I was just imagining things. George had always been a people person. Few as they were, every friend of mine he met, he floored. The more they were the more he became an object of gravity. And then there was Mischa, who George accorded with cool indifference, his tilting modest smile vanishing at the sight of her and an imperceptible nod taking its place. I asked him about it. He denied being any different to her when compared to the rest of the people in the party.

“Why keep the only person who matters most to me at a distance when you‟ve let everyone else in?!”

“Did I?” Did he? Let everyone else in? He kissed me again as he said, “Did I keep her at a distance I mean?” My head screamed a resounding yes as I sunk into him and then strangely, I also realized that he did not, in fact, let any of my other friends in. He was just entertaining them, giving them what they want, telling them funny stories, smiling through his teeth. I broke the kiss and sighed heavily. I looked up into his eyes that seemed to be alit with perennial humor. What a waste…

It felt like something I need to pick an argument about, because that‟s what people in relationships (however nondescript they are) do, isn‟t it? So I smiled to myself and let it go. I guess it‟s a matter of how much you care when it comes to trudging through ambiguous subjects based on just a feeling.

So I just stood there running a hand through his hair, laughing inside quite like him, over irony that evaded comprehension. I asked, “Since when do you have grays in your hair?”

George looked intrigued, “Since always.”

“What do you mean since always? No they weren‟t!” He shrugged.

“You‟re kidding me right? You came directly from the shoot, it must be some silly make up they made you wear.”

He laughed and asked me how I supposed they do that.

“You never pay attention to me, that‟s why you didn‟t notice.” The irony exploded in my head and I burst into laughter.

“What! I don‟t pay attention to you? You don‟t pay attention to me!”

“Nah…and even if I didn‟t, it‟s because you didn‟t.” George was giving me a mischievous smile. I knew he was up to something.

“Common let‟s walk,” I said, disturbed a little.

“You don‟t have an answer for that?” “I do. You don‟t pay attention to me. Period.”

“No you don‟t.”

“You don‟t!”

“Alright lets get to the details and decide. How many times have you seen my shows?”

“That‟s an unfair „detail‟! Why do you ask that anyways? Your celebrity ego hurting?” I asked nudging him with my elbow.

“No, it‟s just weird that you don‟t.” “Ok, did you read the paper I published on extinct Indian art forms?”

“When did you do that?” “I didn‟t but would you have read it if I did?” He laughed sarcastically.

“That‟s an unfair argument. Stupid too. Ok, how many times did you take off to India or some other place without bothering to tell me? You didn‟t tell me the first time you went, you didn‟t tell me when you went to Seattle and all those places to meet people, you didn‟t tell me when you were off for your shopping trip with Mischa. Well, is that paying attention?” George asked with mock-incredulity.

“You weren‟t available when we went this year! I left a message on your machine. Oh and you really want to go back all those years and talk? Do you know how many times you stood me up on dates?”

“That‟s because you pretended as if you didn‟t care either way! Ok, tell me how many times?”

“Eh…I don‟t remember. But a lot many times!” “You forgot my birthday.”

“You didn‟t wish me on Valentine‟s Day!”

“You didn‟t write to me once in all those years you‟re away.”

“You married someone else the minute I left town!” The look on George‟s face made me giggle with mirth.

“Ok George, so we‟re not crazy about each other. I guess. What‟s your point now?”

“Nothing!” he said pulling me close, his eyes cast down, a faint smile twitching in the corners, “there is no point…” and the smile disappeared.

“Well…” I fumbled and for a second there I felt my hopes rise, “should there be? I mean there should be—”

“No. Of course not. There is no point.”

I didn‟t say anything and immediately blanked out as I do when I come across uncomfortable subjects. For a while we were just walking silently and I was struggling to keep up with George who seemed to have picked up pace lost in his own thoughts. At one point though, he stopped suddenly and turned around till I caught up.

“With you it‟s like I‟m always so close, yet so far. It‟s like the difference between us is what‟s pulling me to you and also what‟s keeping me away…Why is that?” I looked at George uncomprehendingly and then chuckled, a tad nervously. If he really wanted to „talk‟ he could‟ve just told me he liked me or that I‟m wearing a fabulous dress (which I am!) or that he‟s going to miss me if I go to India again after Christmas, like I planned. But this? This damn facet of our relationship which had better stay under the wraps! Because it‟s unexplainable, that‟s why. You feel like you have this amazing connection but you have nothing in common, you feel like you can‟t separate at one moment and years later when you reunite it feels just the same. You feel like you have to spend all your time with someone and you don‟t have a word to speak. I shrugged and told George about my little alien communication theory then and he laughed all the way home.

That night I as I was lying on George‟s shoulder, I said to him with my eyes closed tensely fiddling with his fingers, “Do you know why I never watch you on T.V.?”


“Because the habit, I know, would hurt…later.”

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:04

12. Activist Syndrome

The collection went smoothly. Mischa was a wonderful salesperson. She dressed in all awesomeness everyday and chatted away with the customers like they were her BFFs. She had little knowledge about the pieces themselves. She‟s been there herself to pick them up but somehow details that did not include texture, finish and finesse did not reach her brain. I told her about a miniature painting of Lord Krishna made by a leprosy inflicted man who had only two fingers that worked, one of which is a stub. Yet he produced the painting in less than an hour his balance perfected down to eyelash details.

I could hear her telling the story to one of the customers and adding her own little saga at the end, “Only lepers can make these paintings, you know. With such perfection I mean. In India they have a whole team of lepers working away in their thatched workshops. I‟ve met them personally.” At this there were some oohs and aahs from her audience and she continued, “Yeah, only they can make this style of miniature paintings. Did you know that ten percent of all our profits go to their upliftment?”

Some seven people gathered around Mischa as she continued with the concocted tale of the artists and several others cocked their heads her way. I was walking to assist her when she threw me a coy smile that said „don‟t you dare ruin my show‟. That and, “At one point it started pouring outside and we couldn‟t leave the premises. So we just stayed and watched the artists working but unfortunately, the rain started trickling down the wild palm leaves used to thatch the hut. And these are handicapped people, they can‟t move as fast as we do. The trickle fell straight on one artist‟s canvas,” I recognized the story. Actually, we were at a rural workshop that made clay sculptures. I smiled to myself wondering what Mischa was cooking up now. “And he was looking rather dejected that the piece he worked on for five hours was ruined. So he threw it away to a corner. And suddenly, to our amazement a squirrel came in from the drain hole and rubbed its body all over the ruined painting,” her audience looked curiously amused. You’re losing it Mischa!

“Now these are not ordinary squirrels ladies, don‟t look so dubious. These are Rama‟s squirrels, you know, the hero of Ramayana, the one with Sita and everything? They are a special species that dwell only in that particular region because that‟s where Rama is born. A- Yoda was it?” she asked looking at me. I stood like a rabbit caught under headlights. I really wished she didn‟t involve me.

“Ayodhya,” I said and quickly looked away as if I had to attend to something very important I just remembered. Like feeding the mythical squirrels which I transformed into soap, so I could get them on the plane.

“Yes! That‟s where they live. And they help a dejected human whenever he needs it. They helped Rama build a bridge across the Indian Ocean so that he could find his kidnapped wife—a verified account of which is in their scrolls,” she paused for the dramatic effect, “and there it was after the squirrel left, the painting, good as new, at the exact brush stroke where the artist left it!” large gasps as expected, “we were all overjoyed. It‟s not something that happens everyday, even for the locals. Now the headman of the group told me the squirrels

have a very soft coat that can remove water down to the minute drop which they later brush off. But I think it‟s simply a miracle,” Mischa finished dreamy eyed, “just a proof that someone out there is looking down on us.”

Her audience didn‟t know whether to buy the story or not. It did seem surreal but there was just a bit of logic tagged in. They were all impressed nevertheless and were looking at each other in wonderment. One tiny voiced female was the first to speak. She reverentially asked, “Is it this one?”

“No, that one sold out the moment we added it to the display. An Indian fakir showed up and paid $500 flat and took it away. But you don‟t have to pay so much for these. He was just a loony or something,” she said and moved away jubilantly, coming to me with a straight business face which she immediately hid behind a corner display of long skirts, silently shaking the entire row. She sprung out like rubber just a moment later (supernaturally of course) and looked at me like a joker, “I was in my element!” and was about to burst into giggles any moment. So we dashed through the office door next to us and buckled on the floor laughing our heads off.

I wasn‟t much of a sales person and I knew for a fact that much of what I was speaking went right off the top of my customers‟ heads. I wished I could be like Mischa ranting off about texture and design rather than history, tribal portfolios and artistic implications. “Oh it would go very well with your skin color.” Or “It‟s just the thing you should hang on your belly button.” Simple stuff, how hard could it be! I decided I would say just that to the next woman who walks in. It was a girl of 22 or 23. She was dressed in total goth regalia in a black leather pants and a sheer black crop top and no bra. She was exceptionally good looking even though her hair looked like a crow‟s nest and she had all sorts of piercings! Perfect.

I showed her a little ring made of unpolished silver handcrafted by a short, stocky and cheerful woman I knew. It wasn‟t the kind of job that women were assigned to in the village, but Manu learnt the skill as a child from her big brother and now got a chance to put it to good use. I told Natalie (that‟s her name) that it would be a lovely add on for her belly button ring, just as I planned. But then she asked me what I‟d suggest for the labia piercing she was planning on. Errr….

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked lamely. “All for the Big-O sweetie! Why else?” she laughed one of those pretentious I‟m-so-full-of- attitude-and-you‟re-so-not laughs. Right. As Natalie started looking around, questions started shooting off in my head that I just had to attend to. I pretended to scribble inventory in my notebook while I was furiously putting down the answers to these questions and was walking around.

When did you last have the Big-O? Err…emmm, I write, can’t remember. Mental fumes in my head Oh wait, on the night of the opening!

Then why don‟t you remember??! Wasn‟t it Big? Errrm…it was ok… That was four weeks ago. What happened after? He didn’t call. Why didn‟t he call? No idea. Why didn‟t you call? I don’t know…I never call. Because you‟re this big sad independence-psycho who thinks making one call would make you look needy. That’s not true! Should I call now? NO. Why not? Because you‟re actually needy now. Ya…So how do I know I should call if I’m not needy? You don‟t. Hmmm…. He‟ll call. Absolutely. Or he might be seeing other women. No…. You can hardly blame him. Shut up! You‟re juvenile. Hmmm…. Think about other things. Looks like you‟ve exhausted the estrogen already. Perfect.

Natalie stood in the center taking in our colorful store in distaste waiting for the next opening to exit. It apparently didn‟t suit her style and she didn‟t know why she was here in the first place. I showed her some embroidered clothes in muted colors which she just nodded to without touching. I was getting irritated with her expression. If you‟re all about black, why did you have to come in bi-ach?! Suddenly, she jumped on a deep-blue sequined halter top that I had redesigned by our designer.

“Do you think I‟d look good in this?” she asked eyeing the piece with lust (I‟d say!).

“I think you‟ll look terrific in that,” I returned without blinking and retrieved a wrap around skirt with a small hand printed pattern along the edge. I saw the pattern being made by a family of three. The father made the stencil in the form of a wedding procession, horses and elephants, palanquins and all. The mother and his son of seven then proceeded with dying entire lengths of cloth with it. They didn‟t know why their stock is being rejected of late. Didn‟t understand that mechanical precision had taken over and their clothes are being rejected even in the traditional markets for the lack of that.

Natalie didn‟t seem so comfortable at the prospect of trying them on, but I used my newfound salesmanship to coerce her into doing the same. And she came out looking like a chic little woman whose face unfortunately got caught in the exhaust fan. I asked her to pull up her hair (and not look at her lips) and she was suddenly quite stunning in the mirror. She giggled (normally, thank god) at her reflection and said she‟ll buy the outfit after all. As I packed that smooth skirt in its box, I remembered the way the mother packed the material for us. She had a reluctant smile on her face and the rest of her family was looking on. Now I smiled for them with all the conviction that I couldn‟t muster and hoped that my smile would reach their faces.

Every day as I saw the pieces in the store being taken, that tribal woman in my head, I first saw when this idea occurred to me, kept reappearing with a smile more dazzling than the last. I wanted, more than ever, to go meet the artisans again and tell them what every customer said or looked like when they bought their pieces. I wanted to see that smile lighting up their faces for real. And feel that feeling, for the first time, that I really helped somebody. I grew restless as days went by. We were due to receive another shipment that we arranged for through a contractor. I worried endlessly about my artisans being exploited by the middlemen because in India, everybody in a considerable position of power exploited those under them. I wanted to go set up a sustainable supply chain myself and see to it that these people have a proper roof over their heads, that their children are educated and that a proper health care system is in place wherever they are. I wrote to the contractors a bit too much, made trunk calls to the social workers in India who were setting up employment cells and spoke to a few welfare organizations in U.S about the business plan and its imminent potential.

A month or two later, I got a call from a social worker I met in India. He was also a Californian and he told me that some of activists who worked in India and the east were gathering in San Diego next week. Mainly because, they were all coincidentally going to be in town at that time. „And of course, I bugged Martha and Stew till they agreed to join,” he laughed though I had no idea who Martha and Stew were. He said we could get to know each other better, coordinate with each other‟s activities, etc. I saw this as a major opportunity to gather some support for my ideas and prepared as much as I could for the big meeting.

There were representatives from all kinds of welfare programs. There were environmentalists, Christian missionaries with their activities spread so long and wide that its almost unfathomable, awareness activists who educated people about AIDS, cancer, dysentery, typhoid, malaria and all such communicable or dreadful diseases, there were activists to abolish child labor, fundraisers for small business ventures, health and hygiene activists who conducted mass scale vaccinations, free health check-ups and even birth control awareness and procedures. I met some of these people in India and others I have known through correspondence. They were all amazingly dedicated and none of them seemed to have doubts and neither did they back down on occasions like I did. And they were also always angry! I was resentful back in India, even dispassionate. But the fiery passion these people had was kind of intimidating.

An old lady, a doctor who I met many times in India spoke about my new venture to the group. As she would when telling anyone about me, she started with, “Such a beautiful child she is. Started out as a kid of 22 or 23! And she still is quite younger than us lot, I should add,” and smiled angelically at me through her fake teeth and unwashed hair. She is one of those heart-of-gold people I would ever get a chance to meet. Just being around her makes you feel like you‟re in a different planet, one with zero negative intonations.

They were all appreciative at first about my actions so far. And soon their doubts started because I can hardly reach more than a hundred people with one store. So, I doled out my expansion plans and NGO and governmental networking options in India to reach far wider.

“It‟s all speculative.,” one person said and some others discreetly nodded.

“Yes, for now. I just started, after all.”

“How many people do you see benefitted from your ideas?”

“I have plans to reach 56 villages in phase one and set up workshops in at least 12 towns,” I had the locations and numbers already worked out. I launched into a full scale explanation of how I plan to do all that I had in mind and for a while there, I had my audience. One small fellow in the back, though, wouldn‟t have it so simple.

“Hey, you said you‟ve overseen some of your stock being manufactured by entire artisan families. Does that include children?”

“Yes, at that point of time.”

He looked at me as if he made his point and diverted the group into a discussion about how child labor is always an excuse. “Every family has its own reasons. Someone‟s father is not well or is an alcoholic. Someone has no father! A woman I have met simply refused to acknowledge the fact that she will have to provide for her children. And in many cases I have seen the family business suddenly gets a major order and they pull the child out of school without a moment‟s thought. And I‟m not saying this to criticize your efforts Miss...I didn‟t get your name,” and not bothering to find out, “these people use their depleted finances or the draught in the next district as an excuse to send their children to do construction work or off to the local factories!”

An animal welfare activist had something to say about silk and leather usage in my collection and an environmentalist had something to say about tribal practices affecting forest ecosystem. As if by supporting their existence, I am, as good as, hacking the trees and butchering the animals myself. And it‟s not just me, everybody was pointing out the negative effects of others‟ activities.

Ah, its one of those meetings! I thought and relaxed in the chair. Social workers always have these phases in meetings, especially when there is no immediate task at hand. It‟s like group therapy for them. Boosting confidence in their own ideals and activities by slinging mud on

other‟s practices or effectiveness. For the nun from the missionary, employment schemes are irrelevant unless the villagers find their faith. For the awareness activist, awareness is always the top priority, more so than even health initiatives! „Tell them unclean water will rot your body with cholera first. Then give them the meds!‟ No she didn‟t say that, but brazenly implied it.

Oh wait, it gets worse. Everyone has an opinion on how the others should be doing what they are doing. „You should talk to the governments, ask them to set up the camps at least. Your funds won‟t last if you keep going the way you are,” a social worker since 20 years advised the health guy.

“Your disaster relief efforts are useless unless you have some clue as to what will happen to the refugees later,” a person who executes employment schemes shook his head sadly.

“Our crews and networks are equipped for rescue only. We did ask your organization, and some others, during last year‟s flood to help. But no one came forward. It‟s not like disaster tells before it occurs!” bitch-slap right back.

After sometime I was actually enjoying the heated conversation even throwing a few snide remarks of my own where I felt the need to fuel it. The old lady who introduced me to the group winked at me. I let out a silent giggle. This was the problem with impromptu meetings. Unless you had a proper agenda in place, the activists almost always took out their frustrations on others, bragged ceaselessly about themselves and their organizations and for some rare moments gave a couple of lucky guys the oh-what-a-big-heart-you-have trophy. They had to keep balance after all, they are peacemakers by definition!

The discussion dragged on and a few were visibly bored. A high pitched woman and a fast talking man with heavy lines defining his face were the only people still actively squeaking on. My eyes were feeling heavier by the minute, but I was also worried that the purpose of my participation was becoming increasingly futile. Then the old doctor came to my rescue. She was a well noted social worker and the very fact that she thought I was worthy of her support gave me goosebumps.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, we all know that we can‟t do everything that should be done. And we also know that we are all doing all that we can!” Peacemakers heavily nodded, “Now this young lady here,” she said putting an arm around me and giving me a confidential smile, “she needs our assistance in the activities she has planned out to provide consistent employment to several poor families. And I think it would be very encouraging for her if all of you can tell her which areas you could assist her with.”

Now they were all really talking! And I found out they were all quite lovely indeed (in their own way).


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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:05

13. It had to happen sometime….

On the drive home the next day, I was smiling to myself all along the way. My big plan was certainly closer to reality now. I have to name it something. It‟s feeling ridiculous calling it the Big plan all the time, even in my head. Besides I‟ll have to register it as a U.S. Non Profit organization still and I‟m pretty sure that Mischa would not appreciate using the boutique‟s name for that. Nah, not even in theory!

Ideas were shooting through my head in the weeks that followed and I resumed furious correspondence with everyone and anyone I thought would be useful. I was also begging Mischa to find other takers for our stock.

“Not already!” she chided me, “It‟s hardly been three months yet. Don‟t you know anything about business?”

“But they are all ready…” I whined, “and err…I might have made a promise too many.”


“Well, I was talking to the welfare activist in Bombay and she mailed me a correspondence she received from a village woman with nine kids! Nine!” Mischa was still shooting daggers at me.

“She said she has a whole line of pottery created just for me and she wrote it all down herself in broken Marathi. I‟ll show you the letter if you want!” No change in her face, “So I said I‟ll take it all.” I couldn‟t dare to meet her eyes, “and there were a couple of others like that. Four. Max. I can always back out from the rest of the commitments.”

“Are you insane?!” Mischa held my shoulders and shook me, “I don‟t believe this! I really don‟t!”

She looked as if she did not know where to start for a moment and then, “Pottery? Really?” she laughed sarcastically, “Cash, do you know how many pieces of pottery we sold since we opened?”

“Twenty?” I said fiddling with the hem of my shirt hoping Mischa would get to her normal self soon (and stop using that detested nickname).

“Twelve. And do you know how much profit we made per piece? Less than four fucking dollars on average. Because the bloody things are so expensive to be transported.”

“I‟m sorry,” I said sheepishly, “I‟ll ask that woman to find some other buyer.”

“It‟s ok. I‟m guessing you already put it all in motion,” she stated like a headmaster who still expects an answer, “and you‟re probably planning in your head right now, where to hide all that merchandise.”

A smile twisted around my lips.

“Next thing I know, I‟ll open your closet and have a hundred pots cracking on my head. Like a punishment or something!”

I looked at her, remorseful still but knowing that a big hug is on its way. She hugged me alright and said, “Why are you so damn fucked up?!!!” Mischa is about three inches taller than me which means she could be quite patronizing whenever she wants to be. I hugged her back wondering how I would ever put the big plan into action when in reality the American markets are so closed. It‟s not like we are a brand just yet. Maybe I should make George wear one of our „Om‟ bracelets on his show. I chuckled at the thought.

Mischa decided that I need to lighten up and think about other things, so we were sitting at a nightclub sipping martinis throwing snide glances at the bartender and giggling. Yeah, that‟s exactly her idea of fun. She moaned about her married life and asked me why I wouldn‟t act more like a bachelor.

“You know if I was at high school with you, I‟d have made you the school‟s laughing stock.”

“I was quite popular in high school myself. I‟d have made you wish you didn‟t exist!”

“Then we would have become best friends,” Mischa giggled and swallowed her drink in whole. I did too and ordered for more.

Of all the silly conversations I had with Mischa, I often wonder why this should be the one I should remember with such clarity.

“So, are you ever gonna dump that phony Clooney or what?”

“Mischa!” I laughed in mock incredulity.

“What? What‟s so surprising about my question?” more gulping, “you go out with him on like two dates a month! And sometimes you don‟t go out at all! What sort of a relationship is that? Don‟t give me that „on and off‟ or „casual‟ bullshit you read in Cosmo or some Anthro- fucking mag!”

“I don‟t know Misch,” doing an sssshhhh sound at the end, “George is at a very important point in his career. I am at a very important point in my life! It‟s not important for either of us to get serious. It‟s irrelevant!”

“He‟s just using you.”

“I‟m using him too. So?” I said brazenly, though it isn‟t exactly like that.

“That‟s what baffles me. When are you ever going to get serious? You‟re not so young anymore darling. Don‟t you ever plan on getting married?”

“Marry? Who…?” I said twisting my beer bottle and swaying drunkenly on my elbows, “Now, why haven‟t I ever thought of that?” I giggled.

“Exactly! Why don‟t you ever think of anything of relevance?” Mischa said not so drunkenly. I only giggled more. Maybe I should drink more often. I‟m losing touch with my drunken personality, letting it drift back to the sixteen year old stage. Which is something I do not discuss by the way.

“Marriage!” I said shaking my head, “Vinay was the only person I felt I could give everything up to be with.”

“Oh darling…” Mischa held my hand, deciding that muddying one boyfriend at a time is enough, “You don‟t have to give everything up to marry someone!”

“I do,” I said, a tad more serious.

“Then why don‟t you find someone who is also crazy about social welfare and would buy a hundred pots off a lady with nine kids?”


“Why do you always, always, fall for someone who has commitment issues or…” she added cocking her head playfully, “„celebrity‟ issues and you know for a fact that he can‟t be with you for a million reasons!”

I laughed, “What do you want me to say Misch?!”

“It‟s like you attract the wrong guy all the time because you‟re so wrong in the head yourself! In college you went out with that Mexican football player remember? You call every normal guy dumb and then choose the biggest abnormality in town so that his dumbness doesn‟t matter anymore.”

“You nailed it,” I clapped my hand on the table, “what can I do? All guys are dumb-fucks! And if I can actually relate to him, I will know he‟s a dumb-fuck sooner than I‟d like.”

“Do you still love him?” she asked meaning Vinay.

“Loveeee?” I made a puppy face, tired with the whole conversation already, “I don‟t want love Misch…or marriaaaggg…I want to die! That‟s what I want!” and dragged very seriously on my cigarette. She asked why.

“Life is so overwhelming!” I said gesticulating with my arms, hitting a passing waiter, “so...unsettling! That‟s why. I want to die. It‟s decided.” Mischa looked on with a comic expression.

“Well then. If you die, can I have George Clooney?”

“You just called him a phony!” I said hitting my newly empty glass on the table, my eyes wide, “So, is that what all this is about?”

“All what?”

“Poisoning my mind about George! From day 1. You sly witch!” We laughed out loud throwing our heads back.

“Oh he‟s handsome alright. Now that he had a haircut,” she winked, “But he‟s no good for you sweetie. I‟m serious about that.”

“There she goes again! Sly, sly, sly.”


“Oh, shut up!”

I wished sometimes that Mischa wouldn‟t delve too much into my dating scenario. I can‟t be serious about men. It never happened, never will. With Vinay, I should say there were a lot of factors to consider. But was I head over heels for him? No. Was I head over heels for George? Years ago! But there were too many factors to consider again.

Am I ever going to marry? Who knows? Ok, general questions. Where do I see myself settling? India or U.S. Pick one! Errrm… What do I see myself doing when I settle down? Social work or maybe just running the store. I got it, part time social worker! What do I want to do with the non part-time time? Errrm… What is my cause? Upliftment of destitute people in India. I also want to join that artifact restoration cell later. Maybe a bit of animal welfare for dogs like Clooney… Which one? Errrm… Ok, simple question, why the fuck do I want to work for the welfare of others? Ahem…Errrm…

When there are so many unanswered questions in my life, why the fuck would I care about guys? Answer that married Misch-a! Huh! I didn‟t ask her that though because it would mean a year full of things for her to pick on me.

When I was finally home at around eleven, Lana was still awake watching television. Clooney came jumping and was whining rhythmically with his wagging tail.

“Hey!!! How is my little baby doing today?” I said to him and he whined more in response, “Micch-in‟ mommy aren‟t you little one?” Eternal question, what do dogs think of baby talking moms? “Mmmmm-mmm-mmm mommy lovvves you…mommy micches you too!” I finished kissing his forehead.

“George Clooney called an hour ago,” Lana said, not taking her eyes off the T.V.

“A-ha. What did he say?”

“Umm…” she was too into the screen, “I don‟t know, one second.” And it went to commercial.

“Dammit!” she yelled and resumed, “nothing. He just wanted to know where you were. Are you ever going to tell me what‟s the deal between you two?” Lana asked.

“Oh Lana, not you too!” I waved her off walking unsteadily to the phone.

“I‟m curious!”

“Save it.”

“Hey Sweetie, it‟s me. Lana told me you just called but I…guess you‟re not in,” I spoke to his answering machine, “at twelve in the night. Well…call me when you‟re back. If you‟re back.” And I hung up with vengeance. I‟m so tired of all that is ambivalent in my life. George called right back, a little breathless, “Hey! What‟s up?”

“I was in the shower.”

“Oh…alright,” backtrack, backtrack! “So, Lana was telling me you called.”

“Yeah, I wanted to know if you were up for a drink, but she told me you were out.”

“I uh…was out with Mischa. You know girls night out stuff. Linny was supposed to join too but she didn‟t,” why was I explaining?

“Oh, ok…”

“I‟m still up for one if you are! Although I have to warn you I‟m pretty hammered already.”

George laughed, “I think I can handle that. See you in half hour.”

I stood in front of my closet as steadily as I could for exactly twenty five minutes. And was still in the middle of outfits when he rung. Lana welcomed him and they were talking something. I think Wyona woke up to the ring and knocked into him sleepily. George was whispering something in her ear when I came out and she was giggling. I settled on a loose fitting olive green t-shirt cropped and cinched at the waist and a black lycra skirt. I wasn‟t usually conscious in what I wear when I was around George, but I had him in mind in selecting an outfit. I didn‟t that night. It was a bad night…

So George asked me where I wanted to go. I absolutely hate it when guys do that. I‟m out with you because I know you have good taste, so be a man and take me wherever you like! I would‟ve told him so any other day but on that particular date I said, “Let‟s just drive. I want some wind in my hair and just the sound of breeze instead of music I‟d be forced to listen some place else.”

“Really, you sure about the hair?”

“Yeah, why not? Don‟t worry, I have soft hair. I won‟t end up with one of those permed scarecrow looks by the end of our ride.”

George shook his head, “doesn‟t matter even if you did.”

We rode in his car for a long time, both of us silent for the most part. As George took a turn into a narrower steep lane, he asked me, “So did you girls have fun tonight? What‟s the big occasion anyways?”

“Nothing much. Just casually…why?”

“I dunno. Sounded like a special evening.”

“Oh well, yeah kind of. Mischa is so pissed at me that she decided I need to be brainwashed. With alcohol, what else.”

“Why was she mad at you?” he asked handing me a beer from the back.

“Just…well…I screwed up at work, a little.” And I told him the entire story about all the possibilities my little enterprise could open up for the people in India, the meeting with all the activists, the supportive old lady, everything.

“That was actually my motive behind agreeing to partner with the store you know. But I haven‟t been clear about it with Misch. Still am not. But she has an inkling now.”

George took a sip from my bottle and said while handing it back, “Always the one with ulterior motives, aren‟t you?”

“Hardly!” I said putting my feet up the convertible‟s door. I loved the way his silhouette lit up as the street lights passed us.

“This is it you know, this is what I‟ve been looking for all this while. I can‟t wait to go to India and make it happen!” I shared the feeling for the first time. But George just chuckled. I asked him what‟s so funny.

“Nothing. Just you saying, „this is it‟. You said that when you took off years ago, you said that in that short phone call you made from London about some Indian guy and you said that about staying back in L.A.”

I was a little peeved but I laughed along. I might have said that before, but couldn‟t he tell I was serious now? Maybe I was serious then too. I should‟ve chosen different words. There wasn‟t a person in sight and not much traffic either. So I asked George to stop at one point and got off the car and sat myself on an elevated rock by the bushes. There was a faint view behind me, but it was too unclear in the dark.

“Why do you want to get off the car? Come back in. It‟s not safe here.”

“Are you kidding? We haven‟t passed a car in more than ten minutes. I‟m tired of all the motion.”

“Come on. Let‟s just sit in the car.”

“God, why are you so finicky these days?”

“Finicky? That‟s a term used for a woman! In any case I am hardly that. Common now!”

“I need to pee, do you mind?”

He laughed out loud, “You‟re gonna pee here?”

“Why not? I did it all the time when I was travelling the country in India.” He only laughed more. Finally, he got off the car too and joined me. He put an arm around me and we kissed. I was a little heady with passion and way too drunk as well. I reached inside his shirt and started kissing his neck, unbuttoning the top buttons and running my mouth over his collar bone and shoulders. I put my legs around him and was struggling with his pant button. George had his arms inside my shirt and pulled down my deep neck to mouth my breasts. I finally got around to undoing his pant button when George suddenly looked up and said breathlessly, “Wait!”

I looked at him and threw my head back laughing. I knew this was going to happen.


“What do you mean why?” he said cupping my boobs in both hands and looking at them with concentration, still unsure whether to give up on them. He kissed each of them anyway and said, “Are you telling me you did it in the bushes too? In India?”

“Ha-ha, well…” I wound my arms around his neck while running a hand through his hair, still sitting on his lap, a bit awkwardly, “I did actually. Many times.”

He shifted backwards a little letting me settle in the groove between his legs. “Really?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Nothing, I wouldn‟t have taken you for a girl who would do that.”

“Well, it depends…” I said uninterested in going into details and reached under his pants instead. He put a restraining hand which I slapped away giggling, “Wait, just one minute! Let me see…!” After a moment, he pulled me closer and said, “I…uh…nothing,” and kissed me behind the ear and took me by the arms, finally taking control.

We lay there after, under the stars, by the road. “I can‟t believe we just did that,” I said after a long time. “You started it,” he replied nonchalantly. I started shaking with laughter suddenly, my hand over my mouth. He leaned over with a hand supporting his head and smiled, looking

like he wanted to say something, but calmed me instead by giving a long kiss. He reached down and pulled my skirt back down as I playfully lifted my legs up. We sat in the car, not ready to move yet. But kissed again and again.

“I wasn‟t serious when I laughed on you earlier, you know? I am really happy for you if you really think „this is it‟.”

“Could‟ve done without the sarcasm,” I smiled, combing the hair that fell on his forehead with my fingers. “I miss your long hair…” I made a puppy face.

“Hmm…Sorry about the sarcasm, couldn‟t help it! Seriously though, I am going to miss you when you go back.”

“You‟re just being sweet,” I lounged in the seat.

“So tell me, what other crazy stuff did you do in India?”

I laughed, “Just stuff…travelling a lot, backpacking, going off in our little truck anywhere we wanted, crazy partying on the road, in the cars. Drink, drugs…Although I‟m not really proud of that part,” George chuckled, “Vinay was the carefree, adventurous guy. I just tagged along all the way and yeah, enjoyed it. Wait, were you asking me where all I had sex?”

“No! Not just now,” he winked.

“The mountain stream was really the best. It was my idea,” I added fictionally just to tease him.

“Really! Stop!” he grabbed my neck with his elbow.

“I thought about you even in those trips,” I said without meaning to. George gave me a dubious look, “Not that I was umm…mind cheating on Vinay or anything, but you crept in just the same.” I said running a dreamy finger around his lips, feeling the fresh stubble.

“Like when?”

“Like…umm…let me think. Like when we met this actor couple in a forest reserve. Nagarjuna, the guy was a famous South Indian actor. He was there with his wife on a trip. Honeymooning maybe. He had about the same height and build as you. And probably, your old hairstyle when we were dating back then,” I smiled thinking of them, “Looking at them, I just wondered, how it would have been if I was there with you.” I pulled my legs under me and hugged George tighter.

“You cold?”

“Yeah, a little.” George rolled the top back up and asked me if I wanted to go home. I shrugged. We were on the way back to his apartment. It was probably one of the best times I spent with George. Certainly one I would remember anyways. I was sipping another beer

feeling absolutely blissful with my arms wrapped snugly around him. But…didn‟t I tell you, we were the ultimate victims (and also the blessed [duh!]) of duality? The next moment, the strange urge to pick up a fight when I spoke to his answering machine earlier resurfaced. I chose the easiest way of course—suspicion. Were you with a woman when I called you earlier? Of course not! Were you with other women ever? Indifferent shrug. Do you want to see other women? Curious look.

“What‟s up with you probing all of a sudden?” he said shaking me with his arm that was wrapped around my neck. Why don‟t men get serious when I am? Fine. This is just a casual fling. A very long one, but still. I didn‟t bother earlier, why should I now?

“George, why don‟t you take me away some place. Like, on a vacation! We never did that…”

“We did that! That weekend in Malibu…ring a bell?”

“That was months ago! And that was also just, you showing pity on a woman condemned to house-arrest by a huge ugly cast.”

“A-ha, but we did have fun, didn‟t we?”

“We as in you and Clooney? Frolicking shamelessly in the beach while I was quite-sadly pretending to enjoy myself playing with the sand?” George guffawed, shamelessly again.

“Yeah, Clooney was fun. He‟s a „Clooney‟ after all!” he added, “I still can‟t get over your stealing my family name for a dog. Talk about shamelessness.” Men and their indifferent moods! Grrrr….

“Clooney had more fun with Vinay. Whimpered all the way to the airport.” Jealous bone? Any? Just a shrug. Gggrrrrrr…..

“Common let‟s go somewhere now. Seriously.”

“I‟m busy sweetheart. You know that.”

“Not so busy to appear at some opening with some stupid blonde!” Defense? Any? Indifferent chuckle. I’m losing it George! Any moment now.

“What is the matter with you? Why don‟t you want to go out with me? Are you worried that your celebrity dating profile would take a hit if you appear with someone as ordinary as me?” Here comes.

“Babe, what the…!” Finally something. “You never posed your bullshit questionnaire before! You know what, you drank too much. Easy on that beer now,” reaching to grab my beer. Don’t laugh, not now George! He laughed.

“Is that why you‟ve been using me? Because I never ask you any questions?” PONR-Point of No Return.

“Shut the fuck up,” George said silently, giving me a mean look. I used to be actually scared of that look when I was still working in the university. I didn‟t know how to handle angry men. But I‟m a little bolder now, a little more brazen. “You‟re drunk and I‟m not arguing with you.” I kept my silence for a minute anyway, you know, just in case.

“And I did invite you to the opening of ER. The biggest fucking event in my life so far. And you refused flat out.”

“I was walking with a fucking stick! You knew I wasn‟t going to come,” Increase decibel levels. Stand by for more. Georged looked on seriously, meaner than ever. “That was why you invited me in the first place!”

“Just fucking shut up! SHUT UP!” George pressed on the accelerator. Big surprise.

Abort decibel magnification. Abort! Wait! Unforeseen crisis. Alert crew about dam breaking. Stop the fucking tears. Ok, too late. Stop the sobs from reaching throat level! GO!

Good progress, men get a little less irritated and just a little remorseful if the tears were silent. Basic principles. Duh! “Alright, I‟m sorry. I shouldn‟t have yelled at you. Stop crying. Please.”

Lady like use of tissues while looking out the window. V.good.

“You‟ve changed so much you know…you‟re not the guy I came to know in Linny‟s building…and fell for.” Guys just deny this argument flat out in general, but it wasn‟t the same with George. It was a sensitive point. And I knew that. Well…

“Because I am not the same fucking guy anymore! People change over time. Deal with it!” still angry but refusing to go back to the furious phase earlier.

“I didn‟t, did I? I know for a fact that I‟m still the same „fucking‟ girl you knew five years ago! Can you deny that?” more quiet sniffling. Tissue ready.

“I don‟t care! I‟ve been through a lot more than you did in those five years. I don‟t give a fuck about your assumptions or questions,” not looking at me, as if there is suddenly a lot of traffic on the road. It is true that he didn‟t give a flying fuck about my questions. And neither did I, if he had any for me. In a relationship like ours, we seldom asked each other questions. Sometimes, it felt like we didn‟t have the right to and most of the times it was just „why waste a good fuck?‟ I would‟ve plucked Vinay‟s eyeballs out, if he didn‟t answer my questions when we were together. But, with George, it was always too little of a good thing that might just be lost if I probed. And he was always nice enough that I never needed to. He was busy, true, but was also very open. He was the exact dosage of the exact element that I needed. What purpose did I have to complain? None. If not for mind poisoning girlfriends and social norms and clichés and all those fucking things that were „supposed‟ to define something so unique and wonderful like that I shared with George…

Of course, I wasn‟t thinking of all this then. I was thinking about a. winning the argument and/or b. making him feel bad.

“The George I knew would never have said that!” I bit back in total indignation, “Why did you? We have been through so much and all you could say is, „I don‟t care‟?” No reply. Stiff jaw. Moi scared silly. Beer gulp. “You‟ve changed so much, I can‟t believe I just walked into your arms thinking it was still you.”

George sighed, “Ok, you‟re really pissing me off now,” he said visibly trying to control his anger. Like a pro I responded with sniffles (it was a reflex!), “You wanna know why I have changed over these years?” George continued calmly but I can see a ripple of anger was ready to go off on me, “Let me tell you instead, why you didn‟t change. I‟m pretty sure that would explain everything. Think you can handle it?” Not that he waited for my reply, “You didn‟t change, after all these years, because you are still, at the exact fucking place in your life that you were five years ago.”

I gasped (real reflex). That…really hurt. Like a suddenly deflated balloon, like a lion darted in its lurch, like a dynamite grounded skyscraper, I made not a peep, moved not a muscle once I‟ve finished noisily releasing the breath I gasped in.

I could see George glancing my way, several times on the way to my place, but I couldn‟t move. Just couldn‟t. He finally parked at my door and I slowly, painfully, gathered my things and walked out of the door. “I‟m sorry!” George said, not sounding nearly sorry enough, “I shouldn‟t have said that. Really, I‟m sorry.” I had tears in my eyes. And this time, they were stinging with venom and my head was hurting. I couldn‟t dare to look at him. George got out of the car as well and I hurried away awkwardly. He caught up with me and held my arms, facing me. He didn‟t know the extent of damage he did till he saw my face. “Hey…sweetheart…” he said softly as my doorman eyed us with sleepy curiosity from inside the door, “don‟t…I‟m sorry I said what I said. You provoked me.” He was leaning down on me, holding my face in his hands.

“I can‟t see you…ever again,” I said as steadily as I could, not looking at him still, and then burst into tears. “I…ca—” I continued between sobs, “I…can‟t be with…someone who thinks of me as such a loser.” I threw everything down childishly and ran through the door and into the elevator held open by my thoughtful doorman.


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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:05

14. Sisters

The door wouldn‟t open. „That‟s the wrong key!‟ something was yelling inside my head but I couldn‟t follow the orders. I kept pushing the wrong key in beating the door to make it work somehow. Huge, and I mean HUGE sobs were wracking my entire body and it was a wonder I could still stand. Finally, desperately, gasping for breath, I steadied myself into a thin lull taking approximately fifteen minutes to get the right key in the right angle into the socket. The door opened automatically though. And Lana was standing in the finest form of bedraggle-ment at the door step. I tried to look inconspicuous. That irrelevant voice (probably the very few grey cells in my brain, my auto-defences too) let out a sarcastic „Really?‟ at my efforts and I collapsed in Lana‟s hands.

Right there, at my doorstep, my knees buckled and I cried for the longest time in my entire life, the only sounds I could hear being the thousand voices in my head and visions and a sense of being marooned on a tiny island. No wonder Lana thought a terrible accident had happened and George died. And she probably called him. Grey cells: „Pathetic!‟ I dragged the mess I was into the bedroom somehow, tumbling on stuff and direction-disoriented. Lana was still yelling behind me, but I couldn‟t make any sense out of it. I dived headfirst into my mattress. Grey cells: So this is what it feels like, diving into a mattress…Not good. My adrenaline levels were so high that every sense registered, but none made sense. I was hot and sweaty all over and I was shaking with whimpers and unknown sounds from deep inside my throat I never knew I could make.

Lana was holding my head and was kneeling by the bed. She was brushing my hair nervously and asking me over and over what happened. I don‟t know how long I was in that state, all my senses dulling as moments passed till I almost fainted. Clooney revived me though. He woke up from his bed in Wyona‟s playpen and came running to my rescue. He pushed Lana away from the side of my head and started licking me all over the face whimpering softly. I jerked at the revelation that all that his name held was of no significance now and held my baby tenderly and cried. “Oh my darling baby…!” over and over again. Lana took her chance then and shook me harder demanding some answers. “George told me you guys had some fight. What the hell is this? What happened? Talk to me sis!” Grey cells: What‟s with un- sisterly sisters calling each other „sis‟ too much? I looked at Lana blankly.

Exasperated by my behavior and not really knowing what to do, Lana made as if to leave. In sudden panic, I held her hand forcefully and I have to say, even in that state, I recognized that I frightened her.

“Lana, do you think I‟m a loser?”

“What? Wh—”

“A vagabond? A dreamer?”


“Do you think,” I asked, my voice gaining strength and momentum, “do you think that my life so far has no significance at all and is of no consequence whatsoever to anything or anyone in the entire planet?” I looked at her with wild eyes hopeful and pathetic. Lana took too many precious seconds of my concentration to answer.

“I don‟t know what he said to you darling, but I‟ll tell you this much,” Lana said her gaze piercing into my hurt eyes, “Look at me,” she slapped me, “look at me when I say this! „You‟ are the most wonderful and the most compassionate human being I‟ve ever had the chance to meet in my entire life. And not for one moment…and not just the past one year but since the day I‟ve held your pinkie finger in the hospital, not for one moment have I not felt proud to have you as my little sister!”

A fresh wave of tears engulfed me at that moment. Grey cells: Like I thought that was possible! I let Lana hug me and console me though and Clooney put his head on his paws looking quite ready to replace her any moment. So I let him join us in a group hug and asked Lana timidly, “Will you repeat that for me? Please?”

“Err…well…I said, you were the most compassionate and most wonderful human being I‟ve ever met—”

“And intelligent?”

“Of course intelligent! You were a child prodigy, remember? You were summing squares in your head when you were five.”

“Dad tell you that?”

“Who else?” Lana chuckled.

“Did mom console you like this when you were having a bad day?” I asked a new lump rising in my throat. Tears prickled Lana‟s eyes too.

“Mom had her own way…” she said being truthful, “This is the mother in me…is that good enough for you?”

“Absolutely!” I smiled, just a little.

“Warm milk and a head massage?” Lana asked, her eyes twinkling.


I told Lana as she sat me by carpet below the couch and massaged my head with oil, “Do you know that I never ever cried in front of dad? Even when I was very little, as far as I can remember. I was scared somehow that he would think of me as needy and dependant. Because then he would…” Lana stopped her rhythmic massage and lifted my head to face hers. „Say it,‟ she mouthed, realizing intuitively that I never actually spoke these words before, “Because then he would leave me too…like mom did.”

Tears filled my eyes again but I had control over them this time.

“It was just a childish thing of course…I grew out of it. I made myself valuable and significant in his life through my academic achievements. And noticeable, at least, in mom‟s. I was always, in every little facet of life, independent. No exceptions. I was always so strong,” I looked up at her serene wonderful face and said in a high pitched whine, “So strong Lana! Never like…this!” I paused calming down, “And I liked myself that way you know…I liked the person that my circumstances made me to be and I admired her. And I wanted to admire her more….”

Lana came and sat beside me on the carpet, holding my hand. I went on, “Maybe that was why I was initially inspired to go help the displaced tribals in India. I never know Lana…it‟s too late to analyze now. And suddenly, that woman who I admired all my life, failed…”

“But I had to help her, you know, make her that wondrous personality everyone was in love with again. So that people wouldn‟t call her „needy‟ or „insignificant‟ ever again.” I was breathing heavily, fresh tears welling my eyes. I knew I was going to cry again, but I felt it was ok to do so in front of Lana.

“And he called me just that Lana,” tears spilled in torrents as my voice broke, “He told me…that I am still in the exact place that I was five years ago: a vagrant seeker of purpose and meaning in life. Five years! Five years in which I have given up every achievement I strived for, went so far away from every person whose attention and admiration I have earned. Five years in a fruitless quest for purpose. And I am now standing as an epitome of all that I have lost and have no means to regain…in no higher order than the many helpless people I have met. In this vacuum of total and absolute nothingness that I have cocooned myself in! And I can‟t breathe Lana! I really can‟t!”

Lana just rocked me gently as I moaned from the pain that was surfacing from deep within.

“And now,” I resumed in less self-revelatory and more childlike tones, “now, nobody admires me. Even Mischa said, I‟m losing it. Dad thinks I have to give up on my causes. And George—” I couldn‟t go there just yet, “I am just a hopeless case that has to be helped. A destitute in the mental, emotional and intellectual planes of life. And the way I‟m crying now in front of you, I‟ve lost that final degree of independence too. That last bit of dignity to even hold my head up.”

Lana didn‟t say anything for a long time. My breathing has settled and I was staring at the dim sunlight surfacing from beyond the curtains and relaying all the words I just uttered. I didn‟t know where I found them. It‟s like they formed inside me so long ago…waiting to be let out.

“You don‟t have to hold your head up to your sisters,” she said slowly, “you might feel the need to do that with your parents, to make them proud. Your friends, so that they‟ll look up to you. Your children, so they can grow up admiring you. And of course, the man you love, so he can respect you. But sisters are almost like a part of you. This feels funny saying out loud, but we are both from the same womb, we share the same blood and similar childhoods. We

were made to support each other, understand each other and see each other…through our toughest times.”

She held my face in one hand and gently made me look at her, “You have lost no dignity telling me all that you have now,” she looked on searching for the right words, “But you helped me find that little sister I have lost when I was a kid.” Tears wet her thick long lashes and dropped down her cheeks, “and I hope,” she sniffed, “that I can be there for you now, the way I haven‟t been all through your childhood. Our childhood.”

I didn‟t know what to say to her. She offered me no answers to my questions, did not attempt to clear my doubts or even cursorily negate all my self-depreciating statements. She just sat beside me, like a pillar of strength, and promised to be there when I go on to find those answers on my own. That was the first time someone attempted to earn my love and respect and my heart filled out for her.

Her voice wobbled as she added, “I‟m sorry I haven‟t been there for you till now,” and paused, “you know when I went off to mom saying, „Momma ta-ke me wichyuuu…!‟”

“Lana!” I giggled suddenly, in disbelief, and kept at it till tears of real and pure happiness rolled down my cheeks, “Oh, you‟re the best sis ever!”


“Hands down!” Lana giggled too, like a little kid who got a trophy.

“And Lana?”


“Did I ever tell you I abso-fucking-lutely loathe, detest and hate milk?”

She laughed all the way to the kitchen and I followed her. “I mean it‟s the purest form of hate! Like the purest form of love…” I giggled, “we just err…witnessed.”

She patted my head with a spatula and laughed. I followed her around the kitchen like a puppy as she made coffee for both of us. And I couldn‟t help but wonder if this is how it would have been like if mom was around when I was a kid.


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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:06

Book 2

15. Change

I remember thinking at some point between plonking my head on the mattress and Clooney reviving me, that I would wake up this morning feeling utterly dejected, damning myself to eternity, unable to speak to or face any person in the entire world. I imagined Lana would get frantic not knowing what‟s wrong with me and assemble the whole gang—dad, mom, even Mischa. And I would have to hide my face in a pillow and get hysterical asking them to get out. Then, they would have to get an ambulance and the meds wouldn‟t know what‟s wrong either and will have to sedate me and take me away. Next thing I know, I would open my eyes in a cushioned white cell and would be hitting myself to the walls to no avail for the rest of my life. Yeah, I thought all of this, no kidding! I also thought of another scenario of what would‟ve happened if I were to wake up in a village in India.

They would‟ve tied my arms and legs to the bedposts and call the exorcist who would beat me with bunches of neem leaves chanting scary mantras till I am raw all over. Yeah, no life sentence there. I‟d just have to give up on my insanity and start acting normally for an extended period of time so that I wouldn‟t have to go through all of that again! I can‟t decide right now which scenario is worse.

I chuckled to myself as I played both of them in my mind and almost sprung from my bed feeling more lighthearted than ever. I have hardly slept for two hours and though my face feels like a puffed pillow and my throat felt like I chewed on crazy glue last night, I was filled with hope (and nerves) for I knew this was going to be a wonderful day. I can‟t deny that there is a raw wound still lurking inside. But it did not threaten to remain unhealed forever.

I made Lana and Wyona breakfast (you can bet on my sorry ass that it‟s a first), washed the dishes left in the sink left in the sink last night and sent dirty clothes to laundry. I put on some perky sunglasses and took Clooney out for a long walk. He watched me closely as I paused for a moment in indecision or thought. He would perk his head up and if I didn‟t look down on him immediately, he would nudge me as if to say, „lets go mo-oo-om!‟ To his credit, I did suffer a relapse or two, when I thought it was George‟s face I saw in a magazine stand or in an open paper in someone‟s hand. Whenever people of the same look or more importantly gait entered my line of sight, I would freeze and panic. But we held up pretty well, our little team and made it to a nice spot in the park without any more interference.

It isn‟t moments of recognition or praise, achievements and accomplishments that I remember most in my life. It is moments such as these, when life offered me the gift of clarity with a loving mate beside me that I recollect often with pride. Nothing much has changed since last night. If I let it be, my life would fall back comfortably into the earlier established patterns. But I found that strength again, the strength that I talked to Lana about last night. And that strength, I knew, would keep me on my heels till I found that which I‟ve been looking for all this while.

That clear spring morning, I thanked God or whichever, whatever energy chain or scheme of things of the universe, for giving me a sister, though He (or She!) took my mother‟s

affections from me when I was a child. I marveled at the way things worked out after all and remember looking up and smiling, saying, „such a sly fellow, aren‟t you?‟

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:07

16. POA

I told Mischa that I wouldn‟t be helping her manage the store after all but would be working towards developing the brand instead. She argued that we would have to make proper sales first and establish a work-flow in-the-store. I told her I totally trusted her with all that and for the first time, looked at her in the face and said with conviction, “I have to do this Misch. Now! If I don‟t establish us as a brand and find more takers for our merchandise, I would lose my supporters. Both welfare organizations from here and venture capitalists in India who are ready to invest their time and money for the people we are trying to help.”

“But the store…”

“You are an excellent store manager Misch! And I don‟t know if anyone ever told you that before, but I mean it. People get mean—even with sympathy—when you lose out on your ideas or ventures and only tend to see your failures,” as I was saying it I actually realized that Mischa had been in a position of failure too, just as I had been. Only it wasn‟t so dramatic and did not involve a cast, etc. I realized her potential as a business partner and not just a supportive friend at that moment. “You just have to keep going like you do darling. And you can manage the store on your own very well! This is what you were meant to do. You don‟t need me for this!” I relayed with purpose.

“Ok…whatever dude. You‟re looking scary today. Must be a bad hangover. Go put on some tea bags or something.”

So, that went well…it‟s not like I‟m going to make Mischa acknowledge that I‟m the best business partner ever and my dad say the words, „prodigal daughter‟ today itself (like I originally planned)! These things take time. I know that. Sure!

I picked up my designer and went over our new designs with him in dad‟s office or my old bedroom (whatever). Yeah, he‟s „almost‟ retired now. He peeped in at regular intervals and checked up on the drawings and measurements (not so) inconspicuously. He brought us coffee and crackers at times and ordered Chinese take out for lunch. He would watch me give suggestions and then strike out a lot of them.

He told me over lunch to get a feature about my collections and their anthropological significance published in a reputed magazine. I have thought of that before and even corresponded with a couple of magazines circulated among socio-cultural and behavioral anthropologists and scholars.

“And err…they kind of didn‟t reply…”

“What do you mean kind of? They either reply or they don‟t!”

“One of them said they‟ll get back to after they talk to their editors! But that was three months ago.”

“What a bunch of buggers!” dad said throwing some English words or phrases like he always does for months after attending a convention in Europe. Oh, you should have heard him when he went to Paris for two weeks. “Whatever! Bonjour,” he would say whenever he is pissed with someone and wants to get rid of him/her. So much for artsy-fartsy-ness.

“Dad, bunch of buggers actually sounds pretty silly, but as long as we‟re talking about buggery…doesn‟t matter I guess!”



“Are you mocking me?”

“Of course not dad!” He laughed one of his brisk business laughs anyway. “I‟ll talk to a couple of colleagues of mine who have good connections with art magazine editors. We‟ll show these lousy anthropologists what they missed on!”

“That would be just lovely daddy!”

“And your mom could run up some contacts for you! She is always bragging about her links in the publishing industry. That little phony,” he laughed again, “Well, grill her till she gets her ass moving on that anyways!”

“Bugger! Why didn‟t I think of that?”

“I know right!” dad said totally missing the joke and said instead, “What pieces have you got this time? Any sculptures?”

“Not really…but there is pottery! I‟m due to receive a shipment any day now.”

“Pottery?” he smirked, “Ceramic?”


“Clay!” he said with distaste, “Are you telling me you ordered more of those mass produced pieces with a bit of ethnic design thrown in here and there?”

“They are not mass produced dad…they just have the same design and make but they are actually made—”

“Yeah, I know, a poor woman with nine children,” dad saw the look on my face, “Mischa filled me up.”

Bugger team. The problem with Indian artisans wasn‟t that they weren‟t creative. Their work is limited to the orders they get and their funds are so tight that they can‟t even spare extra material for their own creations. They might have had some ideas initially but they are easily discouraged. “That is not how it‟s done.” That‟s it. Once a design is created, it is circulated among various groups of workers (they are not artists anymore) and the same is replicated tens of thousands of times for decades to follow. Well, in a cultural perspective, one could argue that, that is how the old traditional art forms are being kept alive for generations through rigorous and continuous extrapolation. Like the Aryans have passed on their Vedas for centuries through oral recitation alone before ink was invented. What the ethnic merchandisers, even those providing for the Indian markets in U.S. and Europe, do is to place orders through contractors who work their way through little towns all over the country where entire workshops to replicate these models have been set up. The concept of looking at art as art doesn‟t exist unfortunately. Not that there aren‟t a few exceptions. But they are just that, exceptions. Exceptions through circumstance or upbringing or passion. And I don‟t know many of them. I‟m also pretty certain I‟m not going to find one in a poor woman with nine children.

The cultural perspective was not going to work with dad. He thinks he has seen it all and that they are too redundant now. I was dying to see some creativity myself like I have seen in that tribe that taught me the art form dad later criticized. I still couldn‟t find them. Vinay and I literally bumped into them on a dusty hot day and I don‟t know which road takes me there. Well, I‟ll just have keep looking, don‟t I?

So I set out for a short trip to India mere weeks later, to find the exceptions. In a business perspective, that isn‟t our highest priority, to be truthful. We could find our stock anywhere through the innumerous connections I have established, it was a simple pick and ship procedure which would have helped us make the required sales and probably reach break-even earlier than we planned. But the existing systems as I said before were rife with exploitation and besides I didn‟t want to become an old maid (Yeah, I was becoming an old maid, I know that! And yuck, fuck, whatever!) who runs a store selling ethnic junk happy with the fact that she is helping a few poor families. I was looking at the bigger picture here and bigger pictures don‟t care about breaking-even Mischa‟s store. Mom‟s business connections promised to look at my products and there were quite a few enterprises in India who were willing to sample them.

With me on the trip, was my designer because he was exaggeratedly fastidious and was also rather moody. In addition Mischa fueled his ego every time she told him all those stories about the stuff she picked up herself and he just had to work with. Fine, let him see it for himself. I needed him by my side anyways to come up with new ideas with whatever is available. We had two workshops already set up in different small towns through the help of an organization for empowering small scale industries. We met the staff, the artists, workers and helpers. Whenever Rob came up with a new idea and asked an artisan to work that way, they would politely inform us (through mediators) that „that‟s not how it‟s done.‟ Employment is religion to Indians. They always adhered by the rules and systems and never questioned them unless it had something to do with their pay check or benefits. If there were any hiccups, it was because someone got greedy. Period.

To let them know that it‟s ok to be a little off the line and encourage creativity, I set up new systems through skilled managers. I actually hired a photographer and dressed some native women in Rob‟s (conservative) creations and set up the photographs all over the workshop to inspire the artisans. The head artisan would then take a deep look at them and immediately copy the designs and set his workers slaving away on them. Rob and I would share a comic look at that and shake our heads. Our best finds were art students who were from small towns and villages, knew the ethnic perspective and have studied modern forms of art. They were zealous, creative and absolutely enthusiastic that they could find the means to embrace their ideas. These students didn‟t have much to look forward to in the Indian markets. The artistic end of it was largely coveted, often involving foreign enterprises, so getting in was very tough and proving themselves tougher. Few had the perseverance to push for art expositions or even couture firms or the skills and knowledge to market themselves. The career, if they did not have to succumb to familial pressures and take up a normal job, involved working under small enterprises with defined rules. Be it making sculptures of deities and statues of prominent figures or painting murals and small frames with traditional art.

Also with me was a décor intern because most of the handicrafts we dealt in were meant for that despite what Rob likes to think. “I could create a look with a woman holding a pot or watering the plants or something. Or….or we could create a runway look with the pot being used as a bonnet or head piece!” Yeah something like that. There were a lot of people to work with, lot of business connections I made, lot of people I hired, new sites for more workshops bought or rented and innumerous plans drafted in that trip. There were just a lot of people! I knew I would have to come back, finalize the deals with local businessmen and set all the plans in motion. Most importantly, a system that the Indians would trust and follow while maintaining an elite group of creative heads as well. It wasn‟t corporate style exactly, there

were a lot of risks and many more unknowns than I cared to imagine. Most of the workshops were rundown shacks or „kutcha‟ houses as they call in small trading towns. Nothing was set, nothing was definite but there were a lot of people who believed and a lot more who hoped.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:09

17. Smile

Mischa and the designers went berserk with the new spoils. Mom acted as a full time business consultant, showcasing our collections to everybody and anybody whether they wanted just one piece or a hundred and took the PR quite seriously as well. She, supposedly, suddenly fell out of interest in her self-help book publishing business. But I knew it was Lana behind it. Yeah, mom and Lana kind of had a sudden breach in their relationship after my big sob-night and there was a lot of blame game that went on behind my back. The result was this. Dad was happy with my finds this time and there was a bit of talk about it in the art circles. Our store was being rampaged by shopaholics and Indians, art enthusiasts, couture specialists, housewives and hippies, reviewers and critics. There was a lot of talk about target customer (which never really panned out) and hiring of new business managers, establishing sister enterprises or partners for trading. Lot of stuff that went right off the top of my head, really. I felt like a happy onlooker at the Fourth of July parade or, more simply, like Clooney when the rest of us are decorating the Christmas tree.

I knew I was losing control, but I also knew that the enterprise was progressing in the direction I wanted. I was going to leave it all in able hands and everybody accepted that, including Mischa. I was going to have to go back to India, where it all began, and see to it that everything was going smoothly and begin more and more operations. Not in a business perspective at all, but in a way that would employ and support hundreds of families. My business wasn‟t „the thing‟, it was just an example. A model for more people and businesses „in‟ the country to follow. Indians liked working models. They wouldn‟t resist aping them at all. That was veritably the reason behind my smile those days.

Clooney sensed the big move. He was quite understandably upset when I didn‟t take him with me last time I went. But he was becoming increasingly happy now and I figured it was because he figured it out. That we are going. This time, for good. There is no coming back. He is going to miss little Wyona, of course, but he wouldn‟t complain. He wouldn‟t complain when I would drag him all around the country again, meeting strangers he would forget soon but who would remember him. “Oh, you have an Indian dog…!” they would say in surprise. “Yes, he‟s been with me all around the world,” I would return and they would pat his head in amazement thinking quite accurately that he is the only Indian dog who had been to so many places. He wouldn‟t complain at all. He would accept their treats and jump into the car woofing to be taken to the next destination. I smiled.

I had numerous meetings and parties with activists and fundraisers. Worked, worked and worked till my back broke. I was not going to come back. I had to make sure everything was alright at the base and the base was stronger than ever. Dad eventually bestowed me with the prodigal daughter award again and wasn‟t resistant to the fact that I was moving (as long as I had a bulletproof vest which I always wore. “Of course dad. It‟s magically invisible too”). Mischa, well Mischa didn‟t get the chance to say I was the best business partner. Mom overtook me there. I was happy anyways. My farewell party was coming up in a week and this time no one would hear of my taking off without notice and calling back on a raspy line to tell them where I was. I had a few things shipped to my flat in Bombay already.

On one of my few free nights, I went partying with Mischa and Linny again. And after a few too many drinks, told them I loved them and will always miss them. Oh, we had a tearful, embarrassingly long group hug too.

I said to Mischa, “Remember in the hospital, you wrote me a little note saying I have to „live, if just a little, just for me‟?”

“Yeah, what about it?” she asked, a little embarrassed remembering the silliness.

“Well, I never got the chance to tell you that it was the most beautiful verse someone has ever written for me.”

“People wrote verses for you?” Mischa asked, always her jealous protective self.

“Oh, there were dreamy poetry students competing for that alright,” Linny said offhandedly, “Yeah, and the guy who described her ass best won.”

“Really?” Mischa prodded.

“It was a high school thing. Linny plotted it all behind my back and she picked the winner too, by the way!” We laughed.

“And Misch…” I said looking at her. I had to because she would grow frantic with worry as the d-day came closer and would do everything she can to stop me. Mischa succumbed to this newfound zeal to protect me since the day I came back from India for the first time with Clooney. She meant it about the „dead eyes‟ thing and I believe her. So I said, “Misch, this is me, living just for me and a lot more than little.”

“Really? Do you always find social work so fulfilling? I always meant to ask because you were never this way in college. But I never got the chance.”

“It‟s not a conscious idea sweetie…and I was indifferent to a lot of suffering people too. Still am, in cases. You can‟t help anybody in this world except yourself…and those you love. People have to help themselves. And this is me helping myself.”

My cryptic philosophical note didn‟t sink in with anyone including myself. So we laughed it away and ordered more drinks.

“Talking about never getting the chance to ask something you always meant to,” Linny said setting a strand back primly so as no to mess with her Rachel haircut, “When‟s your next date with Clooney? Like next year?” she laughed. Mischa looked on curiously. We never broached the topic of George after I lost it on her one day in the store because I secretly blamed my provoking him that night on her. I didn‟t tell her what happened but told her quite coolly that it‟s none of her business anymore.

I laughed it off hoping they would leave it be but I could see Mischa giving Linny a secret look to keep going. That bitch!

“Tell me! I‟m dying to know. I mean what the fuck, it‟s the biggest story of my life. First there was this lousy bunch of idiots ruining my sleep by just „living‟ in the upstairs apartment. Then an asshole from the same bunch dumps me for a tramp and then my best friend hooks up with his best friend. I mean that‟s ok, no story there. But bam, five years later, he becomes a huge star! C‟mon give me some gossip, everybody is asking me about it.”

“Linny! It‟s not a story for everybody! Please tell me you didn‟t tell anyone! Ok, at least say, not more than a few.”

“Oh what does it matter? It sent a lot of customers your way. You have to be thankful to me.”

“So those strange women who would suddenly pop up with questions about my love life were your doing?!” she just shrugged as if to say, what‟s your point, “Linny, do you have any idea how embarrassing that was? They would come straight out to me and say, „so you‟re going out with George Clooney right?‟ And I‟d say, „No, not really.‟ And they would either give me this look as if I was a nutcase who invented the story in the first place or nod along sympathetically as if I were a girl ditched at the altar!”

Linny laughed outright. The balls on her! And Mischa looked the other way too, her lips pursed in a hidden smile. I let out a little chuckle myself.

“If the scumbag took you out publicly, that nutcase thing wouldn‟t have happened you know.”

“There was no point going out publicly when…Oh, let‟s not talk about it please! And no mud throwing either. I‟m so tired of defending someone I don‟t give a shit about.”

“What?!” they both said in unison. Shit! What gave me away? Oh right the I-don‟t-give-a- shit-about. Fine! They‟re my best friends.

“I broke up with him girls. Long ago,” there was a tiny pinch in my heart and a sad chuckle, “Yeah, what was the point right?”

They both looked skeptical and exchanged sly comic glances.

“Oh ok…I mean you‟re leaving, after all,” Linny ventured, “maybe when you come back…”

“But I‟m not.”

Comic glances again. What does a woman have to do to be taken seriously!

“Is that why you broke up?” Mischa said slowly, finding her voice.

“No. It happened last year. Before I even decided all this.”

Now they looked shocked.

“Why are you both so surprised? Didn‟t you both opine with all piety that it was a doomed relationship in the first place? What‟s the big deal?!”

“The big deal is that you were so…I mean it‟s you and George!” Mischa said finding her voice, “You were with him for as long as I can remember dammit!”

“Yeah right.”

“I mean with or without, it was confusing, but still! You were so into him.”

Bullshit. I didn‟t say anything though.

“And he was into you too!”

“Yeah, totally,” Lana murmured, “in that male, brooding way though. No offense.”

I shrugged. It was a closed chapter. For all I knew he would have changed ten girlfriends already. But I wasn‟t going to ask my girlfriends about it. Yeah, they knew, they read the tabloids and would‟ve had a hundred discussions about every piece reported already. I laughed to myself thinking I could be such a shut case that not even my girlfriends dared to probe about stuff they know I won‟t talk about. Even if they were dying out of curiosity, even if all the friends they let in on the gossip were poking them regularly, even if they saw pap photos or T.V shows that threw them a million questions. I smiled.

Days before the journey, I had to finally stop doing things that did not concern the journey and concentrate on menial tasks like packing, getting Clooney checked out, the documents, shopping for stuff I would need and friends in India asked for. Oh, the shopping! In just days, bags and suitcases filled up with such velocity that there was no way I could take it all in the plane. Damn, I have to call Fed Ex again! Like for the tenth time. Going for a short trip or even an unplanned one that might just last for years is so much simpler than when you planned everything and worry ceaselessly about what you missed. Like you would ever know! That was the beginning stages of my hate-planning hate-systems phase which would go on to become a lifestyle choice. My life wasn‟t planned or never turned out as planned. Life is a surprise. No matter how much you try, her (life is a she for sure! All the incomprehensibility!) surprises go beyond your predictions or wishes or fantasies. So, why try to rein her in when you cannot stop her from running her own course? At that thought, I smiled.

We were having a quiet dinner the day before the party. Lana was in one of her mothering-me phases checking, un-checking and rechecking her lists. I had to force her to give it up and just have dinner. I was sampling the soup I made with trepidation. I looked at Lana and Wy waiting for them to pass their judgment. Wyona looked at me and chuckled. She knew I was a timid cook and even made smart-ass complaints that the food was „baaa-aaa-aad‟ just to tease me. She was about to launch into more of her pre-school buddy stories she just can‟t seem to stop about, when Lana looked up seriously and said, “So I always meant to ask…” I interrupted her laughing, telling her about all those questions everybody „always meant to ask‟ these days. She didn‟t pass a comment on that but went on, “Were you in love with this boy Clooney?”

There were two things to laugh about at that point. First, Lana calling George, a boy, considering she was a year younger to him and considering none of us was „boy‟ or „girl‟ anymore (I was, kind of. Smug smirk. Still in my twenties. Old maid. Shit!). But she was role playing mommy for me and she was quite studious at that. Secondly, the minute Wyona heard „Clooney‟, she shrieked at the top of her lungs, “Clooney, momma is calling for you!” And he came jumping threatening to overturn the coffee table. I laughed at the second.

“Not him sweetie. Another Clooney.”

“Another doggy?”

“No darling. A man. Sssshh now.”

“Clooney is a man? Clooney, hear that?” she asked Clooney and went on singing, “Clooney- clooney-looney-clooney-looney-clooney…!” her c‟s disappearing in the tongue twister. I couldn‟t help but burst into giggles.

“Ssssh Wyona!” her mother chided, “Eat your food!”

“So tell me, were you?” the sharp pang I felt when she asked the question was gone. I was indifferent, “I don‟t know Lana. Maybe. I can tell you though, that I never went as far as to foolishly name it that.” I said unable to actually use the word love.

“Was he in love with you?” I shrugged, irritated.

“Because I realized that day that you were quite into him,” Lana said fiddling a little, “I never noticed before but it all came back. That years-old phone conversation in which you frantically asked me if his last name was Clooney, yeah, I remember that! You naming your dog after him! And I wasn‟t even in the picture then. You used to keep bringing him up in conversations, „George would have said that.‟ „George would like it‟ or not like it…or some silly joke he told you ages ago.” I glared at Lana. Why was she doing this? “And now you just say „someone‟ used to say that or „someone I know‟” Damn all intuitive women!

“So I remember him! You don‟t pretend as if old friends you don‟t talk to anymore, don‟t exist! Or drop off the memories of dead people down the loo! What is this stigma with relationships that once it‟s over you can‟t take that somebody‟s name? And if you do, people give you sad or sympathetic looks. Sucks!” I fumed silently. Hoping Lana would realize I‟m actually blaming her for pretending as if her ex-husband doesn‟t exist and would change the subject.

“SUCKS!” Wyona imitated. Crap!

“Ssshhh Wy. What did I tell you about keeping mum when two adults are talking?”

“But there is three adul-s here,” Wyona said showing up some fingers and dancing them till she found three.

“Are,” Lana corrected her, “How come there are three?”

“One: Mommy,” Wyona started assigning us to each finger, “Two: Auntie and Three: Clooney!” She shrieked the last part showing her triumph and broke into her song again: Cloooney-clooooney-loooney-cloooney-loooooney…. Lana laughed one of her motherly laughs and shushed Wy by patting her on the head.

“Yes, you remember him,” she resumed her conversation making me angry again.

“Oh stop it Lana. It‟s not like I tried to kill myself over him. It was a bloody old fling. What does it matter?” reducing my pitch at „bloody‟ just so Lana wouldn‟t throw her plate on me.

“But it mattered to you what he said that night.” Rod in the wheels. I stopped dead in my tracks.

“It would‟ve mattered the same even if it were someone else,” I returned sulkily.

“That‟s not true. In fact I don‟t think anyone was ungenerous in their criticism of you including dad and Mischa.” There was no escape. She nailed it. Yes, it did fucking matter. SO? I asked her the same without the expletives.

“So, aren‟t you going to tell him now that you are leaving the country forever?”

“No!!! Why would I do that?”

“Because you are leaving! Because you are taking a big step in your life. A life which he was a part of.”

“Insignificant part.”

“I would tell Wyona‟s daddy if I was leaving the country.” “Because he is Wyona‟s daddy.”

“Because I loved him. At some point in my life.”

“I never loved George.”

“He was still a part of your life.”


“Because he called after you.”


“Many times.”


“I‟m sorry I never told you before. I thought you would get hurt…First I would see you dunking into your room as soon as the phone rang. Every phone call. No matter who was on the line….Or you would be preten—you would be asleep with your head under the pillows…if it was George and I came in to ask.” Yes, that is true, unfortunately. “So I thought you didn‟t want to speak to him. And I told him so.”

“When did he last call?”

“A month ago. Once when you were in India. Twice or thrice before…He would just normally chat up. He would ask after Wyona or Clooney. And laughs about „Clooney‟” Lana laughs. I couldn‟t help but smile, “I don‟t know sis…He didn‟t persuade me to tell you. Only the first time he called and I told him you wouldn‟t talk to him. After that, he…uh…never takes your name either. It‟s kind of weird actually.”

“It‟s because he‟s an egotistic bastard, that‟s why.” Wyona fortunately left the table by then. Lana laughed. “Yeah, guess so. But he did call…and hardly because he thinks I am his best friend!”

So, I called him the next day. Around two. Because some people are at work at that time and leave their machines on. Not that it crossed my mind. So, I can be civil and social too. I can make a chance phone call too, when I‟m not stuffed till my neck (and just till the waist) in my suitcase with packing. And pretend as if I cared and show to his…answering machine that I do.

“Umm…hi George. This is me,” I should be the tenth (female) caller who said that. So I mentioned my name, “Umm…well, I just wanted to tell you that I‟m leaving for India,” my

heart sinks. I should‟ve written down a list of words I cannot use. “Eh…for business. I‟m actually moving there. So, my friends and family are throwing me a little farewell party. At dad‟s house. Starts at nine. See if you can make it.” I hang up sweating all over. That‟s the saddest invitation I ever heard in my entire life. Even nasty ex-boyfriends don‟t deserve that. And George wasn‟t nasty. Here come the fucking tears. I picked up the phone again more calmly this time and tried to make amends.

“Errr…sorry about that. Someone was at the door and I was…distracted. So, I was saying, I would really love it if you could be there. Because I‟ll be leaving the day after for the 4 p.m. flight. And I..uh…I…just want to say goodbye.” Click. Shit! There were more inconsistencies!

“Uh…I‟m sorry about informing you so late. And uh…it is going to be a party. So of course, you are invited with guest.” Final click. Yeah, I can act all nice and gracious too. I just invited his most-probably-bimbo girlfriend to my party. How much nicer can I get?

Except it was all moot since George didn‟t turn up. Nor did he call to say he couldn‟t make it. Maybe he didn‟t get the message. Maybe he had to be at a star studded event which he just can‟t miss. All the contacts and openings! Or he couldn‟t ditch his neurotic girlfriend on a date because she would let in a snide comment in an interview quashing his debonair projected-personality. Or he just had to be at one of those innumerous award functions where he might have been nominated even, but had to put on an appreciative expression when he is passed up for the award. I wish he did just that. That would be a good punishment for not making it even after my oh-so-thoughtful invitation. I wish he did that all his life! No, not really. I‟m not a bad person, after all! In fact I‟m a celebrated humanitarian. Yeah, „celebrated‟. Screw you too.

It took all the toasts made on my behalf for me to surface from my dark moods. I was still looking at the door, craning my neck to see every time someone entered or exited. There were a lot of welfare activists and fundraisers present along with friends and family. Some of dad‟s friends, to whom he had to show off his prodigal daughter. Mum and Lana. Wyona, the lone child attraction. And Clooney all dressed up in Mischa‟s finest selections. Bejeweled collar (because it is bejeweled!), a football team doggy t-shirt (he needs personality), a satin bow on his arched tail (dogs are unisexual in the looks department anyways) and even ankle bracelets on forelegs (I just had them around…). He looked like a heavy rapper. With Wyona and Clooney and all of my friends and family, the event did turn out quite star studded after all. I smiled.

George knocked my door on that Saturday morning, the last day it was going to be my door. He came in around eleven. I don‟t know if he called beforehand. I was sleeping, still drunk from last night, knowing Lana would wake me up when its time, having looked after the last minute details herself all morning. Dad would come in soon and so would mom and Mischa (the newest indivisible duo) and it would be all nice and dandy, teary-smeary with the good- byes. But surprise, surprise! I woke up with a start when Lana whispered in my ear that

George came to visit and dived head first into the bathroom. There was a pleasant buzz in my head, disgusting taste in my mouth and a generally creepy appearance.

“Hey George! I‟ll be right with ya!” I yelled from behind the door jumping around in panic.

“Uh…take your time,” he shouted back, sounding as suave as ever. Emotional confusion. Anger or sadness or….joy?! No time to consider. Do something about the damn hair. I had to wet my hair and comb it back, the only way I could tame it. I put on some shorts and a drab t- shirt. I had a hard time finding even those. I am not the sort of person who has things lying around that I don‟t need or are dispensable. So everything went into the bags. Lana came in meanwhile and gave me some water scurrying behind my back like a trainer readying her ward for the big race. I shared a semi-hysterical laugh with her and stepped out. She disappeared instantly.

“Hi!” I said with a tiny wave. George stood up from the couch where he was petting Clooney and looked at me. “Hey,” he said, looking somber at first and then his expression drifted into the familiar secret-smile, amused-eyes. I just couldn‟t resist going straight to him with a big “Heyyyy!!!!” again and giving him a long hug.

“I missed you!” I said and instinctively kissed him. Retracted a second later.

“I missed you too,” he returned with a kiss on the top of my head. Is it just that I‟m short or do guys always do that? I sat him by the couch and looked at him grinning ear to ear like a clown in the circus. So much for planning to throw a vase at him.

“I don‟t believe this,” I said still grinning looking here and there, “I—” and giggled. He relaxed in the couch folding his hands not knowing what to say either. He was smiling tentatively.

“So you‟re going huh?”

“Yeah…finally!” Get off the topic George. He did.

“Taking Clooney?”

“Of course!” I smiled, “How are you?”

“I‟m fine. And you?” I shrugged, cocking my eyes towards Lana‟s room as if to say „I know what you two kids are up to‟. We stayed still for a few moments. I wanted to offer him something but was afraid that I might interrupt him if he just started speaking at that moment.

“I just came here to say…” he was going to take it back! That awful thing he said to me. “I just, uh..dropped by to say goodbye.” My smile wavered a little.

“I didn‟t get your message till I came home this morning,” he grimaced, “I uh…well…I couldn‟t make it last night for that reason.”

“That‟s ok…” I patted his hand looking at Clooney, “Would you like something to drink?”


I wasn‟t interested anymore. It drained away, the whole novelty of the situation.

“Oh, you have to leave. Sure. You must have something to do. So thoughtful of you to come by. I would‟ve been gone in a couple of hours. I was just about to get started actually. Mom and dad, everybody‟s coming,” I ranted on. I couldn‟t stop. And when I did, he was looking down smiling pensively. “Yeah, I have a lot to do!” I continued.

“Yeah, me too. I better go then.”

“Oh stay…if you‟d like to! I mean if you can. You‟re no stranger to my friends…even dad. Although that was really long ago that you met him,” I let out one of my fundraiser laughs.

“Yeah I did,” he said getting up already. I got up too. “But I really do have to go.” He said and looked distracted.

“Come here.” I went. He put his arms around me. Say you‟re sorry George. He pulled me closer. Say it. He was looking at me, slightly puzzled, slightly amused, a lot confused. Say it. Please, I pleaded with my eyes. He didn‟t. He wasn‟t going to. Awkward. So, he kissed me instead, like he always does when we didn‟t find anything to talk about. Which was a lot! He paused just a moment after touching my lips with his, to see if I would back out. Gentle— Longing—Passionate—Frantic.

And then we were making out on the couch. With more passion and abandon than I had ever imagined possible. Well…uh until Wyona came flying into the living room shrieking, “I wanna say hi!” and “Hiiiiiiiiiiiii!” as she flew past us. A hand on her mouth. She turned around reflexively. And ran. Ran like a scared chicken. Oh my freaking god! What did I just do?! I exposed my little niece to—. Can‟t. Think. Just. Yet.

What did I just do? I kissed a man I would never meet again in my life and I absolutely loathe! Ok that‟s not true. Want to loathe! I sprung up from the couch not daring to take my eyes off George and pulled down my t-shirt. I must be looking so wild that he finally said, “Calm down!” and I just put my head into my hands and wailed, “What did I just do!!!” And just so he wouldn‟t misconstrue…or I wouldn‟t misconstrue or whatever, “Wyona is five years old!”

“Five,” I exclaimed, “Lana will kill me! She will tear me to bits!”

“She‟ll do no such thing. Relax,” he said offhandedly, not looking at me and leaned forward. I sat there not moving feeling the rabbit-under-headlights feeling again. When did that happen before? It happened before??! And I started giggling hysterically, still hidden in my hands, too scared to move a muscle. George joined in the laughter. We laughed at each other, laughed on ourselves, for behaving like such idiots and gaping at the impossibly surrealistic situation. Not touching of course. In our own space. Not looking at each other either. Finally he stood up to leave and I stood up too and looked at him. He looked at me. Our eyes were speaking, but we didn‟t know what. Finally I kissed him lightly and held him. And he

murmured something like, „Don‟t go.‟ „Make me stay,‟ I murmured back and when we parted, we had no smiles left.

As he was leaving, George said, “I have something for you.”

“What?” I asked eyeing him curiously.

“Well you have to understand it was last moment. You didn‟t give me much time.”

“Ok! What is it?!”

He pulled something from inside his jacket that was lying discarded under the coffee table. It was the thinnest possible purple gossamer scarf with black velvet work on two perpendicular borders. It was also my scarf. I was intrigued first. Then I remembered. It was among those belongings from the fated night that did not make it upstairs when the doorman delivered them. I didn‟t notice. If George thought this was a nice parting gift, he couldn‟t have been more wrong.

“What is this?” I said feeling the material but not taking it. I was getting a little pissed and wished I had learnt that mantra, the Indian sadhu promised to teach me, which could make a person disappear instantly when you throw ashes on them.

“Well it‟s your scarf, but by the look of it you already know that,” George said pushing it into my hands. He had a very amused expression that lightened me just a bit.

“It was your scarf but it has undergone some major changes,” George was struggling to hide a chuckle, “Well, take a look.”

It was a rather small scarf. There was nothing much to look but I peered at it closely anyways. Couldn‟t find anything. Why don‟t you just say you‟re sorry and buzz off? But no, things just can‟t be that simple with you, can they? He guided me to what he was talking about. On one untouched part of an edge were two simple letters embroidered with finesse. GC

“What is this?” I said smoothing my thumb on the letters.

“Well I was sampling monograms…I think I‟m gonna settle on this though.”

I couldn‟t believe it. What the—“You pompous ass!” I laughed outright pushing him. He laughed too and hugged me tight

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:09

18. Fuck the system

The next four years were a (almost) pleasant blur in my memory. There was so much happening around me, so much moving around, too many troubles, too many celebrations and well, basically too many people. That‟s what India is for you. It seemed like things have a course of their own. Systems, you can say. Only problem is, flawed though they were, the systems are followed to the dot in India. But still, I was on autopilot and I enjoyed it. There was also the wistful feeling that I didn‟t have enough time for myself, but it passed soon. I missed home terribly. And that never happened to me before. In my past stays here, I never even thought about home. Except when I suddenly remembered I forgot thanksgiving or someone‟s birthday or well, Christmas (just once and I was in a village!).

Seasons passed unnoticed because I travelled a lot and India has such varied weather. Besides if I was in Bombay (and I should start calling it Mumbai—official rules), it felt just the same all year long—sticky and sultry. At one point there were jokes on computers which did not reach the country full scale yet (like a machine could do everything! Ha ha ha) and suddenly offices were filled with it and the kids next door were screaming that they want the „Compewterr!!‟. Outsourcing was the hushed word at one point (what a dreamer?! Ha ha ha) and suddenly export businesses found no capital. Kids in school forgot the words lawyer, professor or even the employment life line of India and middle-class status symbol „government job‟ (your dream is to work in a shoddy office as a clerk for the rest of your life? I‟m going to work in A.C offices and then go to America. Ha ha ha!). And I am not exaggerating here or picking on just one thing because I can‟t remember others. It‟s like the whole country was chanting „Computer…computer….computer‟ all the time, over and over like they would chant „Om Om Om‟ in the Kumbh Mela. I lost some of my own investors to the computer madness. I mean what kind of idiot retard-o extraordinaire would pull out his money from handicrafts and put it in computer software—the exact opposite? I hoped they rotted in losses and bankruptcy. Which they didn‟t, unfortunately. I hated computers for that. Since they were ultimate, ubiquitous and literal representation of the „system‟ that we depend a bit too much on. Fuck the system.

The country was changing in front of my eyes and there was talk of new opportunities people never imagined in roadside Chay parlors. There was hope all over and somehow the cities didn‟t look so dull anymore buzzing with alacrity. The villages and towns didn‟t change much though. I could see that too, see the huge government grants being offered to I.T. outfits, slums being trampled to earth, vacuumed and glossy buildings raising in their place, see the agriculture industry taking a permanent backseat in government priorities, see the young crowds in metros experiencing fission reactions and see the white haired dhoti clad villager still sitting in the barren bus stand, just a wrinkled hand to guard himself from the sun, waiting. But it‟s all for the greater good right? So what if the villagers lie dust and disease ridden for just a few more years? They have been doing it forever and just a little longer can‟t hurt. Just until the system is in place for total development based on neo opportunities that are „revolutionalizing‟ the world. Fuck the system.

I was acting as a business consultant for many enterprises keeping in mind that if at least one new family is empowered through my deal, that is profit enough. My cause was transparent. There were many workshops I oversaw, not necessarily related to the business back home which now became just another pillar of support, many small scale businesses I supported and was constantly pulling out slum dwellers in the cities and sending them back home with a job in hand. And I was also throwing some weight around government organizations and conferring with NGOs to make sure these people have proper facilities. The big guys I dealt with knew this and also knew that the cutting edge deals I offered got me little profit personally and more to the outfits I supported. And they took advantage of this. But, of course. Now they know that I am collaborating with an NGO trying to mitigate the mass poverty that suddenly struck flood ridden villages. And that I have probably promised the refugees, dozens of jobs and new roofs on their heads through the deal I had just been promised. So they could always reduce the asking price just before the deal closes because then I can‟t back out. I have so many commitments after all. It‟s not like they don‟t understand my cause, don‟t get me wrong. But business is business, right? It‟s always been. And if there is an opportunity at hand, one might as well take it. Like it is chalked out decorously near the end of the flow chart: Any possibility for lowering asking price? Yes/No. That‟s it. It‟s a simple yes or no question. The other party‟s causes or concerns are not a part of systemized business transactions. Never been. Fuck the system.

Now that I have a brand name and am making news in the business circles and even the media infrequently, several designers are approaching me for brand collaboration. Of course, designers and couturiers are your best bet if you want to keep the interest of general public alive in the area of traditional artifacts. And they get the chance to brag to newspaper reporters (couture didn‟t reach television yet) about their genuine efforts in resuscitating and revitalizing the artistic value of Indian culture through modernistic approach. And that is brilliant publicity! What with our collections being featured in top magazines of India like Femina and Women‟s Era. Although the name of our brand is not mentioned quite clearly. It looked like the designer took the entire credit while in fact he shamelessly copied some designs Rob dejectedly discarded. And Rob was just an employee in U.S. while this guy was a major designer in India. Other than that, it was a tremendous success. So what if our own business wasn‟t really benefitted? It was all for the greater good. If demand for traditional goods increased, our business will improve automatically. And supposedly that‟s how the fashion business works in India. Malfunction being the name of the system. Fuck the system.

Then there were these little fundraisers now and then. Well, when a reputed international organization is showing interest in conducting awareness drives for various causes or disaster relief efforts by the government were insufficient or the funding for another organization supporting a hundred families suddenly fell through, it is indeed the responsibility of my company to conduct immediate fundraising drives, isn‟t it? But then the enterprise sponsoring the event sometimes asks for more than their fair share of the amount raised. And my company would lose a little money so as to meet the target amount. But that‟s ok…all in a year‟s business. These ups and downs are normal. Besides, there is nothing much to do in those conditions if you ask me. The government passed no rules or legislations for private

fundraising activities. Except levying taxes (duh!). So, enterprises follow standard business procedures—or not so standard because it is always last moment or it is the off-season (whatever that means) or something—in quoting their percentage. Health care is business, education is business, why should fundraising (for doing the same thing in a different way) be an exception? So we do it just „how it‟s always done.‟ Fuck the system.

So really all is well, in terms of business and most importantly in my social welfare goals. I have really set up or helped set up workshops in nearly a hundred villages all across the country, small as they were. There were trading centers in ten towns easily accessible to these villages and unbridled supply to our major center in Pune. An endless flow of human resources through the various connections I have with governmental and non-governmental welfare organizations (although I do wish it wasn‟t so endless sometimes). Seamless creativity from the smallest of units to the biggest: the tiny thatched hut with a bunch of village wives beading away on georgette to our very own fashion house with its wings spread over many major boutiques (well, there could always be clashes with a little too much of creativity. We‟ll see to it when it comes to it…or becomes a major problem, which it is so not at present). And most importantly there is a solid system in place! A system that will take care of every decision for me. And is fair and impartial, protective and supportive. I have nothing to worry about. Absolutely nothing.

Which is why I really shouldn‟t have been surprised when I was politely asked to step down from Chairperson of the Board of Directors. Just consult the flow chart. It is so simple. Is the leadership bringing in the desired results as charted out in Graph 5.6.71 (c)? Yes/No. Perfect formula really. And…the answer was No here. But these are just hiccups. What‟s a few crore Rupees in losses when you are looking at the numbers ten years from now?

„These graphs are drawn based on cumulative growth rate for a period of ten years madam.”

„What‟s that supposed to mean?‟

It means that no matter what I am going to show to my board of directors, like the popularity index , brand presence, expansion opportunities or the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility. On second thoughts, that‟s not something I should bring up. Altogether.), they would show me the charts like you would to a juvenile and tell me, „Madam, all the variables you are talking about have been projected in this very graph. See?‟ And I‟ll be looking at them dumbfounded trailing my eyes along their dirty fingernails (Indian men have a problem with that. I should raise some awareness) all over the freaking lines trying to make sense out of it.

„You can‟t do that. I have the controlling interest in the firm.‟

„Madam, that was in the last fiscal year. Then you sold a percentage of your stock for…lets see,‟ grungy oiled Indian puts on his spectacles, „the reason memo‟d to the board is, „to fund 1000 Cataract Operations Drive on the behalf of—‟ he looked up as if I was a lost starfish in the Arabian Sea and was about to continue when I raised my hand for him to stop.

„That was a paltry percentage I had to take out because there was a delay in financial transactions coming in from U.S.‟ he still looked at me the same way. It was not a part of the system, so it didn‟t make sense to him. „But I bought it right back! In less than a month.‟

„But the stock rose in value then Madam, because of your parallel publicity efforts at the Fashion Week. And you now own 0.06% less than what you need to have the controlling stock.‟

„So what? I‟ll buy it back!‟ I snapped.

„There is no stock in trading right now Madamji,‟ another perpetrator came forward to take the heat from me, „You signed the orders yourself.‟ Yes I did…because there was a hiccup and then a cover up and…NO!!! It was because the board conferred on it and made it possible! Push the board meeting back? Against board rules. Push the decision back? Point on agenda will be discussed and a decision will be taken. Board Rules. Alright that‟s it! Here‟s the last straw: the white woman syndrome.

“I will sue the company.‟

„Madam,‟ madam me once more and your pot belly will be pierced open with madam‟s manicured nails! „We are protected by international law. You signed the document yourself…and it is mandatory for foreign investors to do so according to the 1993 economic reforms.‟ Copy of the document and legislative bill? No thanks.

„I resign.‟

Sympathetic glances. „Madam, we urge you not to take this personally. You have done so much for this company. The company and the employees will be forever indebted to you,‟ Speech ready already? „Protocol‟, right, „But according to the system we follow, this is the course of—”


End of Story.

Only not so much.

„I am going to sell all my stock when I resign. Which will be in fifteen days from now. According to the fucking system of course.‟

„In that case, we would like to arrange a grand farewell party in the Taj. It‟s a documented protocol.‟

I laughed out loud and clear. Just like the witch in Sleeping Beauty.

Now, End of Story.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:10

19. Oblivion

When I learnt yoga many years ago, I was asked to sit calm, breathe and dispel all thoughts from my mind. I was sitting on a smoothened rock on a breezy little hill and the only other person around for at least a kilometer was my instructor. It was absolute perfection, the setting was. I could feel the cosmic flow of energy from leaf to root to earth to air to me to earth to air. And I felt the stillness, the beauty and the serenity and tried to dispel all other thoughts from my mind and just feel the endless flow of energy in the universe.

I couldn‟t do it.

I tried. Really hard. And told my instructor so. Apparently trying doesn‟t help either because it involves thinking and worse, stressing. So for more than an hour there I just thought „What the fuck?‟ over and over again. That helped. But now, sitting precariously on the parapet of my balcony with incessant Mumbai traffic flowing like lava from underneath, the neighbor‟s teenage daughter playing the tracks from the latest hit Kaho Na Pyaar Hai over and over and all the other hustle and bustle of iridescent throng of people that surrounded me, I thought of nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I have no idea for how long.

It took me more than three months before I could sever all business ties and commitments. Initially there were a lot of opportunities opening up for me, whole new ventures and business proposals in whole new planes. And there was also that consultant angle that made me a whole different entity from my company. But when I said I was going to quit, quite surprisingly, even to myself, there was a new kind of conviction that rose inside me. Well, some people, not so kind as me, would even call it indolence.

Like Nikhil. Nikhil is the guy Lavanya, my friend from early days in India, got married to. They live in Delhi but were always inviting me to their home. When I finally made it, Nikhil gave me a big hug and declared pleasantly, “What a waste!” After she had kids, Lavanya suddenly became very-mommy and gave up on her humanitarian activities. Nikhil was never into them but he was a traveler and amateur wildlife photographer who married her for her adventurous spirit. Now he just cribs about her. On her face.

“Lav is so old she is almost arthritic. C‟mon lets both go on a road trip.”

“Nikhil! I think she‟s fantastic. And I‟m not going with an old bugger like you.”

“Its ok honey. I‟m used to his pathetic jibes now. You both go ahead. I need some peace and quiet in the home,” Lavanya lamented. Nikhil is known for his over the top boisterousness and temper tantrums.

“Like your kids are really pleasant all the time,” he returned. I still can‟t imagine how Indian men can get away with pushing all responsibility of kids on the mothers including calling them „your kids‟.

Lavanya almost forcefully packed us off and before I knew it, we were on our way to Palampur, where the couple owns a guesthouse. We trekked and trekked, had dinners with

local friends of Nikhil‟s, had picnics with other families, even went fishing. Nikhil was never one to mince on words. He was firing questions at me all the time.

What happens to your company now? What happens to the NGOs dependent on you? What happens to the people you employed? What are you going to do? What is wrong with you? Very nice trip indeed. Quite an escape. When I couldn‟t ward off his questions any longer, I answered them, a little more honestly than he would have preferred, by the look of him.

“Nothing will happen to the company. I‟ve set them up a „system‟. And as eccentric they are about systems they are going to follow it for the next ten years at least!”

“The NGOs will learn to find funds. I‟ve shown them a lot of avenues. If they want to help people, they‟ll figure it out. I‟m not in the fundraising business anymore.”

“I didn‟t adopt these people. I just gave them jobs. And some peace of mind. They should figure out what they can do if at all it happens that „someone moved their cheese‟.”

Nikhil laughed and laughed at my seemingly shallow answers. So I said, “Nobody can really help anybody Nikh. Everybody has to help themselves. No matter what I do and provide for these people, they will always have problems. We all do. Such is life.”


Truth is I never thought of the people I have helped any different than myself. I have been in their place too, mentally. And I have helped myself and they will have to do the same. Granted they are not well educated like me or have a supporting family, but…but…the world is shitty. And they should‟ve guessed that. I don‟t blame the Christian missionaries anymore for teaching them a thing or two about hope and faith, even if they use monetary incentives to convert poor people to Christianity.

And about the personal questions… “I don‟t work for the money and the work doesn‟t give me a high. I have accomplished my goals and I should‟ve quit long ago. But it is now that I got the chance.”

“Nothing is wrong with me. I don‟t live for others contrary to popular perception. I live for myself. And that is what I am doing!” I could be very stubborn without reason.

“Really? So you‟re not the saint everyone says you are?”

“Of course not! If I were one I would‟ve given away all my money and would be meditating on the Himalayas. Not that that makes a difference to anybody‟s lives!”

“But how do you handle that? Everybody says you are a saint! Don‟t you have a Dheerubhai Ambani moment ever? Like the people you gave a lifeline to coming to you teary eyed thanking you and you reaching heights of inspiration and self fulfillment blah blah?”

I laughed, “People say a lot of things Nikhil. And they might not mean it. Even if they do, it might not mean the same to you as it does to them.”

“Really? Don‟t you feel one iota of responsibility for the several hundreds of people you helped? I mean I thought…I mean it was amazing what you have done and now….?”

“Is that the admiration bug catching up on you?”

“Ha! Not a chance. I could always see right through you. You are one selfish woman.”

I laughed. There is a bit of truth in that. I was glad that there is at least one person who could see that. I was tired of all the admiration and praises and worse, salutations from people who think I am a bigger person than them just because they chose to live for themselves and I didn‟t. Well I did too, but they didn‟t know that.

Life was slower at home. I liked not doing much of anything, reading a book late into the night, waking up in the afternoons, feeling my muscles relaxed to the point of atrophy and the whole novelty of not doing anything. There was just one point I didn‟t quite like, which is escaping. Too many people called, many dropped by and I had to let the phone ring and ring and leave a message later saying I was outside and let the doorbell ring and ring and not make a sound to pretend I was asleep. Unfortunately, one old friend and business partner of mine, who came home more than thrice and called way too much but did not get an answer, thought I was lying dead inside the house and broke the door open while I was in the bathtub with my headphones on. By the time I finally realized someone broke the door, he was already at my bathroom door dead in his tracks because it was open and I was naked. Indians always drop in without calling. As long as it‟s with the wifey, it‟s the done deal. There was a little, no, a lot of screaming after that and I had to take fifteen minutes of my precious alone time to tell him I was ok, I was not about to commit suicide in the bathtub, it‟s just not possible, no I hadn‟t swallowed any pills already, no I wasn‟t about to, no I don‟t have access to slow poison either, no I won‟t try to jump off my first floor balcony and try killing myself and NO, I‟m not dying by natural causes either. The furor only temporary died after that because he panicked and called a lot of people to tell them I wasn‟t opening the door and they told him I wasn‟t taking their calls either. Oh My God, Oh My God and the next thing I know people were dropping in like flies on a fresh Jaggery brick.

So I thought as long as I‟m not doing anything, why don‟t I do it at some place other than my social headquarters in India. I hit up Lana on IM to tell her the same. She was very adamant about having to know everything that‟s going on.

Lana: Why don‟t you come back home then?

Me: God, why does everybody ask me that?

Lana: Well, it does seem like the natural course of action if you are not working there anymore…

Me: And I‟m not married or have a future…

Lana: I didn‟t say that. That‟s not important.

Me: But you meant that.

Lana: No! I was only talking about eventuality.

Me: I‟m tired of the natural course of actions and systems!

Lana: Yeah, please don‟t get started on „systems‟ now.

Me: 

Lana: What do you want to do?

Me: Nothing. Stop asking me that.

Lana: Well, to be honest, I don‟t think you‟ll be able to find yourself a husband staying there.

Me: Who cares? You never married again. Dad didn‟t either. Would it be fathomable for you guys if I tried marriage and ditched it too?

Lana: I tried to find myself a husband. It didn‟t work out. I still believe in the institution of marriage. You should too.

Me: You have it right there. It‟s a fucking system.

Lana: Stop acting like a child! Get serious.

Me: Balls.

Lana: I want to throttle you little sis.

Me: He he    XOXO

Lana: What else?

Me: How‟s your nice and suave celeb buddy?

Lana: Oh curious aren‟t we?

Me: Yeah right.

Lana: Oh please. Give me a break. I‟ll email you his id later.

Me: Don‟t! I mean…alright WTF, I‟m bored anyways. I‟ve been hitting up a lot of ex-es lately.

Lana: A lot?

Me: Yeah! Didn‟t I tell you about all the proposals from nice Indian men and dates with travelling businessmen of all ethnicities?

Lana:  yeah, I‟ve had an earful of those. But they were just passing flings right?

Me: And George was….?

Lana: you drive me mad. Gotta go.

Me: Ok darling big sis. Hugs to Wy and you.

Lana: Hugs to Clooney. XOXO.

And I packed me and Clooney off to a little town near Mysore in Karnataka. It had nice and pleasant weather all through the year, wasn‟t overcrowded and I didn‟t know as many people there. I just celebrated my thirty second birthday, all alone with Clooney before leaving and was feeling strangely satisfied. So, we all grow old. If only there is something to stop the lines on the face, there is nothing more liberating than growing older and wiser.

One of our company workshops used to operate there and I fell in love with the town as soon as I set my foot in it for a visit to…err...close down the operations. But I made sure that an employment scheme was in place through one of the organizations. Our company owned a guesthouse there on the outskirts of the town which, on a whim, I retained for myself in the last moment. It was nothing spectacular. Just a one bedroom house with a lot of space around and a view of large paddy fields on one side and a brief stretch of woods on another. Actually it was quite spectacular. And I couldn‟t wait to begin my schedule there.

Which included, yoga outdoors for two hours, reading a book, tidying up the house, long baths in the crookedly installed bathtub, lunch, book, papers, magazines, Indian television, going out for long walks in the town with Clooney, saying hello to the locals, answering their tireless questions, evening tea with acquaintances from an active NGO or with one of the French and English families that also settled in the town, dinner, playing solitaire on the internet-less computer, charcoaling something carelessly till it could possibly resemble art, reading, more reading…Oh it was a full day alright!

Of course I knew it wasn‟t going to last forever that way, this was just a temporary break from all the running around, the fretting and the sense of futility that had been a constant state of my mind for almost ten years. I told myself over and over that I reached the goals I had before I came here and that is the something I have been looking for, „end of story‟, etc. But you know what they say about the idle man‟s brain being a devil‟s workshop and all. Well guess what, an idle woman‟s brain is a state of constant pandemonium. There were questions shooting through my head that needed to be addressed. And yoga didn‟t help.

One day I was walking with Clooney at twilight, when a local woman came up to me and spoke in broken English. I gathered she was one of the women which the program has helped. She was all smiles and seemingly happy to meet me. She said that with hands on her bosom, “I meet you. I verry verry hyappy.” Then she indicated that I should have dinner at her place. “Come. Come. Eat. Eat.” I asked her, “Now?” and she went “Eat. Eat,” again as if I didn‟t understand. One thing I know about the people in south is that they were very flexible in dinner plans and without exception, cooked for an extra person. So I went to her very modest home with Clooney, who she insisted be tied to the mango tree outside. She had two teenage daughters neatly dressed in well-tailored Salwar Kameezes and both of them couldn‟t stop gushing that a foreigner came to have dinner with them. The father wasn‟t home and was

supposedly at camp or someplace else. They didn‟t know. He never tells. I was a bit slow catching up on Kannada, the language spoken there although I had a fair bit of idea of Telugu, a related language spoken in the neighboring state. The daughters did speak a little English and I learnt through them that their mother used to be a line worker at a factory that manufactures plastic containers in a town nearby. She knew nothing about tailoring or embroidering or the other crafts that our workshop constituted of. But when she came to know about it she travelled all the way to our workshop and got a job there. She learnt many crafts during the two years it ran and after it closed she bought a tailoring machine and sewed saree blouses for the women and dresses for the girls in town. I smiled as they were telling me the story and told her with conviction that I was very happy with her progress. When I was leaving, despite my protests, the two girls touched my feet as a sign of respect.

During the next few days, I thought about the lady and her two daughters many times. It was true that I had no direct connection with any of the people I have helped. Back in my volunteering days I did talk to a lot of them, but that was different because they relayed their problems and I put them into some program or the other. I have never known anyone personally and wondered if I‟d have a moment if I did get to know them like Nikhil described. I have to admit I was curious, not just about myself, but also about the family. They were after all, a part of the reason that I am here now. So I invited the woman and her two daughters for dinner and asked her if she needed any help. She was adamant at first telling me that she quite happy now and is in fact independent in more ways than she could have imagined. But I pursued more. I mean there should be some problem she might be having after all. One of my guesses was domestic abuse because many women in India suffered silently from abusive husbands or in-laws, another was problem marrying her daughters off or some chronic health issues. When I finally broke through her wall, she smiled hesitantly and asked me if I could teach her daughters, the English language. I laughed outright. The English phenomenon indeed. Every parent in India wanted their kids to speak English and I was quite a blessing to her in that regard since everyone in town knew I had nothing to do. I agreed to teach them at my house in the evenings after they are back from school. It was just a little something for me to fill my day.

The girls had an easy learning curve and they were very diligent with their homework. The done thing in India was to encourage children to read the newspapers and watch English news channels, but I knew for a fact that these girls would lose interest in them before I could blink. They were very much into girly gossip and that was mighty fine with me because that helped me learn more about their family, not to mention that I was dying for company. So I produced for them collections of short stories, some Enid Blyton classics and of course, Harry Potter. I was indeed very pleased when they started having mock spell duals. They got pretty comfortable with my American accent, so I introduced them to romantic movies as well and they would giggle their way to glory when two unmarried people tumble down the couch in a massive interlock. I gave them a collection of five seasons of Friends with subtitles that one of my friends gave me as a parting gift before I left Mumbai. „Watch some Television for god sake!” They used to watch it in my house when I was trying to brush up my gardening skills outdoors. One day when I came in looking like a mess and a sprained

back from lifting a heavy pot, I found George staring at me from the T.V. screen and the girls in a noisy laughing fit as the lead actresses were involved in a brawl. When the girls were looked at me curiously, I told them I knew one of the guys sitting on the couch. They were very curious and wanted to know whether it was the one with black hair or the one with brown eyes. They were a little disappointed that it‟s the one with black hair and immediately wanted to know if I knew Rachel or Monica. Shravya, the younger one, wanted to know if I knew Joey. I laughed and told them I didn‟t know any of them. So they had to settle for the guy in black hair and wanted to know how I knew him. They squealed with laughter for almost twenty minutes with wide eyes and hands on their mouths when I told them he was a boyfriend. I laughed along too. In here, life back home seemed so surreal.

In the following months, I met with an organization in Mysore that conducted health camps in villages. I was in the city for three days meeting with the heads of the organization who wanted me to represent them at conventions. I told them I wanted to volunteer with the mobile camps instead. They found it difficult to comprehend my request, but complied after some thought. I stayed at an American friend‟s place those two days. She and her husband worked in executive positions at an I.T. company. On the third day I was waiting for my car when I checked my email after so long. It was thankfully still active and I had several messages from Lana, Mischa and even Wyona. A few from the colleagues at my company and some more official mails. I did not have the time or patience to open each email as it took an awful lot of time to load. So I composed a couple of quick mails to Lana and Mischa saying that all is well and since I‟m in touch on phone anyways, please don‟t bombard my mail box. And it still wasn‟t time to go and I was sitting before the computer tapping a pencil and staring at the compose screen. So I wrote. Wrote without thinking because I knew that as I write, I will find out.

And I built a tiny anthill with clay and mud under the tree of enlightenment that Buddha once sat. I collected many ants in leaves and sugarcoated papers and put them in there. Some of the ants I found crawling my walls to fend themselves from summer heat, some lost their dwelling when a large foot trampled it, some I enticed from their existing mound because the rain was pouring and I could see it melting. When the ant grapevine carried my news to other ant communities, more ants in need of a home traversed the distance in their neat lines and waited patiently till they were taken in. Every day I looked at my anthill growing and I was constantly adding more compartments, running around to see that they have food in the vicinity and making sure the changing seasons didn‟t affect them. Until one day, I decided I won‟t do it anymore. I didn‟t know why.

I went away to another tree that gave me cool shade and showered beautiful yellow flowers. I was living happily without doing anything, but I was confused still. Then an ant came to me and insisted I visit its home. So I went in, heart in hand, knowing the ant used to live in my anthill. So I asked it what happened. The ant told me its compartment collapsed and it had to move with its family. But by then it found out how to build a mound for itself and protect it from the weather.

So she lived there, with her two beautiful daughters, tailoring and embroidering clothes for a living. When her husband comes in, angry as ever, she doesn‟t complain or whine. Instead she exchanges secret laughs with her daughters and shows to him through her indifference that he cannot beat her anymore. Shows to him that she is a stronger person, not through muscle but through endurance.

And now I knew why I built the anthill and I knew not before. And now I am a little less confused than I was always. Does that mean that I am at a better place than I was ten years ago?

Sure enough, as I wrote the last line, I knew who I had to send the mail to. I smiled to myself when I typed in George‟s mail address. I did not sign the letter because it did not seem important.

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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:11

20. Story

He was a farmer and he had three kids. He is old and wrinkled now, weighs 40 kilos. When he was a kid, his landlord well over seventy, gave him a coin and asked him to sing. He knew not how to sing, so he asked the old man how. But he just laughed and told the boy to find a voice from inside, to make it strong enough to echo, the walls of his heart and the souls of his audience. The boy tried and tried. He learnt a new tune everyday from the pilgrims who visited the village, begged the fortune teller to teach him his song and waited with bated breath for the Harikathas (mythological plays) to sing a new tune. And he relayed them all, but the old man just laughed and laughed and asked the boy to keep trying. Long after his voice broke, the boy heard that the old man was dying. He rushed to the landlord‟s house but wasn‟t allowed inside. And there he stood standing at the wooden gates, looking at the old man who was laid outside. As a final rite before passing, his family members were pouring drops of water brought from the Ganges in his mouth. As each drop of the holy water marked the transition of the old man‟s soul into another world, the boy found a song erupting from the depths of his heart as if it had always been there lying and waiting. His voice was so loud that the entire village heard the tune…of extreme sadness, of gratitude, of hope, of love and of respect. Of a kinship only their eyes beheld, of a promise that needed no words, he sang. Of surrender, of abandon, of perseverance and of freedom, he sang. Of benevolence there is in one kind word, of virtue there is in sheer presence, of sweet sorrow there is in partition, he sang. And before he went, the old man looked at him and said, „peace‟.

After he died, the landlord‟s son increased the rent for all the farmers and extracted way too much commission on the trade of the harvests. Many farmers left their livelihoods and migrated to cities and towns to find employment. Primitive farming practices lead others to losses and debt. Some committed suicide by consuming pesticide, some left their families in debt and starvation and disappeared without a trace. But everyday, the boy, now a man with three little children went to the landlord‟s house and sang his heart out for the old man‟s soul. He got by somehow, made sure there are two meals a day and sent his kids to school. Hope came and went. Government grants, education about changing methods of agriculture, new irrigation channels and other infrastructure helped him prosper in some years while draught and famine, ill advised use of a particular chemical, disease and epidemic left him with nothing in others. Yet he sang, every day to the family that was the cause for his misery. The village turned into a town, his children moved on to jobs and started their own families, his wife of thirty years passed and he has bad joints now that stop him from working. But every evening he still walks all the way to the landlord‟s house and sings his song, like a prayer of hope.

After I took his temperature and filled his health chart, I asked him why he does what he does. He tells me there is no reason except to show gratitude to the old man who died. After a moment‟s thought though, he confides that everyday as he sang, the landlord‟s son used to come out all crooked with anger but unable to shoo him away out of respect for his dead father. He tells me that was enough reason for him to go back to his family and laugh away their troubles.

I didn‟t quite get the logic of that, but I laughed with him anyways. He was pleased that I did. And I wondered for a second if I were to be born in that village, I would have fallen in love with him. Quite a surprise, even to myself, to think that. But as I said before I never thought of myself any different than the people I helped and now I am getting a chance to put myself in their place.

She was a maid at a middleclass home ever since she was a kid. She was married off to a construction worker at twelve, right after she had her first menstrual cycle. Everyday she wakes up with a feeling of dread because her husband might resort to the belt treatment again or her mother-in-law might publicly harass her for not having a male child or that the supplies in the house might run out. Everyday she unloads her troubles on her mistress, often ending up in tears. And as a woman to woman they bond, trying to correlate the problems in each other‟s lives, listening and comprehending with no solutions to offer. And then she goes home to her little hut among the many shacks that line up the street opposite to her mistress‟s home. She waits for her husband with patience while chiding her daughters regarding their homework, while conferring with her neighbors on an impromptu game of checks and dots, while going down the two kilometers it takes to bring home fresh drinking water, back and forth, back and forth, for he is not kind if she hadn‟t waited however long he might be. And then he comes with a roar sending chills up her daughters‟ spines and grabs her by the scruff and tells her to serve the food. So she comes with a plate full of rice, a watery mixture of pulses to go with it and she throws its contents right on his face. He looks shell shocked for a moment, but by then she is already out in the street yelling and screaming. He comes after her, grabs her neck and tries to kick her. But she is saved by the few somber men who live around and she goes on for hours shouting abuses at him, his lifestyle, his work and most importantly his penis. After the furor has settled, the couple go in together, their tempers cooled, the violence finished and now they have just some simple things to share with each other. And the next morning, she comes again to her mistress, tells her what had happened and cries. Cries till the tears would stop abruptly and she will have to tell what she had done. Then she laughs. Laughs loud and clear, with mirth and rue, vengeance and humor, with hope and despair. That was her good day. And she doesn‟t mind the many bad days that might come her way.

My hosts happened to be the family she works for and everyday her kind mistress used to ask me if there is anything I could do. I could actually but I didn‟t. Because, in ways uncomprehending, she told me he was her family and that she will find a way.

There was a woman I met in a forest belt in one of my tours with Vinay. I found her again when I visited the same town with a group of conservationists. She was a fine guide for the tribal museum relaying facts about tribal artifacts like a tape set in fast motion. Now this is the spear they use to hunt deer, these are the baskets the gonds use to collect Tendu leaves to make cheap cigars called bidis, this is the paw print left by the goddess Mariamma when she visited us in the form of a tiger, this is the idol of the Vayu found in a landslide that killed ten villagers, these are the fishing rods, these are their handmade carpets and so on. There is a simple reason why I remember her so vividly after so many years. A bear mauled her face when she was younger and she had three very deep gashes from her eye to chin on one side.

She was picking up berries in the forest with a toddler tied to her waist when she heard a commotion in the bushes. She knew she would have to stay very still, knew she had to pray to Mariamma for her forgiveness, knew she will have to croon to her softly so she might be spared for violating the goddess‟s territory. But her son of two years begun to kick and wriggle from the sudden change in her stance and she was desperately clinging on him to settle him. When the bear came she knew it would take her son as a sacrificial offering to Mariamma. When she woke up with crookedly dressed wounds all over her body, she begged and pleaded with the men of her village not to go after the bear. They have tracked it to a mountain stream already and were planting traps to seek revenge. But where she came from before her marriage to a small man who traded in Tendu, she had learnt that you do not seek revenge on Mariamma, the goddess of the forest. You worship her and she will protect you in return. The fiery villagers wouldn‟t heed her warnings, but went ahead and killed the bear. With every hope of reconciliation with Mariamma lost, she traversed the length of the mountain with husband, a few bearings in tow and she begged the forest department in Srisailam, to give her a job. The country was waking up to the realms of conservation just then and she was given a job at the newly set up museum. She quickly rose to the position of a guide from maintenance and here she was, reciting the traditions and mythical aspects of several tribes in the area. She does not know what environmental conservation means in a global perspective. She has no idea why the tigers should be tracked and little moths should be collected but she tells her fellow villagers just the same, to help the forest department find the paw prints, tell them where they have seen a certain kind of bird and tell them where the water holes are located in the forest. Because she hopes that, by doing so, she might be an inch closer to Mariamma‟s forgiveness and she might just get the chance one day to see her son again, who she knows for a fact, is in Mariamma‟s safe hands now.

He was a soldier, a jawan as they have called him all his life in the military. It simply means young man. He had fought with the terrorists in Kashmir, the LTTE in Tamil Nadu, he was stationed in deserts, in deep forests, in the snow. His wife had begged him all her life to come back, that he had done enough. But he couldn‟t heed and he didn‟t know why. And he went on clearing the dead soldiers from the bloodstained ground they fell on, warding off the many insults that came his way from highstrung superiors, the many battle wounds and many endless journeys to vacuous places with only violence in the air. He still remembers the sound his bayonet makes when it passes through flesh, remembers the hush his senses levy on him when perpetrators are at bay, the nightmares that were always violent, but he doesn‟t talk about them because it is not the done thing. He never understood why he went on, the war didn‟t make sense to him, neither did the politics. That was what his life was, he says simply, there was no room or reason for complaint. And now he‟s not jawan anymore. He is retired and he has no one. His loving wife had died of heart attack and his only son doesn‟t want to do anything with the father who was never there for him. His son‟s educated wife thinks he‟s barbarous and uncivilized. But he knows she is kind at heart and shuns him only because he reminds her of all the innocent people killed in the wars. So he stays, far away from them in a slum in Mumbai, but never complains still. His only resource being the meager pension he gets every month, he set out to make some companions. And he did indeed, quite brilliantly at that. Every morning and evening, he walks the length and breadth of his neighborhood and feeds the stray dogs and cats living there. He still has no reason for what he does, but he does that just the same. As he sets out of the little shed he lives in, more than a dozen street dogs trail him wagging and jumping around him. As he reaches the small abandoned building in the corner, around twenty cats line up on the sagging steps waiting patiently for their treats. When a dog is wounded in a brawl with his playmates or falls under a fast moving vehicle, it drags itself to his house and croons softly for him to attend on it. He tells me when I met him during a rescue operation for a dog that fell into an open well, that these animals ask him no questions, instead help him do what he hasn‟t been able to do all his life: care for another being. Well, that and filling the lack of T.V. at his home.

We find our wisdom knowingly or unknowingly at places we never thought we would, we find laughter in surprising little things, we find different ways to cope with our problems and we find some problems that cannot be coped with. In myriad places, we find our hope and when we cannot, we find those places where we can hope to hope. And it is in those places, do we learn to define ourselves. Which is why the stories of all these people are important to me. Because only in their stories do I find mine.

And I found myself at the bottom of a whirlpool, its prismatic light reaching all around me. I wanted nothing more than to reach to the top of it, become the prism indeed, for I felt I knew not myself without that light. And for a long time there was nothing but the whirlpool and I. At different stages I found those vines I have shaken lose of, entwining me again. But in the whirlpool I was and in I stayed, up I went till the vines lost their hold.

And I did reach up there, bruised and battered, but happy I figured me some. Funny thing though, I still hear the anemones calling for me, my lobster buddies passing „hey there‟ bubbles, the schools of fish zooming past me even as I pat the sharks on their heads. And the exotic seagull still flaps by me sometimes, still keeping its distance, squeaking in the same cryptic tongue I could never comprehend. I think she just wants to eat me.

But hey, here I am, the sun on my face, lapping on my lilo, frolicking with the mermaids that come my way.

Does that make sense? How the hell are you?!


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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:13

21. Birdie


“Can we go now?”

No reply.

“I‟m bo-oo-ooo-red!”

No reply.

“It‟s so hot!”

More fiddling of equipment.

“I think I might faint.”

“Volunteer, shut up.” Huh, finally!

“We‟ve been watching those stupid birds all day. It‟s so bloody hot I cannot breathe.”

“Then why the hell did you volunteer?”

“You know bloody well why!”

“Alright fine. Come here,” Arnie sat me in his lap like I was a kid and gave me a kiss, “Now, be calm. There is a cat on the prowl.”

“You don‟t mean you?”

“Ha! Hopeful aren‟t we? Sssh…”

And sure enough, like thirty minutes later, a tiger came in to the water hole about thirty meters from the bush we were hiding at and sipped daintily for another bloody thirty minutes! All this while, Arnie was looking like a kitty that met its first human, his ears pricked, muscles tense and, if he had one, his tail shot straight up with a little curve at the tip. I met Arnie while I was volunteering with a group of conservationists. I don‟t usually do field trips, but just go with the awareness camps so that I can meet more people helped by voluntary organizations. He was a South African ornithologist, here to map the habitat of a bird that was thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in ‟97. He met with my organization and told them in no uncertain words that he would like a white woman to volunteer with him. Arnie likes to tick people off that way, throwing his weight around, a famed ornithologist as he was. Of course, he had also known that I was volunteering with the organization at that time and we have known each other from university days. But he wouldn‟t let them have it that simple. Let them suffer the indignation of putting across such a disgraceful request to me. I laughed outright and decoded his request for them and assured them that a simple lunch date with him would do. But as conscientious as they are about decorum and as discomfited they are with Arnie already, they begged me to put up with his request just the same. Alright, what harm could a little old-pal time do?

All I had to do was to help him with his equipment, note down some incomprehensible numbers and units he threw my way and basically run around him wherever he went. We had a great time re-bonding, I teased him about his balding forehead and not-so-subtle paunch and he got back to me with jibes on my hippie lifestyle and apparent flakiness. “Why don‟t you just go off to the Himalayas and chant mantras all day? That seems to be the in-thing these days”

“With that paunch of yours, you might want to reconsider putting off the idea of marriage.”

“You and your dog make will make a pretty picture for All around the town, you know?”

“Do you actually feel your scalp emptying itself and lines sculpting around your mouth like they show in those germination videos on Discovery?”

And on we went. Only one day, and I‟d like to call it one of Arnie‟s clear days, he decided he was bored of bird watching and we spent the day in the interior cottage in the forest instead. And you know, one thing led to another, blah blah blah. Well, he‟s got his request filled. At least now he should be nice to his poor hosts.

It‟s been forty-five days since! And we were back to civilization only twice. You might just imagine one of those clichéd romances with the couple lost in the forest with nothing but the passion between each other. Well, don‟t. Arnie is a pathological workaholic, which is quite a new level in human evolution because 90% of his workday consists of sitting and staring in a supersaturated state of concentration. When I said, that‟s it, I‟m done here, he enticed me with a promise of showing me the big cat. And he hung that bait for about fifteen days and finally here we were. And the cat wasn‟t even showing any action.

“Is it going to jump around or something?”

“No, why?”

“What do you mean no? I mean, is that it?”

“Pretty much. I mean if we are lucky, the tiger might show us some of its grooming moves. But I don‟t think that‟s likely to happen.”

“No thank you. I‟d rather just see it taking a poop. At least that requires a little more moving around than licking itself.”

“Honey, if that happens I‟d be in tiger heaven. Literally,” Arnie said quite seriously. Apparently, felines are extremely secretive about passing waste as Arnie informed me later. So, according to him, even I should be in tiger heaven if I was to be blessed enough to watch the unsightly sight.

“Really Arnie! What a bore! You environmentalists are quite mental in this regard. All it takes is a big fat cat to take a leak for you to reach the extremes of professional satisfaction,” I lamented dejectedly though I had already been brainwashed regarding the wonders of biodiversity and the pureness of life in the forest, “May be you have a point there,” I

continued and Arnie looked up in hopes of witnessing my self-redemption, “I mean look at it! It‟s been fifteen minutes and the tiger haven‟t moved a muscle. Really, it must be a wonder if it actually raises its haunches, digs up its poopy hole or whatever and does the job!”

Arnie gave me another schoolteacher pat and kiss and said, “Really? You think the tiger there has no story?”

“I mean, well…if you count the places it sleeps, the animals it hunts, its favorite hunts maybe and life…Although I have to admit I cannot imagine that lazy cad involved in any kind of mating rituals.”

“Ok…good progress. I might just teach you a thing or two about the wonders of the wild after all.”

“Save it. I did watch my share of documentaries and I can recite a couple of interesting traits of the tiger and the peacock and the wild boar and what not.”

“Alright. Tell me. Tell me one interesting trait about eh..wild boar.”

“Alright…the wild boar has a err…beak kind of a thing,” Arnie chuckled but didn‟t correct me, “only longer and thin like a stick. With it, it makes many holes in the ground all day long—please don‟t ask me why—which in turn circulates the air for insects and germs residing inside the earth, that decompose the natural wastes like dead leaves and feces. Ta- da!”

“That‟s a very interesting trait indeed. And you don‟t find that fascinating?”

“Well, to be honest, I find the wild boar sort of ugly. I mean it‟s just a big pig!” and I had a sudden guilty flash of George‟s (not so) little pig Max, “Not that I think pigs are ugly. Well at least potbellied pigs aren‟t. They make this annoying sound all the time…not the oink oink one, this one‟s like braying. But otherwise, they are fine.” Still love you Maxie-poxie- coochie-poochie! I haven‟t seen Max as much as George had seen Clooney because in phase one, George always stayed over at my place due to his moving around all the time and in the second, I was in a cast. But I felt for Max just the same because that was the only thing we had in common, me and George—a pet. Like a single parent thing. George wasn‟t as public as me in displaying affection though. Or maybe it was because of the violent spasms I had when he brought Max home for the first time—without informing. Is he still alive? I suddenly wondered. Clooney was thirteen, maybe fourteen. Remarkable as he was with everything, he showed no signs of ageing except a little in looks and slowed pace while trekking with me. Just the same I worried all day long on the days I was doing nothing. Max must be around fifteen or sixteen. I felt my heart twist. “How long do pigs live anyway?” I asked conversationally, but for some reason I didn‟t want to know the answer. Arnie was still in his school teacher mode anyways. Now narrowing eyes because of my wavering attention.

“Ok, if you‟re asking me am I fascinated? No. I mean its ok I guess, for knowledge sake but not making me any revelations, that one.”

“Oh, yes. You‟re in the story mode right? I‟ve read your book. You like your stories to talk about little things, but still reflect on global and philosophical perspectives.”

“You read my book?” I smiled, “yes, I guess so. You could say that. Or you could say you‟re reciting a quote from the back cover.”

“Ha-ha. I did read your book. Simply because it was you who wrote it and because it was thankfully small enough. So anyway, let me give you a global perspective on what you have just told me—”

“Arnie, I understand what you‟re trying to tell me. I‟m not an idiot. The germs and insects that the wild boar helps survive, decompose the leaves, eat animal shit and in turn provide the minerals needed for the bushes and shrubs to sprout. That keeps the ground from getting dry, so the trees won‟t wither and the whole tropical ecological balance is maintained and that is exactly why we should squeal and clap when the tiger safari guide shows us the ugly wild boar pecking away at the ground instead. Isn‟t that what you‟re trying to say?”

Arnie looked a little peeved, “Well, yeah. You missed some important facts…but you have your views set as I see.”

“Honey I think nature conservation is a really exciting field of study. Really, I do. But if you ask me, does it have a personal significance in my life? No,” he still looked peeved, “and I know that in your life, it makes all the difference. That is what life is about, finding your thing in that something no one ever looked at before. I thought you read my book!!!”

That night before going to bed, I was busy applying my natural tan nullifying concoction. It involved tomato juice and curd, a powder called Multani Mitti and the paste of a pulse called besan. I don‟t think you‟re supposed to put them all in, but I didn‟t remember the exact ingredients and I have sunburn in five different places. Desperate measures. Arnie came around—yeah, during the grooming process—and started talking sitting on the bathroom stool. Clooney was understandably upset because whenever I went deep grooming, like with the much neglected pedicures, waxing and scrubbing, he liked to sit quietly and watch because he knew he‟s going to get a bath before I do. I gave him a you-get-more-action-than- I-do-so-stay-shut look and he went away looking disgruntled.

“You actually, really don‟t think animals have a story?”

“Honey, I didn‟t say that. Now, I‟d appreciate some privacy, you know…”

“Even the world‟s most fascinating animals like the seagull or the penguin, the sharks or lions and tigers? No?”

“Sweetheart, I…”

“The kangaroos, the guerilla, the humming bird!!!”


“Do you think Clooney has a story?”

“That‟s ridiculous. Of course he does. He has been all around the world! He‟s the world‟s most unique dog if you ask me. But…err, doesn‟t look like you did,” I quipped.

“So, it‟s about going all around the world then. Just because these animals live in their natural habitat and don‟t even move when their habitat is being destroyed by the humans who have discovered travel and science and overpopulated themselves beyond all limits, you think they are boring. You think they have no significance at all, because your species has learnt to rule the world and theirs is just too inferior for you, an inconvenience more like. ”

“Whoa now! You‟re getting all emotional on me darling. I swear to god, I did not mean a thing about whatever you‟ve got your mind fixated on, thinking I did. Of course, I understand the importance of nature conservation! Why else would I be volunteering for an environmental organization and going around a crazy ornithologist, who is after a bird with red tail, for forty-five days?!”

“But you don‟t feel about wild animals the same way you do about humans. Just because—”

“Before you just-because me again, let me tell you what I think,” I was getting majorly irritated by now. The concoction is stinging on my skin. I must have got the proportions wrong. “I think, the one thing you conservationists have to accept is that humans, as a race, is indeed much more evolved than any other species in this planet. Now, god is not without his small miracles either, so he created many more fascinating creatures around us. Agreed that man did not take the best possible steps to make god proud in the way that he treated this world and more specifically the balance of nature. But it is a fact of life that man is a thousand, million times smarter than the rest of the creatures in the world. And god did not create him to keep the shit from accumulating and thereby provide ecological balance. We are on the top of the food chain. We are above the echelons of biodiversity. So stop fooling around comparing man to the ant or the anemone, the sea gull or the guerilla!”

Arnie looked flabbergasted. Well, didn‟t they say something about not messing a girl when she‟s preening? I went on to cover the silence, “and maybe this is a kind of balance too you know. Now we are working for other animals and plants though we have neglected and abused them for millenniums. Maybe this is the way man‟s symbiotic significance will evolve! And we might just cover up all those holes in the ozone layer after all. Chin up conservationist! You are going to be the top species in the world.”

Arnie smiled ruefully. Sometimes I feel he really thinks of me as a kid. People back home do that a lot because they think I‟m fragile and a wrong word here or there might set me flying— literally. But Arnie…? He even read my book!

“If I tell you a story of a little bird, will you hear?” I gave him a look, “Alright….alright…I know you already have your opinions set...,” that remark never goes well with me. I‟m a disciple of life! I do not form stubborn opinions on anything, because I know they might change any moment in your life.

“But when I read your book, you know…I couldn‟t believe for many days that it was the same skinny, geeky kid who beat all of us pros at getting her Ph.D. It used to seem like…you are pretty set in your ways, you know. Like you knew what exactly you were doing, like your life, in many ways, has set itself. Like you say about finding inspiration in surprising little things, I was in a way inspired by you. I mean for a second or so, don‟t flatter yourself!” I chuckled, “I was almost thirty! And I was still fielding for grants here and there, worrying that my thesis would never get accepted and all. And I find this petty little thing in bouncy blonde curls relaying little known facts in a non-stop chitter-chatter about generations of Indian culture and I thought to myself, „What the fuck man! Get it going!‟. And now I find this book of yours and hear about all the stuff you‟ve done in India. I have to say I was surprised that you‟ve found life changing revelations in what were once your subjects. And I‟ve discovered a newfound respect for you and the „little‟ things in life. Pun intended.” The pun was at me because I was little—petite! He could‟ve done without respect and little in the same line, but I was warmed anyway.

“And I wanted to tell you this little story then.”

“Is that why you‟re in India?!” I asked amazed. I mean revelations could be quite powerful…I should know!

“Don‟t you think that‟s a bit of an extrapolative of flattering yourself?”

I laughed. “Tell me. I want to hear.” I began washing off the dried cake of a paste on my arms and legs. Clooney returned looking a bit hopeful and nosed his way into the tiny bathroom. He looked sort of „Ah well!‟ and left again. He‟s really wise now, last stage and all .

“So there is this little bird called Cinderella, I named her myself. She belongs to a subspecies of—ok you do don‟t like to put in names in stories. You think names and places are of no significance.”

“Ha-ha. Yes I do, but do tell the story your way. We are talking about a bird after all.”

“See that‟s where you are wrong. You‟ll see. And I want you to know this is a true story. It happened right here in India, in the forests of Simlipal in Orissa. Through this story, you‟ll realize—or at least understand—that animals and humans are just the same too, in that universal perspective you talk so much about. I want this story to have a…profound effect on you.”

I let out a short giggle, “That‟s asking for too much. But hey, I‟m listening. Get on with it.”

“She lived on the trees of Tendu, which as you know are big on the local cigar markets. Everyday she flew across the mountain till she reached a huge lake and around there, she collected her food, met her buddies, bathed and preened. Her species reproduce only once in four years. So in the average life span of one female, she cannot have babies more than twice. So you should be able to imagine, how protective the birds must be of their offspring. When Cinderella reached her period of heat, she built a nest on the tree she resides in. And she lay

her eggs and begun hatching them. In general, the male counterpart helps her find food while she is hatching, because the mother bird becomes extremely protective of her eggs and would not want to move at all. But just after two days of hatching, her male disappeared, probably poached, and she was left hungry for days. Finally she knew she will have to find food herself, so she left her nest in hopes of returning as soon as possible. But she did not find anything for a long time because the area by the lake was cleared for a water conservation project by the forest department. Right in the habitat of an endangered bird! So she kept looking till the evening and finally filled herself with dropped berries, preened herself for a lazy hour and returned to her duties. All the way across the mountain, she flew, with renewed strength and hope for her offspring. But as she flew, she grew frantic, because she could see smoke rising up the area where her tree is located. It is common practice for the tribals to burn the ground before harvesting Tendu because the fruit and leaves drop to the ground in the following days, where they could be easily picked up. I was there with the forest officials when we heard the news. They began a counter fire operation but the damage was already done. Right in the habitat of an endangered bird,” he said again shaking his head. I felt for Arnie and touched his hand.

“They started a counter fire operation, but it was already too late. I could see her circling high above, not caring if the smoke would harm her, singing to her unborn babies. Anyways, this bit I heard many years later. In the same area, land was encroached by some displaced tribals in the following year. Forest officials could do nothing because it was the work of insurgents and there was a whole war brewing. Supposedly, a single man set up a little hut exactly where her tree used to be. He was a poacher who hunted birds for meat and sold the exotic ones in the black market. Everyday before he went to sleep he heard the bird singing, from a tree top or a landing, for its lost babies. From its call, he recognized it to be an exotic bird and realized it was indeed a great opportunity for him to make a quick buck. One night, he caught the bird, caged it outside his house and went to sleep. In the following days he had to open to cage several times to let the other birds out for sale. This bird, he waited with, till his contacts confirmed a deal. But the bird quickly learnt how to undo the latch and while he was away, let herself out. But everyday she came back to the same place, braving her hunter and sang. The poacher did not know how she escaped before, but he caught her again and put her in the cage. He quickened the business end and was ready to sell her off when he realized he lost her again. This time he wanted to know how she did that. And the third time around, he watched her undo the latch skillfully with her beak. He tried to catch her, but he couldn‟t. Or may be he didn‟t want to. So anyways, he would still hear the bird sing every night, but he let her be. A few months later, he learnt a few bird calls from a seller that suited Cinderella. He would call her every night and leave her some food and grains in his front yard. The bird did not respond at first, but slowly learnt to trust him. The poacher actually went around the markets telling them proudly, he had an exotic bird for a pet. Many offered him a price on it and he always promised the interested parties that he would sell it if he felt the price is right. Years later, he was arrested for poaching by the forest department. And he learnt from them that his little buddy was in fact one of the very few of its kind left on this planet. After he spent a year in jail, exactly four years from the start of our story, he came to know American conservationists were trying to induce artificial methods to help increase the bird population

since it was their season now. So he offered to help catch this bird. They did not accept his offer at first, knowing how sly the poachers could be, but they didn‟t have enough females and they were desperate. So he was released for a little less than a week, there were a lot of strings that had to be pulled obviously. He went to his abandoned hut again and called for the bird. The scientists weren‟t very positive because this was the time for breeding and it had been a year since the man was away. But the bird did come, two days later, alighted gracefully on his shoulder, and ate through his hand. And when he put her in the cage carefully, she did not resist, nor did she try to escape. And this species is never pals with humans or any other species for that matter. Most endangered species evolve in such a way, very protective of their life. It‟s like they know only few of their kind are left, you must have heard of the self-preservation phenomenon.

The most famous conservationists in the world were on that project. They were flabbergasted that the bird would trust a poacher instead….He works with the local biodiversity team now, sometimes acting as a guide for birdwatchers.”

It was indeed a beautiful story and I know it was true. I heard of poachers recruited into conservation activities in Simlipal. I wondered then, how they could be sure that the poachers had a change of heart. I was sure now that one was enough to change the tribe. I remembered this book called Birdie that I read long time ago. The protagonist in it is so fascinated by birds, canaries especially, and their flight and lifestyle. He actually fantasizes himself to be a bird, even changes his physical attributes to accommodate flight with wooden wings. It was a mesmerizing book indeed and I knew through it about the intellect and charm of birds and the effect they can have on humans. This story was nothing different. Nothing life changing, sorry Arnie. Not that I would tell you that. Let me just nod along and look glazy eyed.

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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:13

22. The Cliché of Passion

“Lana,” I sobbed softly. I knocked again.

“Laaana!” I called out. There was still no commotion inside her room. I banged at her door with furiosity and shouted, “LANA, open the door!” Finally she woke up with a start and opened her door concernedly.

“Lana its Clooney!” I wailed.

“WHAT!” But I just sobbed. Then looked at her uncertain and sobbed some more.

“Honey…don‟t mind me saying, but I kinda don‟t remember the last time I woke up from sleep and you weren‟t there crying your eyes out.”


“Alright, why don‟t you sit down and tell me what happened to Clooney.”

“He died.” Lana put her hand to her chest and stared.

“Who told you?”


“Ah…I mean…oh…sweety, did you have a bad dream?”


“Then why did you assu—I mean know…?”

“I had a v-v-vi-vision.”

“Absolutely. Did you call and check?”

“No-oo! Be-c-z I know!”

“Are you sure it isn‟t like the time when you thought he had rabies just because he didn‟t drink water and cried till you had him examined?”


“Never mind. Let me just call and check. Then we‟ll know right?”



Well Clooney didn‟t die, neither did he fall sick. The complete medical check up the next day yielded no direct symptoms to a dreadful disease either, except for now-undeniable signs of ageing. But I had one hell of a scare just the same. I came home for Christmas that year, but

did not bring Clooney along because he did not make the journey in so many years. He was old after all and I was afraid the change of weather might affect him. But the lack of him affected me. Why do dogs have to die? Why can‟t they live on forever? Everyday without Clooney filled me with more dread. And by the time I departed, I could‟ve played rapid fire for a whole day with Wyona about Clooney and she would‟ve won.

“You know when I was in the hospital after the accident, Clooney came all the way running for me and would howl into the night to be let in while I was unconscious.”

“Really?” Wyona asked with her eyes wide.

“Poetically honey. One of my house staff brought him to the hospital that night and tied him outside. Like what would a dog do if it was tied outside all night, right?”

Wyona giggled at my seeming deviousness, so I looked at her seriously and told her, “Except for that one time you threw a ball at him, he never moved abruptly around me or played carelessly. Never. All through my recovery and physiotherapy later on.”

“Then why did he jump then?” she questioned with her chin up like she‟s been doing a lot these days. Wyona do you want milk? Chin up. Yes…No actually. Wyona, have you finished your homework? Chin up. No. Yesterday‟s homework? Chin up. Err…not really. Last week‟s science project? Chin up. Eyes down. No mommy.

“Well, maybe because he was really fond of you.”

“He is? Well last year, when we came to visit, he did seem to pretend I didn‟t exist!”

“That must be because you put on your sophisticated ballet dancer charm. Like you‟re doing the cheerleaders now.”

“I am so not!” she giggled with conspiratorial don‟t-tell-mommy look.

“Yeah, dogs know you know. Like whenever I‟m with a guy I‟m interested in, Clooney puts on a very prim no-I-don‟t-need-a-kissie-right-now-but-I-wouldn‟t-mind-a-treat look and I‟ll have to comply!”


“Yeah! And when I am in a business meeting—oh I took my dog to office alright. My office after all—he would sit proprietarily by the side of my desk as if he has a part in the decision making too. If at all the discussion got very heated, he would look really mean. Like really really mean. Sometimes he barks in frustration too. But that just helps us relieve the tension.”

“And when we go visit the refugees at a camp or the people at an old age home or some disabled children, he would automatically transform himself into the charm dog and give them all the love he has. Though most of them were scared of dogs! He would just go on wagging and licking and look really cute till they smile their fears away and pat him.”

“And when he has indigestion or a little fever, or if he is hurt somewhere while trekking, he comes to me with his eyes all sad and put his head on lap prompting me to attend to him leaving whatever I was doing.”

“And if I‟m leaving….well if I‟m leaving, he sulks for two days straight.”

“Ok auntie…not that I stereotype or whatever, but if you go on any longer, I think I might have to compare you to the spinsterish crazy cat lady!”

“Wyona! You‟ll never understand love.”

“Oh, love it is alright! Now, I get it. You were mooning after George Clooney when you found Clooney. So the name, so the love….”

“Yeah right! Clooney is a whole other entity now ho—”

“Oh I remember tongue twister I used to rhyme as a kid! Clooney-clooney-looney-clooney- looney-looney!”

“Sssshh Wy!”

“And why?! Tell me about George Clooney please…………!”

“I‟ll tell you about just-Clooney.”

“George Clooney! George Clooney! Clooney-clooney-looney-clooney-looney-looney! Ple- eeee-aaaa-se!”

“Later Wy,” I resign.

Mischa gave me a makeover the next day. “You look like my dowdy aunt May! At least you‟ve kept your figure.”

“Yeah and that‟s more than what I can say to you.”

“Ok, laugh all you might but I‟m a mother now! Ten years, darling. Ten years of sheer persistence!” Mischa had a child on the eve of New Year in 2000. He was a millennium child. Few people like me would like to point out that he was born two hours before twelve, but Mischa would have none of that. Miracle baby, really. I would‟ve gone on, but then Mischa would not-so-kindly point out that she wanted me to be his godmother, but I‟m never there, etc. etc. So we got our hairs done instead.

“So why did you quit anyway?”

“Quit what honey?”

“The company…what else?”

“Oh that…”

“What else have you quit?”


“So tell me.”


“Ca-aa-sh! Concentrate!”

“Alright alright! There are different ways to look at it you know…You could say I was tired of all the diplomacy, the politics, the slyness you need to conduct business! And worse, begging hardcore businessmen to give just a little leeway for the boy who jumped under a train for a girl, lost his legs, whose father committed suicide soon and he consumed poison after, but pitifully survived again and now needs surgery to remove his septic kidneys and thus the money for dialysis later on...and possible transplantation…which might just not be possible after all.”

Mischa looked like she lost all air.

“True story” I said sighing, “But why are you asking me now? That was four years ago that I left the company.”

“Yeah, I know…but…err…well,” she looked around uncomfortably lest the beautician thinks she is shallow, “I‟m thinking—I mean this is nothing in comparison—but I‟m thinking of taking a little break from the boutique. You know Sean…doesn‟t get much time with me.”

Mischa is a mother. Mischa. Is. A. Mother! It‟s funny how you hear that something happened, but never realize it did for a long time. I couldn‟t be happier for Mischa. And I felt a little guilty now that I couldn‟t be Sean‟s godmother.

“Oh…sweetie! Then what‟s stopping you?!”

“I don‟t know, I don‟t know Cash. I have given thirteen years to this business you know. Fourteen in three months. Since I was a little kid, I told my dad that this was what I was going to do! And that he might as well get prepared for it,” She giggled, “And I almost told Larry that I am marrying him for his money!”

“That‟s not true!” I laughed and put my hand on hers.

“Yeah, well. It all came together for me that way. Love, money and even Sean! It‟s as if he waited all this while to be born just so I could get my passions fulfilled. And now, it kills me that I can‟t give him enough time.”

I thought about that for a while.

“You know Misch, even after all these years, people keep asking me why I did what I did. Leave a successful business, that was also actually providing for a lot of unprivileged people and become a wanderer…a…hippie kinds! Although, I would like to call myself a travelling

volunteer, mind you,” I paused a little, “But, really. What‟s there in dedicating all your life for your passion? As much as we Americans and even the people world over, are about clichés, I don‟t think we recognize the cliché of passion. Maybe because not everybody gets to follow their passions,” I said matching Mischa‟s amused eyes, “The cliché of passion is that passionate people, who concentrate on one thing all their lives….and I‟m not saying they neglect all the other constituents of life, but instead, they let the one thing rule the existence of their lives. To let their passions—be it art or ahem, acting, or a single trophy, a feat or record, even humanitarianism—define the existence of their life.

And I did too! My business, my work and my results, began to define my life from every perspective possible—and my perspectives on everything! I was even throwing dirty looks at rich people enjoying their riches! That‟s where I was wrong. There is no one aspect of life that can define life itself. It is only the business of living that can define life, whichever way you live it.”

“And that‟s why you left the company?”

“I didn‟t know why I did it!” I said exasperatedly, “Maybe subconsciously I knew, yeah. It‟s almost like what you said to me in the hospital that day Misch. Remember the little note? I still have it.”

“Yes,” she smiled.

“You only have one life. And in this life, it is all about you. You are the only „entity‟ for you. The biggest thing in your life is you! Even if you want to live for others, or your passions, you have to live it through them and not for them. Like Mother Teresa told me the year before she died…yeah, I did have the chance to meet her in person. She told me, that despite what people think, she is indeed living her life for herself, because in every person she helps and uplifts, she finds a bit of herself. And indeed, she is helping herself by helping them.”


“So what I‟m trying to say here is, Misch, don‟t let your passion rule your existence. Because it is, after all, just another cliché. There is nothing, nobody or no event that can define the phenomenon of living.” I finished with a heavy philosophical air.

“Wow! The cliché of passion! You should put that in your next book,” she chuckled.

“I could, but then the purpose of our whole conversation would be mangled, perspective wise,” I winked, “because next time while I‟m saying something wise again, I would have the book in mind and that‟s not…living.”

“But then again, you might just think „I‟m not gonna put this in my book,‟ and that would change the perspective of your conversation…your thoughts even. And thus, living,” Mischa retorted quite smartly.

“Yeah! Fuck duality!”

“Fuck duality.”

Back in India, I met Arnie again. He came back from an exploration in Northern China, where he had apparently joyously celebrated his Christmas by sighting a dull flightless bird. He was almost done with his project here and was to go back home soon. Where he would stay for a couple of months and then will be leaving on a census project in central Africa. He asked me to work with him. “C‟mon, it‟s almost done!”

“Which could mean just another one-hundred-twenty-days in the wild! No, thank you.”

“No it really is over. It‟s just some routine documentation we would be doing. I‟m leaving…soon…”


God I hated it! Why do people do that to themselves? I mean, this is the nauseating heights of defining one‟s life through passion. I‟m sorry did I say defining? I meant deadening. Sitting—if you‟re lucky under a tree or behind a bush—and doing nothing. Nothing, but watching and photographing, swatting bugs, „ssss-ssss‟ing from the sun, fanning from the heat and finally noting something with an „ahh‟ as something flutters way far from the naked eye could tell what. As if that little flutter or fart is worth all the pain! I can‟t believe I agreed to do this.

Arnie suddenly jumped from his place, opened his laptop and was typing something furiously.

“Hey, is that a browser? Are you sending an e-mail?!”


“Don‟t shush me! Do you have internet??!”



“What? Yeah, it‟s the satellite technology. I‟ve always had it. Why?”

“In here? In the deep forest?”

“Yeah, it works anywhere in the world. Except in the Antarctic, last year. Yeah, that one‟s a bummer.”


“And you stop Arnie-ing me. I‟m working.”

“You had internet? I don‟t even know about this technology.”

“I do. I do. Best equipment in the world. Only the best for the best,” he smiled that smug smile I wanted to knock right off his face. I think my expression conveyed as much because he said, “ahem…actually the technology has been around for years. Maybe you haven‟t heard about it in India.”

“You could‟ve told me! I was going mad with boredom. And I mean MAD! M-A-D.”

“I‟m sorry…it never occurred to me.”

“Does anything ever occur to you about me at all?”

“Err…sorry?” he said with his eyebrows raised comically.

“Give it here.”

“I‟m writing a mail.”

“Give it!”

Finally I had something to do. I‟m not the most active person in the world, in fact, sometimes I go for hours without doing anything at all, but this is just beyond limits even for me. I checked out the news and updated all my social networks, fired off e-mails. And ah, look who‟s online!

Me: What you doing up so late?

GC: Its morning here actually. I‟m in Italy.

Me: I see. Work?

GC: Not really.

Me: Vacation.

GC: Na…not that either. I bought a house here. I live here sometimes.

Me: Strange.

GC: Comparatively, no.

Me: Whatever. Which blonde mermaid have you brought along then? Or should I say anorexic dolphin?

GC: A-ha! Nobody. Lone fish. What are you up to? Where are you?

Me: This place goes by latitudes and longitudes. Should I fetch them for you?

GC: Explorations?

Me: Or ornithologist mates who just won‟t quit!

GC:  Boyfriend? Long term boyfriend? Fiancée?

Me: Yeah right!

GC: Aren‟t you ever gonna marry?

Me: Are you?

GC: Maybe. I don‟t know. Maybe not.

Me: See, we were each others‟ lobsters. But then one of us got picked up by the scientists, exotic as we are, and then liberated by the ALF from the laboratory, dumped at a beach, picked up by a sailor, rescued by an activist and left in the Indian Ocean. And the other one got sucked into the whirlpool. And so each of us has to live on alone because we lost our lobsters.

GC:  Nice.

GC: But lobsters don‟t mate for life.

Me: Oh……(?)



“Don‟t lobsters mate for life?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? Do you mind? I‟m concentrating here.”)

GC: It‟s just a myth.

Me: Hmmm…

(“Sorry I was rude. So you were asking?”


“C‟mon. I said I‟m sorry. What was your question?”

“It‟s nothing.”

“Right. About the lobsters! I seriously don‟t know.”


“But some birds do mate for life. Like the swans of course, some types of vultures…the albatross!”


“Yep. So do some species of herring gulls. Stop being monosyllabic! Please…)

“Herring gull?”)

Me: Ok, you may be right. Lobsters might not mate for life. But guess what I just found out?

GC: What?

Me: Seagulls do.

GC: So?

Me: So...?! Remember your last mail?

GC: Not really, how long ago was that!

Me: The one with the whirlpool…hello!

GC: Got it. 

Me: Myths do count for something. 

We spent the night at the forest guesthouse with three other people working with the forest department. Except for us, there were only Clooney and two motherless wild kittens that were rescued by the others a week ago. There was no power when we got back at twilight and the others weren‟t in yet. I could hear the kitties engrossed in a brawl and Clooney was barking along. He got along well with other animals. The moment I opened the door the kittens started rubbing their flanks to my legs and Clooney walked slowly to greet me. All through my fumbling for lights, the kittens would run around my feet, get squashed, shriek, run away and come back again to do the same. And Clooney would stand like a statue in the middle of my path and I would topple over him. I could tell he was thinking in that calm tenor he has adapted these days, „Blind humans!‟

“Well we can‟t see in the dark! But, we can see with our minds…huh!” I retorted. So he turned around three times and showed me his butt. I remembered something Robert Benchley said about dogs, „A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down,‟ and before saying ‘kiss my ass’, I thought and burst into laughter.

Arnie brought in his flash light finally and I lit a candle.

“While you‟re in such a good mood, let me ask you something.”

“If you‟re gonna ask me to marry you, well back off Arnie. Not in that good a mood,” I laughed. I couldn‟t see his face because he was holding the light. So I said, “Go on.”

“My project here is finished.”

“What?! Why didn‟t you tell me in the field?” and then added suspiciously, “When was it finished?”

“A week ago…but uh...there was something else I wanted to do before I leave.”

“Are you telling me all that dredging the whole week was for nothing?”

“No…it wasn‟t a part of the original project is all. This will be done too in a couple of days.”

“Arnie! I could kill you for this!” I couldn‟t help but laugh and asked, suspicious still, “You said you were going to ask me something?”

“Well…listen…since you have two days to think about it, let me put forth, lets say, a proposition?”

“No, I‟m not going to volunteer on your next excursion.”

“No thanks. You weren‟t exactly a joy to work with, you know?”


“Well I was thinking…I was thinking that you know, that you could come with me. To Africa…”

I cocked my eyebrows and smiled, “I could‟ve guessed that.”

“So what do you think?”

“Uh…sweetheart, I have a life here you know? And despite what some people think, work too. I contribute my time, effort, contacts and sometimes money to a lot of organizations across the country!”

“I know! I know all that. You could work in Africa too! There is a hell lot more work to be done there actually. Of course, only if you are interested. I could talk to a few organizations that do humanitarian work and we could arrange our schedules so that we will be travelling to the same places. And if you don‟t want to do that, you could just stay with me and travel. You love travelling! And c‟mon, Africa is one hell of a place, huge too. You know that.”

“I know that….”

“Think about it! We got two days. Maybe a week till I leave the country.”

On the next day, Arnie enlightened me about the hundreds of humanitarian issues in Africa. Sudan, Ethopia, Mozambique, Chad, Congo, Kenya, Libya, Egypt…all the names and problems were ringing in my head for the whole day. It did not seem like a bad prospect. I mean, if I chose to define myself as a traveler or a travelling volunteer, it did not seem like a bad prospect at all. But I didn‟t define myself like that, like I told Mischa. I am defined by my life itself and nothing else. But, even if I didn‟t define myself in anyway, this could be a part of my life too. And I will know what to do as I go. Nothing could change the infrangible jigsaw that defines the course of my life. I have taught myself to know or to depend on my impulses. So I will not be insecure with whatever decision I take. In addition:

“This might seem strange to you by the way you look at things, but I think I‟m falling in love with you,” Arnie said in bed that night. I jerked my head up in total surprise, but Arnie continued calmly, “And I can‟t seem to fathom the idea of leaving here without you…Do you find it comfortable? I mean will you be just fine when I leave?”

“Oh Arnie!” I started my well-worn educating-the-temp-boyfriend lecture, “I love being with you too! And, of course, I‟ll feel bad when you leave. But…that‟s what‟s gonna happen eventually, right? That bit was clear in our relationship. I‟ve maintained the same equation in all my relationships. You know that…”

“I know sweetheart. I know. I‟ve done that too. Many times! And I still had my share of heartbreaks and that awful divorce. But somehow it feels like…what we have is different. Much much different! Don‟t you think?” I stared at him forlornly even as the remote sarcastic part of my brain pertly remarked, „yeah well, now that you said it.‟

“All I‟m saying is, while we are fond of each other, why not let‟s just live together for some time?”


“And eventually, if we are comfortable…we could even get married.”


“Yeah, why not? I could‟ve proposed to you normally, but both our lives are far too abnormal for that,” he chuckled nonchalantly.

“But we fit you know…? We don‟t depend on anything or anybody. We travel like mad. We dare all kinds of weathers! Why can‟t we be companions in what we do, for the rest of our lives if we wanted to? We don‟t have to change a thing, except probably destinations. ”

The M-word! Really, it just shakes the ground for even the hardest woman in the world. And I‟m not remotely that. Suddenly all the sarcasm and even resistance flew out the window. If I were a poet, I would even say that the faintest but coolest of breezes blew over us and dulled all the sounds of the forest for an instant.

“Can we have children….?” I asked with a tiny voice, a mad flurry of dormant hope screaming itself alive.

“Yes! Yes, we can!”

“It‟s too late for me…”

“Of course it‟s not too late! You‟re what, thirty-five?” I gave him a sad look, “Thirty-six?”

“Thirty-seven this June. Four months to go. God I‟m so OLD!” I started crying softly, like an idiot.

“Honey, don‟t be sorry. You have done what most women would‟ve never dreamt of in their whole lives. And you‟re just thirty-seven!” Yeah, trust consolation to break the dam.

“I‟m never going to have children!” Sob. Sob. Like it just dawned on me. Really, women are such drama queens. I can testify to that wholeheartedly.

“Oh baby…if you want we can try right away…I mean…well, I‟ll have to mull over that a little, but I‟m pretty sure I‟ll convince myself it‟s the best thing. I love you so much!”

“Oh Arnie-eee-eee!” Hug. Sob. Sob.

“And South Africa has the best fertility doctors! Women are having children at fifty! And really, you‟re just thirty-seven. Hardly a challenge.”

“It won‟t happen! I kno-oow.”

“If it doesn‟t, we can adopt! Why, white people are always adopting children from Africa. Didn‟t you hear about the whole Madonna drama? Or Angelina Jolie? It‟s like a mad race out there!” I sob-giggled and sobbed again.

The next morning, I woke up to the happiest day in my life. Emotions wise. I could go back to that day anytime and think, „Fuck, I was happy!‟ I didn‟t even complain when Arnie dragged me on foot for so long, it felt like I have reached Africa already. When he stuffed his head into his lenses again, I hit up the computer to see who‟s online.

Me: Still sad and alone in your gigantic lake house?

GC: Alone and sad don‟t go together. Thought you agreed.

Me:  Probably. But I‟m in a different plane today.

GC: Tell me about it.

Me: It‟s really no big deal

Me: but I‟M ENGAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GC: Holy shit! You‟re kidding!

Me: I know! I mean just yesterday, I gave you my whole lone-lobster theory.

Me: Day-before.

GC: Yeah. And your lone-lobster counterpart is not happy, let me tell you.

Me: Ha-ha. Jokes apart, really, it feels so weird…

GC: Why‟s that?

Me: I‟m freaking thirty-seven, that‟s why! And I‟m excited that some guy proposed marriage like it‟s a business deal because all the hundred parameters matched.

GC: That‟s what happens when you grow older. You recognize the importance of parameters.

Me: 

Me: Really George, did you ever think about growing old and stuff? Like back then?

GC: Maybe I did. Can‟t remember.

Me: I never did. Even now. But suddenly, the idea of marriage twisted my whole perspective about myself!

(Note to self: True. I‟m letting marriage define me. And marriage is a „system‟! Ponder later)

GC: I never thought of you ageing either. Did you really?! I still think of you as that blonde 22 year old!

Me: Don‟t. Think Almost Forty. Un-botoxed. Weather beaten. Luckily/Finally getting married.

GC: I like the picture, actually. I hardly get around to seeing your types around here.

Me: Ok nice guy. Here, take some brownie points and leave the old gal alone to feel sorry for herself.

(No reply. 1 min. 2 min…5 min…Did he take it too literally or what?)

Me: Hey I was talking to Mischa the other day and I wanted to ask you something. Still there?

GC: I was on a call. Seriously, I think you would‟ve aged fabulously. Wish I can see you again sometime. Flying west one of these days?

Me: Maybe the phrase „aged fabulously‟ had been fed to you too much. Doesn‟t happen in real life. Fact.

GC: You and Mischa still gossip about me? Wink

Me: FYI we never did. Like never!

GC: ?

Me: Yeah Mischa thought you were a phoney. Phoney Clooney, she used to call you.

GC: That‟s not pleasant. You can tell her now that I wasn‟t mad about her either.

Me: Will do. So listen. Now think of this as one of your interviews. I might actually quote it in my next book.

GC: You wrote a book?

Me: You didn‟t know?

Me: Correction: „Like you would know!‟

GC: I won the Oscar. Did you know?

Me: WHAT?!

(Quick search in Google: „George Clooney Oscar win‟)

Me: And I won the Booker.

GC: What??! You‟re kidding. I would‟ve heard if you did.

GC: Ok, I didn‟t win the Oscar. But I‟m People‟s Sexiest Man Alive.

Me: I didn‟t either. It was…uh…a limited publication. :-P

Me: But I am Arnie‟s Most Beautiful Woman He‟d Ever Met.

GC: Hardly the same.

Me: Same from different perspectives. Same from what‟s important to you personally, because of what you are to „yourself‟. That‟s also what my interview question is about. Are you gonna answer me or not?!

GC: Alright, alright. Shoot.

Me: What defines you?

GC: That‟s your big question?

GC: Charm. Wink

Me: Yeah I knew I had to work my way through your thick head, but concentrate here.

GC: You‟re pulling a cliché on me? I thought we had a pact!

(We did. When we started going out, George told me not to pull L.A‟s most abused actor-sy jokes on him. Sensitive darling.)

Me: Alright, I‟m sorry. So listen.

GC: Ok. But hurry up. I need to be somewhere.

Me: Grrr….

GC: Alright…I can push it.

Me: So what I wanted to know was…


(Still typing)

Me: What defines you as a person? Or what would you like to define you as a person? Say you‟re writing a book about yourself, or reflecting on your life before you die, what major element would you say has defined (or ruled) the existence of your life?

GC: That‟s complex.

Me: Ok, rule out the reflecting before death scenario (!). Let‟s just say you‟re writing a book (not for selling) about your life, or a part of your life. What perspective would you use? Would you look at yourself from an actor‟s perspective? (a popularity craver maybe Wink ) A bachelor‟s? Can‟t think of more (for you).

GC: Ahem. I‟ll overlook the immoderate pun for now. I could answer your question mechanically. Can‟t say it‟s not a part of the drill. But honestly…I don‟t know. It‟s too rhetoric.

Me: Hmmm…

GC: Why the question anyway? I know you‟re sort of philosophical (that or „mad‟ based on your lifestyle), but you never asked me such stuff before…

Me: Well, it‟s really about me actually…


GC: like always.


Me: That coming from you?

GC: you‟re backtracking on the pact again.

Me: But this bit is the truth!

GC: And so it is with you.

Me: No!

GC: as long as we‟re talking about „all perspectives‟.

Me: Whatever…so I was saying…

Me: While I was talking to Mischa the other day, I articulated a theory called the „cliché of passion‟.

GC: k….

Me: I told her, that humans—passionate humans—tend to define their lives around their passions. And they look at life through their passions. Like a photographer might judge the good or bad of his day based on the light and clarity of the sky... An animal rights activist would not, for the life of him, understand animal sacrifice at a temple. But (though abused) there is a beautiful Indian philosophy behind animal sacrifice, quite similar to the one behind the flesh and blood of Christ.

GC: ……

Me: Don‟t get me? Ok, could you really say that Mrs.Clooney, a mother of two and a wonderful marriage spanning several decades really understands your bachelor lifestyle and childlessness?

GC: She thinks I‟m an idiot 

Me: But there is no one perspective to life! In reality you are living a fulfilling life (hypothetically :-P) For everything that seems right or compulsory or necessary in our lives (not to mention the „systems‟ of culture and tradition), there is an elementary „other side of the coin‟, a reason why it should not be the way it is. But passionate people do not see the other side. Which is why I said to Misch that, if you let your passion define your life, you are not really living. In the complete sense.

GC: But you are a passionate person! You were a social worker all your life for chrissake.

Me: Exactly. That was the common perception.

GC: ?!

Me: Because we tend to think of those people who scale the extremes, as passionate.

GC: Now, I‟m getting the drift.

Me: Told you, you were a thickhead.

Me: Anyways, it wasn‟t passion that drove me. I‟ve always known to look for the other side. Or the other side came staring at my face all by itself. What drove me was curiosity, maybe and a lot of confusion. That is why I have been ruled by indecision most of my adult life.

GC: And still, I am the thickhead.

Me: :-P So I formulated this theory to justify that my way of living (with unrestricted/undefined ideologies, paths, passions and actions) is surprisingly „the most‟ transcendental of all.

GC: Lol!

Me: But dual as I am in my head, I recognized the other side of this too (!) and am now left wondering. Again! So I thought who better than a popular (Sexiest Alive) personality, driven by ambition and passion all his life to dispel my theory. Show me the other side, if there is one. And so (long sigh) the question, what defines „you‟?

GC: Hmm…

(I could almost see him thinking. His mouth half covered by a fist resting on the elbow and the other half twisted into a smile. I flipped to the other window and clicked on pictures. Hmmm…! Is that him?)

Arnie shouted to me in his brazenly peremptory way. I will have to do something about that once I…once we…this is surreal.

“What is it?!”

“Gimme a hand here!”

“I‟m busy!”

“Busy drooling over George Clooney?”

“I wasn‟t droo—”

“Whatever. You‟re just the help remember? You don‟t get to be busy!”

“Arnie, you suffocate me!”

“Yeah! You complete me too. Come ‟re!”

Me: George, tell me later. Cya.

Me: Ya love u 2 Wink

I shut the laptop quickly to ward off the volley of abuses that might just come my way.

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Join date : 2010-12-05

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An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she? Empty Re: An old girlfriend of George Clooney's writes a book about their 20+ year-long relationship -- or does she?

Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:14

23. Nothing

You don‟t have to define yourself in anyway. That‟s what others do to you. When I wake up in the morning and look at my face in the mirror, I‟m no actor, no celebrity, no personality. I‟m no character either. I‟m just me. I‟m not passionate, neither am I dispassionate. But it is a whole different scenario if I‟m looking at myself from an outsider‟s eye. I might recognize the various facets of my personality or I might just stereotype myself. But why should I look at myself from the outside? And why should you?

I am after all just one tiny person on this planet (though reflected on many screens and surfaces Wink) and in my space, I‟m just fine. Say you‟re at a buffet with an infinite number of items on the menu just like there are „perspectives‟ in life. You can look at them all, even taste them, but only a few can fill your plate. But if you get greedy and go on tasting forever, you still haven‟t had dinner.

Hope you do have your dinner.

All my love


What an asshole!

Why should I look at myself from the outside?—Egomaniac.

Why should you?—Insecure.

In my space, I’m just fine—Self-righteous.

Reflected on many screens and surfaces—Narcissistic

Hope you do have your dinner—Sadistic.

All my love—Sardonic.

Overall—Downright disgusting.

But sort of smart too—in universalizing. Dinner is everybody‟s passion, after all. And I did ask him to give it straight to me, the other side of my theory. But, why can‟t men ever get it that when a woman asks for something straight like „am I fat?‟ she does not want a straight answer?! He just likes to put a woman down. Male chauvinist! Ok wait, why am I always thinking of myself as a woman? Now that‟s a perspective I can‟t get rid of, can I? And I don‟t want to. Maybe there is a little something in defining one‟s space. But fuck you anyways George Clooney!

I was still fuming as I dressed for the 1000 Days of Rediscovery party in Delhi, held in the honor of a rediscovered species that was declared as extinct in the 1920‟s. We were at Lavanya‟s house. She was very happy that I am going to be taking the „big step‟, late as it is.

I restricted people from using the M-word, even Arnie. You could stereotype me as a commitment-phobe, but that would be putting it very mildly. Funny I keep thinking about all the stereotyping elements in my life these days. Just when I thought I would go beyond all definitions. Vinay used to chide me for all the stereotyping I used to do. „Stereotyping like a bloody American,‟ he had said before he threw me out of his house. Strangely, I never thought of myself that way. I don‟t even think of myself as an American anymore. Nah, not Indian either, though I have citizenship here. More like supranational. I definitely like the sound of it and I‟m going to perfect being one in Africa. I would‟ve covered four continents then. Am I defining myself through geographical attributes now? Fuck, this is going to be hard. Harder than communism or veganism or humanitarianism. Yeah, really like transcendentalism. Fuck you again George. You‟re a mere mortal, despite your fame and material possessions. But I will not be, because my philosophy will survive for centuries after I‟m gone. Like Thoreau. I should note down all these thoughts for my book. No! Should not think about the books. I smiled thinking about Mischa.

“I‟ll never understand women! For a second there you were looking like you would smash that mirror into pieces and now you‟re smiling into it,” Arnie commented from the bed where he was lying horizontally in his three piece suit. So much for all his decorations, he always turns up in a rumpled suit. He‟s is a bit too liberal in attire if you ask me (something I could never do—definitions again?!). I was damn lucky that his copper highlights almost faded out by the time we met.

“You‟re watching me?” I smiled. Though, it felt like a bit of an intrusion.

“Yeah! What else do I have to do when you take so bloody long to get ready?”

“I‟m a woman!” Yes I am, “Go play some stupid man game with your long lost buddy Nikhil.” Nikhil and Arnie found instant kinship the minute they met.

“Or maybe I will go pamper those kids. Get ready for fatherhood and all,” Arnie chuckled uncomfortably. I felt a sudden sting in my heart that I couldn‟t put a name on. It wasn‟t leaning towards motherhood, so.

“You already have a kid sweetie,” reapplying makeup.

“I do, I do…but she took him.”

“And you didn‟t contest,” trying another earring.


“Say why do people do that? How do they abandon their kids? Just asking objectively,” plucking off the earring again. Fumbling a little unsteadily for another.

“I didn‟t abandon my son! I meet him whenever I am in…I mean when I‟m in town and I have the time.”

“That‟s not really fathering sweetie.” Discarding the new earring too. Discarding earrings altogether.

“I pay alimony to his mother!”

Putting on the sparkling diamond necklace. Cold stare from the mirror.

“Alright…and don‟t take it personally here. I just…I guess I didn‟t feel like a father.”

“Exactly!” I flew around, “Why do people fuck like fucking rabbits and not feel like parents at the end of the drill?” The sparkling diamond necklace sparkled all the way to his nose. Where it hit him. Really hard.

“Doesn‟t your whole study of nature say anything about it?”

“Oh crap! Are you hurt?”

“You broke my bloody nose!”

“Don‟t be dramatic!”

“I‟m bleeding!”

“I can see…sssss…”

“And you‟ve ruined my shirt!”

“That‟s not gonna be a problem.”


“Oh Arnie…I‟m so sorry darling! Sweetie-pie! I don‟t know what came over me!”

I wondered on the drive to the party why I could never let go of the fact that my mom ditched me. She did try to make amends, but the simple fact remained and it consciously or unconsciously ruled over many major aspects of my life. I am transcendental. Nothing defines me except life itself. I chanted all the way, trying not to look at Arnie‟s nose.

At the party, people were going sort of wild already. They were the people of the wild after all. A few Indian conservationists, though, were looking morosely from a corner, at the hip twisting white and black skin infested dance floor. They were academicians. They don‟t party openly. Some of them were puritans even. They think all the money put on the open bar or the hotel should be going directly into the tiger‟s stomach and nowhere else. I waved at a group drunkenly and began kissing Arnie as we danced. I was usually quite sensitive towards the feelings of my Indian counterparts, but not today. Today I felt different. Very very different. I blamed it on George. Fuck you George.

When the cheers began, I felt a bit ok and cheered along.

“Here‟s to nature!”

“Here‟s to survival!”

“Here‟s to self-preservation!”

“Here‟s to miracles!”

“Here‟s to LIFE!”

But the unsettling feeling returned again after and I suggested to Arnie that we should take a room in the hotel. It was almost two and we might as well return to Lavanya‟s place in the morning. If she doesn‟t call that is. But she did. When we were half way through. And kept on calling back till I picked up the phone.


“Where the hell are you?”

“I..uh…the party‟s…huh…still going on. Huh…You know how these things are…”

“Ok ok…but sweetie listen…I don‟t want you right now. But can you come back home right now?”

“Sure. We‟ll start right away.”

Indian hosts own you if you are a guest at their place. And even if they don‟t have a spare room and you are a couple, you will have to stay at their place if you‟re in town. It‟s like they own you the minute you set foot in a ten kilometer perimeter around their place. I smiled at Lavanya‟s seeming furtiveness and embarrassment at directing her foreigner guests. I told Arnie we‟ll have to get going and we did it only once again.

On the drive back, Arnie was silent and sort of smiling to himself. I couldn‟t see the smile, but the way he would abruptly turn away, the amusement in his eyes and the darkened area on his two day old stubble where his dimple appears, gave him away. The sex was good.

“So a month from now you‟ll be in Africa. Ever been there before?”


“Nowhere in the whole continent?”

“I had a layover in Egypt once.”

“Ok…it‟s a beautiful place.”

“I say.”

“Really, would you be comfortable leaving here?”

“Haven‟t thought about it Arnie.”

“When were you going to think about it?”

“Before the journey.”


“You want to ask me something.”

“Yes actually. Why haven‟t you ever worked outside India? What‟s your connection with the country?”

“Well…I did work outside India. I‟ve been to Nepal, Bhutan once and there was a project in Tibet and some parts of China the year before the last. I had an offer from the Middle East once…And really the people in eastern India are basically Asians. I mean looks wise,” I chuckled, “And I have worked there a lot…”

“But you haven‟t answered my question.”

“Yeah…well. I won‟t say it just happened that way. I could‟ve been any place in the world I wanted to. And I choose this. I love the people here and their elaborate variegated cultures.”

“Why? Give me the specifics.”

“Umm…to let you in on some of my ditzy reasons…they‟re secret mind you! Umm…lemme think. Well here‟s one. This might seem weird, but I actually love their noisy streets. There is so much life on the street. The nice middle aged man trudges carefully behind you, while the hurry-guy, well he‟s in a hurry all the time! There is a puppy that learns to cross busy streets, there‟s an urchin who would smile at you trying to sell blinking lights, there are guys on scooters or clamorous bikes who are always moving ahead, just inserting themselves into gaps and curves left by larger vehicles, even riding the pavements or mountain biking the rocky side paths till they reach the traffic lights! They are abusive, they are unruly, they are discomfiting, they are many!” I smiled, “and I just love being in that street you know. Despite all the noise and irritation, I get to think. Because I‟m in a…you can say, a manmade but self defining ecology. No rules, no systems. There is just getting on with it!”

Arnie laughed one of his you‟re-such-a-rattlebrain laughs. “Tell me more. Tell me about the people.”

“The people! Well, they are just wonderful Arnie! Wonderful. You know lots of them.”

“Not as much as you do. Tell me about them in one of your um…universalistic ways.”

“Ha-ha! Well…I don‟t know. They are all different. Just as people are. But in a cultural perspective, I guess, I love the way they honor their familial ties. It‟s hard to be objective in that view point because I‟m from such a dysfunctional family myself.” I touched Arnie‟s nose and giggled, “But, I‟ve also been jilted once for family. Yeah…I was! I‟ll tell you about him sometime. So I can probably be a little objective here after all. You could say it‟s just their system, not to divorce, not to leave their children. Just to keep going with an unhappy marriage…But that is how they carve their lives you know? Tell me, how long can you really be unhappy with a marriage? And remember that a marriage here in India involves a lot of

people. Two families, in fact. So how long can you be unhappy with that big a bunch of people? And they recognize that, eventually. And find their own happy parts.”

“So you‟re saying you would go on with an unhappy marriage. Well, that‟s good to know.”

“Ha-ha. Hopeful, aren‟t we? No. No I won‟t.”

“Then what‟s the deal in recognizing something good and not following it?”

“What‟s the deal in watching a bird all day and not eating it?”

“Ha-ha, ok! So you‟re just an observer.”

“And the help.”

“Why‟s that? Why the help?”

“I don‟t know. You bump into a man who scattered the stack of books he was carrying, he‟s not apparently crazy. He does not look like a goon. And you stop to help him, right? If you got the time? And I got the time! Maybe you‟ll even have a little chat with him, get to know him better and look at his side of things too.”

“So you‟re saying that you have spent more than ten years helping India pick up its mess but you haven‟t for one second identified with any of its cultures of perspectives.”

“No! Because identifying is defining and nothing defines me!”

“Man, that‟s the thickest thing I‟ve ever heard.”


“Nothing? Not one single thing?”

“No, nothing I could identify with.”

“All that misery you‟ve seen? That must have changed you!”

“It helped me understand life. But, that‟s it.”

“And all those intellectual people? All those popular names you keep throwing around like they are your…what‟s that Indian slang…chud-buds!” I laughed at Arnie picking up phrases from me. Chud-bud is a buddy as close as underwear and I used that term with a teenaged intern, who travelled a long way to take part in Arnie‟s project.

“You think someone could influence me? Really?”

“Yeah well, they are not just some bloke on the street! They are writers, philosophers, social critics, even saints! How could they not have any bit of influence on you?”

“Because sweetheart, the only voice that prevails is the voice in your head.”

“And you‟ve got too much of that! So ten years in India and „nothing‟?!”

“Yes!” I said with conviction. Nothing defines me, but life itself. Not even a whole country. I’m transcendental. Chant. Chant. But…why does it feel like there is a „but‟?

“Well, at least you won‟t be too sad to leave the country.”

My phone‟s ringing. “Yeah, Lav, we‟re almost there.”

“Well, hurry up!”

“What‟s the problem? Is it the MILF bitch again?” Lavanya named her mother-in-law that after a joke in the only American Pie movie she‟d ever seen. She explained to me, „It‟s actually Mother I‟d Like to Fuck. But, fuck is also like screw or damn, right?‟ „Oh…like that…‟ „No!‟ she said, not ready to accept the double meaning of the word even in her head. „Ok, its Mother-in-law Fucking Bitch. The MILF bitch. Perfect, don‟t you think?!‟ she squealed like a kid. And her mother-in-law is a MILF bitch. Really. I was pretty sure she was standing at the door with her stoop and all, demanding to know where Lavanya‟s friends are. And she would even throw in a jibe or two about what she said about not making foreigner friends. That MILF bitch.

“No…it‟s something else. Can you please come back soon?”

“Honey, what‟s wrong? Here I‟m in your street already.”

“Ok. I‟m waiting outside.” And she hung up.

“Waiting outside? Why would she wait outside?” I said to Arnie.

“I don‟t know. There she is.”

We got out of the hired car, asked the driver to stick around till morning and went in. Lavanya looked like she was holding something terrible in her mouth. I gasped and clutched my heart. “What is it?” I yelled even as we were walking the driveway.

“Honey, I‟m so sorry. It‟s Clooney.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“What?” Arnie said and rushed to Lavanya who burst into tears. “Nikh did all that he could,” she way saying between sobs, “It looks like he ingested something and it got stuck in his int—” she couldn‟t go on more.

Nikhil came out. The three of them glanced my way, still immovable on the driveway, and were talking hurriedly. Something about emergency veterinarian, something about blocked intestines, something about eating dirt, something about a very painful death! I groped around me, looking for something to hold on to and Arnie rushed to my side. “Honey it‟s ok!” “It‟s ok!” he repeated many times. “Look at me.” “Look at me!” he prompted holding my face in two hands. I couldn‟t! I just couldn‟t look at anything or anyone! I couldn‟t fall into the arms

of a practical stranger or distant friends and wash away my grief. „Old dog after all.‟ „Had a good life.‟ „Very lucky indeed.‟ „Such a nice fellow.‟ „It‟s his time.‟ NO!!! No, I can‟t hear it. I can‟t hear it from them. I can‟t trivialize the most important part of my life, by sharing its loss with these people.

“Arnie. I need some time for myself. Leave me,” I said steadily and backed out of the driveway, losing my stilettos in the process. I ran. Ran for a long time on the empty Delhi street, the street lights dimming and flashing as I passed them, pebbles scattering, knocking the pavement, the long line of trees in front of me looking like they are engulfing me. I ran and ran uncoordinatedly, scared that if I stop I will have to face the truth. But I had to, eventually. I stopped gasping for air and sat heavily on the pavement, not caring that the skirt of my dress audibly tore as it got caught in a bush. I was still gasping when a sudden tearful hysteria wracked my entire body. I desperately reached for someone to hold me and was rattled that nobody was there. Nothing, nothing that I have ever imagined or realized made me ready for this. And that startled me. I thought of all those people I needed now, all those people who could comfort me. Dad and mom first. I wanted dad and mom all of a sudden but realized at the same time that they couldn‟t comfort me. Arnie or Mischa, Linny, Nikhil…all those people who shared with me happiness and grief. And Lana…I whimpered and shrieked when I realized I didn‟t want her either. I searched my mind frantically for someone whose memory could abate the pain that was threatening to tear me apart. Vinay could‟ve shared my grief. Clooney was his dog too for almost two years. George…George who was behind his name and was constantly in my mind when someone new meets Clooney. But no, nobody could comfort me. I was scared. And for the first time, alone. And then I realized…I wanted Clooney. Clooney and nobody else!

The tears stopped as suddenly as they came. I ran back all the way wondering why the path seemed so long now, feeling guilty about running away when Clooney was just…could be still—. Arnie met me midway, but I ran past him and did not stop till I reached him. Instant calm came over me…a death-like calm. Clooney was lying serenely in a blanket, his lips twisted into that secret smile I always loved. But there was dirt lining them and his eyes looked scarily empty. I lifted the blanket and felt the momentary calm knocked off along with my breath. I shrieked and whimpered. His body was twisted out of shape, his stomach bloated and the chest looked compressed. But I shushed myself in a second, lest I disturb him. I lifted him in both my arms, he felt really heavy and the bodily juices moved visibly. It was a dead body. I couldn‟t believe it and I knew it would take a long time for me to believe. Even as I took him out to the garden and sat with him under a tree and his body was cold, his nails colorless. Even as I wept into my baby‟s scruff and an alien stench filled my nostrils. Hours have passed and his body became stiff, but I couldn‟t let go. He was my dearest mate, my companion. The only one who truly understood me. Just because his body lied lifeless now, I couldn‟t let go. But I wished him goodbye just in case he really did go, because then I would hurt his feelings by not saying goodbye.

Arnie came to me at the hint of dawn. I was sleeping holding Clooney. The moment I awoke, I was disgusted with the stench and just the sight of Clooney‟s stiff and colorless body made me nauseous. Guilt shook me instantaneously for feeling so. Still, I had to wash and scrub

myself, get the smell off my body. As I did that I realized nothing has changed. I was still alive. The insurmountable amount of pain I felt last night was now just an unpleasant memory that revoked no strong emotions. I could talk normally, still feel the same feeling I feel everyday from fresh coffee, I could even laugh surreptitiously. It did not feel right. It did not feel right that I could do all those things when Clooney couldn‟t—. It did not feel right that I did not change! That the calm composure and levelheadedness that survived me in all these years of „change‟, the unexplained elements that kept me „unchanged‟ even as I switched environments as simply as I change clothes, should still remain even after I lost someone so important to me. That feeling made me want to cry. Made me beg for the tears to soak away my stone-like existence. But they did not come. And that angered me so much that I impulsively picked up a pair of scissors and attempted to cut myself. But no, the insanity would not stay either, just like the tears. I dropped on the wall instead and kneeled down in unfeeling disgust as the hot shower scorched my back. Clooney was gone and nothing has changed nor did the grief promise to stay. Because nothing has and nothing could ever change me, define me.

And for the first time, it did not feel right.

We buried him in an open plot nearby, an unmarked grave. Lavanya insisted that we bury him in her backyard. But I murmured to her without looking, „we are wanderers and this is what we do.‟

After that I felt nothing.

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:15

Book 3

24. What’s the point?

For many days afterwards I did nothing. I stayed over at my old company‟s guesthouses in Delhi. I had no right to. I did not retain an executive status. But when I asked, they said yes. It doesn‟t need to have a name. It was just a family thing. I spent days and days in bed, surfed the internet or watched T.V., for hours on end. I read into the night, doodled or sung myself to sleep, woke up in the afternoons, went for a short walk to get myself some food and survived on it till the next day. I dismissed the caretaker of the guesthouse because I wanted to be alone. I have cancelled all my commitments and did not give any reasons. What is the point? What is it to me? In all objectivity, it doesn‟t affect me that some humanitarian project would have to be shelved or that fewer people would be helped or rescued because of my absence. It did not affect me that Clooney had died! So what is the whole point in doing things, helping people or changing systems when in the end it doesn‟t matter to me? When the only system that exists for me is me? When there is no input/output in my flowchart but just blocks and blocks of activity which could be filled with anything? When I am full just as I am?

Things piled up soon and there was a lot of dirt that was accumulating. Dirty dishes in the sink, unwashed laundry and mounds of polythene from eating out of packets. I would begin with a task like reading a book and stop it midway. I would begin to comb my hair and leave it in tangles. I would go out to get a week full of groceries and return with a packet of milk and a single loaf of bread. I would start washing up the dishes and stop after I had one or two to pour the milk in and cook instant noodles.

I was missing a part of me, I knew, and it wasn‟t just Clooney. I‟ve had these interludes of inactivity several times before, but they weren‟t like this. Because this time, I missed the humor inside me. The humor, dark though it was at times, had helped me to keep going, to perform all those tasks that seemed pointless now. Just as the humor the old man who sung at his landlord‟s house had. It helped him perform a purposeless task every day of his life. It helped him follow his heart. And to not think „what‟s the point‟. There was no joke in my head anymore. And that was depressing. It did return occasionally though. Like when I told myself I wasn‟t depressed. Of course I wasn‟t. Just lazy maybe. I mean who needs to do all the mundane tasks like cleaning and cooking anyway? I‟ve always had maids to do that. And even if I didn‟t, like in my apartment in L.A or whenever we made unplanned stops somewhere, they were just mechanically done. Not of any importance whatsoever— insignificant tasks really. But why the hell didn‟t they feel that way now?

I was peaceful still. So I wasn‟t clean, I didn‟t eat well, I haven‟t seen or talked to anyone in ages and I have absurd sleep patterns. But yes, people can live like this too, I realized. I was reaching the heights of dispassion, just like I have theorized. Good. Transcendental. Of course.

The only disturbance there was, was Arnie. He couldn‟t believe it that I am not going to go with him. Couldn‟t believe that an inevitable thing, when it finally happened, would make me go back on my promise. He called me several times, tried brainwashing me and begged me to

go with him. But I did not budge. In the end he called me a coward and Clooney, just a dog. But I felt no anger, nor remorse. I could‟ve disillusioned him, explained to him that why it wasn‟t so. But I couldn‟t. Because words would have helped him but not me. Because I didn‟t know the reason myself. I didn‟t know what was stopping me, why I couldn‟t move on or could at least make a promise to move on. I couldn‟t tell Arnie to wait for me, that this will pass and then I will come to him. Because in some corner of my heart I knew that this will not pass.

After a little more than a month of living like that, I could see change was setting in again. But, for the first time in my life, I resisted change. What‟s the point? I resisted it by letting food rot in my kitchen sink (actually amazing myself with little seen sights like fungus infestation on untouched milk), letting cobwebs define my interiors (I never knew it could happen so fast. Wow!), letting my hair mat itself (I found out you could just brush the top layer and still have a decent ponytail) and letting my attire reach a constant sweatshirt and tracks (actually, people you meet in supermarkets are only about faces. Nobody even noticed what I was wearing. Now, did I know that ever?). I was indifferent. I‟m still living. And living is defining my life. Good.

But things happened, like they always will. One day I woke up sniffing the disgusting smell of unaired nicotine settled like a film all over me, the rotting leftovers from the kitchen travelling all the way to my bedroom, I noticed the pile of unwashed clothes all around the sleeping area on my bed. A pile that I have been wearing from. I opened the bathroom and…shrieked! “Holy crap!” I yelled and laughed with a hysteric edge.

And then I cleaned. Cleaned my bathroom and washed my clothes and without my knowing a tune formed in my head and softly surfaced on my lips while I worked. I went to the kitchen, collected all the garbage and put it out. I was nauseated by having to reach inside the sink for the dirty dishes, but did it anyway. „Vaeekk!‟ „Vaeeek!‟ I yelled as bile rose up my throat, but I washed those dishes clean. I did. And I laughed to myself every time a „Vaeek‟ came up. I replied to a few hysterical mails, put on my cell phone and made a couple of calls. Nothing enormous, but a start. Every day as I cleaned my dishes or cooked my food, I realized it was more enjoyable when the dishes aren‟t molding at the side. And I asked myself why I never enjoyed these tasks before as I did now. Then I wondered if I did enjoy the mundane tasks, but never consciously realized that. And now, I couldn‟t believe I lived on bread, coffee and cigarettes for an entire month! Couldn‟t believe that I could stop myself from doing a day‟s necessary tasks. If that means I reached the heights of my theorized dispassionate lifestyle, I thought to myself, „no, thank you‟. I didn‟t have passion for dinner! Fuck, that‟s screwed up

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:16

25. Connecting Dots

Lavanya came home and gave me a huge hug.

“How are you?!”

“I‟m great. Can‟t you see?”

“Yeah well…you‟ve cleaned up. Last time I came around and you shooed me off…it wasn‟t like this.”

“Ha-ha. So?”

“So I brought along some supplies and err…broomsticks and stuff.”

“Lav! You‟re incorrigible! Not everybody needs to be so cleaaaan as you!”

“I know that! But you looked beyond all remedy!”

“Relax! I‟m fine. As always.”

“Miss him?”

“Yeah,” I said offhandedly. Thought for a second and then added more. Slowly.

“Not at first…But, now, I don‟t know, I think of him more often. And in every bloody thing! I mean forget gardening or worse, taking a walk. I can‟t seem to clean up the house without him dragging his legs behind me! Or launching himself on to the broom like he used to when he was a kid.” He did that, I remembered as I said it. Indian floors didn‟t have carpeting all the time, so I had to broom the floors and Clooney wouldn‟t leave the brush. He would sit on it or chew it even as I yelled a hundred times for him to go away. When I did the dishes, he used to field for leftovers. When I went for a bath, he used to dig at the door with his paws. When I lazed around reading a book, he would rest his chin on my ankle or my wrist as if to claim one of my motor organs to himself. When I used to do the laundry, he would tumble around in the dirty clothes for my smell. And after he went, I never thought about these things. I just didn‟t feel like doing the tasks.

“Do you think I‟m crazy? Crazy enough to give up on the last vestiges of decent living for just a dog as Arnie would say?”

“Now sweetheart, Arnie had your best interests in mind when he said that! He is an animal lover. He knows what it‟s like. But, you ditched him. I mean you lift him…in the ditch,” she chortled, “that was quite a surprise, even for me!”


“And no, I don‟t think you‟re crazy. I know how important Clooney was for you. But…I mean…not to rub it in, but he was old sweetheart!”

“I know. I know…But I guess I expected him to live on forever because he did live on, all those years like nothing has changed! He showed minimal signs of ageing. Minimal!”

“Yeah…he was wonderful in that way.”

“And dogs live till twenty you know. Please don‟t tell me he had a full life. He didn‟t! And it‟s unfair.”

“Some dogs do live that long, yes,” she paused frowning, “I know how you feel. Really, I do! I loved him too! And I‟ve felt so bad that night, even if I‟ve only known him in tiny periods of time over the course of his life.”

“Yes, it is unfortunate that it should happen at your place…”

“No! Don‟t say that. I loved him!” I looked at Lavanya as she said that. She was right. She did love him dearly for those days or weeks I stayed over or left him at her place when I was traveling in the north. And I just dismissed her affections by referring to the inconvenience I caused as a guest.

“I‟m sorry. I…I behaved badly. On that night.”

“That‟s ok…you were in a lot of pain.”

“But we should‟ve talked,” I said remorsefully. I packed my bags and left the next day without giving her a chance to even say sorry. Much less, express her own grief.

“Well I‟m still here, aren‟t I?” she beamed. I smiled at the child like behavior she still preserves for exceptional moments as I wondered who all were still here for me even as I overlooked their affections for years.

“Tell me…” I said suddenly wanting to talk. Anything and everything.

“You tell me! Tell me about Clooney…”

“Ok…!” trust Lavanya to know exactly what I wanted to talk about. I smiled and said, “There are lots of things about him. What do you want to know?”

“Well, I always meant to ask, but when you left the tribal welfare program—” I grimaced. “Hey! I told you a thousand times it was ok! In fact, if you hadn‟t left, I‟d have never found Nikhil.”

“How is that even connected?”

“Ha-ha! Not directly connected, of course. But, I got a chance to crib about male dominance again and Nikhil got to negate and we got to talking!” she giggled.

“Ha ha! The male dominance thing! Not that I was a real imposing female when I was around…”

“Are you kidding? Though you were pretty young, everybody wanted to win your approval! Your ideas just intimidated them and made them feel like idiots half the time,” Lav laughed. I smiled unsurely. Really? I was imposing? I was imposing and I still left? I had a sudden irrelevant flash of the night when Kali fluttered in my bedroom. That was the day I knew my stay in India would prove to be worthless. I thought about persistence that night and Raja Vikramarka who lost in a battle eight times before he won. But I did not persist. Did I ever? Would it have been different if I had persisted? More defining? Meaningful? Would there have been a point?

“So I meant to ask, how and when did you find Clooney? Because you were in America later on…”

“Yes! I found him right before I got on the plane. I had to leave him in the care of a vet, till he could be vaccinated, etc. for the journey, but he made it after a few days.”

“Hmmm! Why did you want to take him?”

“At that time?” I chortled with a hand on my mouth, “he looked like somebody I knew. I mean, however much a dog can look like a human.”

“Is he a…Clooney?”

I laughed, “Yes, „the‟ Clooney! George Clooney I mean.”

“Like who else is one?!” Lavanya looked up in wonderment.

“Oh, well…his family is quite popular. Hi aunt was on Broadway…”

“What‟s Broadway? A movie?”

“Err…never mind!”

“Did you know him…or…?”

“No, I did know him…” I sighed and tried to change the subject. Like that could ever happen. So I ended up telling her the story. She didn‟t believe me for quite some time. It was very amusing to watch till she burst out with questions. One that stands out is, „is he really an Arab?‟

Over coffee, we talked about Clooney again and I told her the usual things, reminding myself of a few unusual ones. Out of nowhere, I burst into tears at one point, surprising myself. I thought I exhausted my grief on that very night Clooney died. Lavanya consoled me by reciting the Hindu philosophy of rebirth instead of the usual „he‟s had a great life‟ stuff. I smiled at her creativity and told her I‟d better hurry up and adopt a month old puppy already because it just might be him. She chided me playfully saying that because Clooney had such a good life, he might be born as a higher being, like a wolf or a cheetah even. I remembered how much the little bugger wanted to go after the Chital when we were touring forest areas and hoped he‟d get his wishes in the next life.

“You should travel!” Lavanya decreed over the second cup of coffee. I didn‟t disagree. I should. I should get around to my usual work or at least go home instead of living in a stuffy guesthouse.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Home maybe…”

“Why don‟t you just go travelling, like on a vacation! Like you did with that guy, the London guy.”

“Yeah, I could.”

In the following days, I found more conviction in the thought. Yes there is no point still, but I just had to travel. Memories of Clooney erupted everyday now and with each one I would feel the urge to move. Because Clooney was always moving! I also felt the intense need to give Arnie an answer. I owe it to him. I had to tell him why I can‟t leave this country behind even when I am left completely and utterly alone. I had to tell him what was holding me back. But first I had to find it out for myself. For one wild moment I wanted to be at all those places where Clooney had been. That would be just going all around the country at least three times! But I promised to myself I‟ll try.

My first stop was Mumbai, of course, where I found him. I placed a call to my company offices and asked them if I could borrow a car while promising to return it as soon as I reach Mysore. It actually took a day for me to dispose off all the extra clothes and baggage. I couldn‟t believe I had accumulated so much stuff in just a month. It wasn‟t like me.

I did not call my friends to tell them to expect me nor did I inform the social welfare organizations I was advising. It was just a trip this time. No duties, no planned stops. It wasn‟t for work, nor was it for a boyfriend. Clooney would have loved that. The driver didn‟t though. He was cribbing all the way. I would‟ve preferred to drive myself, but Nikhil wouldn‟t have it. He just landed at my place an hour or so before I left and sat unmoving till I called back the driver I sent home. I would‟ve fought normally, brushed away his concerns. But I didn‟t want to this time. I was vulnerable enough to let someone care for me and I realized it wasn‟t such a bad place to be.

So I travelled in the blue Lancer with an obnoxious driver, watching the endless green fields, an elbow on the tiny suitcase by my side and the wind that I let in whipping my hair into a zillion tangles. I mapped out a route that would take twice as longer to reach Mumbai, but I wanted to see most of the countryside and make a few pit stops at places I have visited so long ago. For a long time, I was just content to watch dipping into catnaps once in a while. But each time, I would wake up with a jolt when my subconscious registers that it was the suitcase I was hugging and not Clooney.

By the time darkness fell, we were somewhere along the border of Rajasthan when my driver suddenly decided he had to eat. He was pretty independent that way. He would screech and halt, get out of the car and disappear sometimes while I was left wondering if he decided to

ditch me, but then I would hear a trickle and a zip…aah! He would talk to himself or put on loud desi music I didn‟t like. When I protest he would pretend he didn‟t hear me. When I shout, he would pretend he didn‟t understand me. But I didn‟t mind him. Because he made me laugh thinking of Clooney who also used to act very selfish and independent while travelling.

At this point though, the driver proved himself to be no Clooney by leering at me with his newfound cronies from the dhaba, a common name here for highway restaurants. There were half a dozen tables under a thatched roof and the tube lights that hung overhead had hundreds of bugs zooming around them. A kid of ten or twelve was running around serving the lorry drivers and other grimy men drinking un-distilled alcohol from dirty bottles. I felt discomfited from their stares, but this wasn‟t new. There was always the possibility of getting raped while travelling the countryside in India. I was lucky it never happened to me. I took out my cell phone and typed the emergency number, my finger ready on the dial button. Thankfully, the men were distracted by a bus full of travelers that stopped at the dhaba just then. People were stepping out of it lazily, flexing their muscles. One of them was pointing at the poster of a local politician, dressed in white as usual, his hands together in Namaste, the background a mixture of saffron with a little green and white spilled over. It was a common sign at entrances to towns and cities, often with unsightly, rotund and un-photogenic politicians beaming daintily in their all-white attire. I wouldn‟t have looked at such a poster twice, but this guy was handsome and young looking unlike others. And…holy shit, it was Vinay! I stepped out of the car quickly and tried to take a better look at it, dim as the lighting was. Vinay? Vinay here? In the middle of nowhere? A politician! I signaled my driver to read the damn poster urgently. He pretended he didn‟t see. Arrrgh! I asked one of the travelers to read it for me. And he did, very sweetly and very clearly, „Vinay Singh Rathode.‟

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:16

I called the numbers written on the poster, but nobody answered. So I asked my driver, after he returned from his very-slow dinner and asked him to take me into the town. We found the offices of the local political body in the empty-by-eight dusty little town and made them call Vinay. They gave us an address and said he would meet me at „the house‟. It was the house, alright. It was huge! Huge by any standard of houses. It was whitewashed with a long row of pillars defining the ground floor and there was another floor on top which was tastefully Rajasthani, colorful glass windows with sculptures adorning the vertical beams and lots of other centuries old detailing. He was standing by a jeep at the entrance, in a long white kurta and jeans, his arms folded and looking very amused. I ran to him yelling his name and gave him a huge hug. “It‟s you!” I said unbelievably and appraised him head to toe without leaving his arms. He was looking sort of old. But, of course, he‟s as old as me. But he was also looking a little strained and had a few more lines on his face than his age demanded. Still, I felt a deep stirring in my heart. It just seemed so weird that I should meet him by chance after all this while. Especially, in a time when I was feeling more lost than ever. Surely, this isn‟t a sign? And Clooney was his dog too!

“Clooney died!” I blurted out and tears prickled my eyes instantly, “Just last month.”

“Clooney? Oh right, your dog…Come lets sit inside and talk.”

No, not a sign. Just shameless me. I tucked in my exposed-but-unnoticed vulnerability and brought myself back to reality. We sat in a regal looking hall, with a tall ceiling, animal busts on the walls and tall spaced out furniture that looked Victorian.

“Is this your house?” I asked after we finished the „how are you‟s and „what you been doing‟s.

“It‟s a family home. I came to live here after my grandfather died. My uncle‟s sons and I manage the party now.”

“Your uncle‟s sons? Have I met them?”

“Yeah one of them. Remember Arjun? He was tall and broad. A little stocky.”

„Sure, rings a bell,” I said vaguely remembering a dark, absurdly large figure making out with a redhead on the Himalayas, throwing loud expletives in Hindi as the other guys disturbed them. And they were now, uh, politicians.

Vinay told me about his work as the local MLA. He told me his family moved here after he got married to a politico‟s daughter and the family needed a hand, etc. etc. For the life of me, I couldn‟t have imagined Vinay toiling away with local politics in a remote little town. I remembered one instance when he couldn‟t even locate the „family home‟ on the map when we were touring the country.

“What happened to the wine import business your parents had?”

“We sold it before we moved here. Frankly there was nothing holding us down in England.”

“Holding you down? You were a hardcore Londoner. You still have your accent!”

Vinay laughed, “That‟s because I don‟t speak much English around here. So it stayed untouched,” He added, “I did find the change difficult. I was quite dour the first few years.”

“Don‟t tell me you just agreed to such a big change just because your parents said so.”

“It wasn‟t so bad…some part of me wanted to be here I guess.”

Bullshit. Total and utter bullshit. Vinay was raised in Liverpool, he lived for years in London, he had a string of English girlfriends, he made friends all over the city, he was a part of many clubs, formed a band when he was in college, a regular at pubs. As for India, he knew bull. He asked me what was going on when a temple procession went past us. I spoke Hindi better than him. I bargained with the taxi drivers, I told him how the names we read off billboards were pronounced. He didn‟t even know the country‟s geography for crying out loud. I guessed straight off what happened. They sold him off for the dowry, threatened to cut him off if he didn‟t comply. I could almost hear his squeaky mom getting hysterical with her threats, „main khudkushi kar loongi agar tum us ladki se shadi nahi ki tho!’ (I‟ll commit suicide if you didn‟t marry that girl). I must have looked what I was thinking because he said,

“Sure this isn‟t London, this isn‟t remotely the best place to be in the world, nor is it beautiful. But it has its own exquisite details, you know?”

So what? Every place has its details, all kinds of societies or communities are larger-than-life entities unto themselves. But, that doesn‟t explain why someone could just hear something about ancestral history or familial honor and ditch his lifestyle for something miniscule in scope. Vinay was spineless. That was the reason I gave myself to explain my being jilted. And now I realized, I am still not convinced. I fell in love with him, after all.

“Come here, I want to show you something.”

He took me upstairs and walked me down a long hallway with several doors along the way. We reached a narrow staircase and went up to a tiny foyer that lead to an isolated room on the terrace. When we went in, Vinay showed me a mural that covered an entire wall.

“Recognize this?”

“Err…it looks familiar.”

“Remember that small village we stopped at? It was actually just a hamlet of sorts. There was a guy who would paint while the villagers sang?”

“Oh! Of course! They‟re a sub tribe of the Warli‟s. We even learnt how to do those drawings!” I said suddenly remembering the sketch I drew on the day when we all met to discuss the boutique for the first time, “I tried to find that village lots of times after that! That was a beautiful, absolutely terrific form of art. Where did you find those people again?”

“Well, what do you know, my ancestors belonged to that tribe.”

“You‟re kidding!!!”

“Not a bit. They moved on as they found business opportunities elsewhere. That was a century ago. They were granted these lands by the king of Mewar,” he said as he made an expansive gesture, “and they‟ve been governing them for some decades before the Republic of India formed.”

“So your family has a great history! Who could‟ve known?”

“I knew,” Vinay chuckled leaning on the mural, its grand curves rooting out from him, “my parents were always telling me about our history here, they were discussing the workings of governing bodies, even local politics. But I never expected I‟d have a role to play!”

“And you gladly donned it when the time came.”

“Not so gladly. There was a lot of drama. It all happened less than a year after we…broke up. I was married before I knew it and I met the girl just twice before. It just seemed so…sort of like a bad dream! So I left the country overnight and refused to take my bride home for months!” he shook his head amused with himself, “I was living singly in the old apartment hoping that it would all go away. And then…”

“The resistance wore off,” I said stiffly. He‟s spineless! Lame! A wuss! Believe it you.

“No. My brother-in-law almost killed me,” he guffawed.


“Yeah, it was pretty messy. He came home with a knife, started yelling abuses and tried to stab me. I ran, but he caught on.”

“Vinay!” What??! “That‟s gruesome! He actually stabbed you?”

“Yeah, he wasn‟t very precise, thankfully. My wife called me when I was in the hospital and asked me not to press charges.”

God, this was getting out of hand. So the guy ditches the girl for family, gets married to another girl, leaves her, lives thousands of miles away, girl‟s brother tries to kill guy, guy‟s still fucking married to girl!

“People here are very much into…values and honor, that sort of thing. She told me she was the one who asked her brother to kill me because she didn‟t want to stay married to a…”

“Wimp?” I suggested. Just trying to be helpful!

“Ha-ha! No. More like a dishonorable person.”

“Yeah, that suits you too.”

“C‟mon! Don‟t tell me you‟re still mad at me.”

“You can probably guess I never forgave you.”

“Yeah...and I am still sorry,” he said sincerely.

“Ok…I can probably forgive you. I mean, it was so long ago,” I graced him with a surreptitious chuckle.

He nodded slowly and went on, “So I came here afterwards. It was the right thing to do. Honorable, even…But, soon, like a couple of years later I realized this is home.”

I didn‟t buy it still and I said so. He just shrugged and absently traced a line on the mural from the shape that looked like the moon to a rivulet to a tiger‟s nail to the kohl lined eye of a woman.

“Sooner or later, we all learn to connect the dots.”

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Post by Katiedot Wed 04 Sep 2013, 15:17

When we finally reached Mumbai, I didn‟t know exactly where to go. It was just on a whim that I came here and I was almost scared to tell my driver that I didn‟t know the destination. I asked him to take me to the airport though where I found Clooney. He looked really hopeful at that and was even singing to himself as he drove. But I still didn‟t know what to do. The airport was busier than ever and there were cars and bikes honking all around us as I asked

him to slow down. I was feeling distinctly unpleasant as I didn‟t know what to do next. I could visit my closest friend in Mumbai, Antara. She runs an animal shelter and she took care of Clooney when I was in the accident and had to leave for U.S. abruptly, but I didn‟t feel like I was up to meeting other dogs, much less being coerced into adopting one. Oh what the heck! I gave up and dropped by at my publisher‟s office and discussed with him my next book.

“Hey, there was some more coverage on your book by the way.”

“Oh yeah?” I said disinterestedly.

“Yeah! Tremendous. Shobha Dé mentioned your book in one of her columns.”

“Huh!” I knew that woman. She was as farcical as a woman could get. And I was supposed to be elated at her kind mentions? I knew why she did it. Next time she meets me in one of the page 3 parties, she would want a clear picture with the American humanitarian who gave every bit of her life for the upliftment of Indian society, blah, blah. I wish I could turn brown one of these days. I could always dye my hair.

“What else?”

“Umm…let‟s see. There are a few news channels who would like to interview you,” he looked up hopefully. “I guess not.”

It wasn‟t that I was against publicity or have one of those weird reasons about privacy and stuff. These people always portray me as an outsider/white woman for one and a dozen or so organizations line up to be mentioned if I was being interviewed. There is too much superficiality involved that I tend to feel even the cause isn‟t worth all that. I am wrong, of course, because nothing is worthier than promoting a cause. But, I guess I‟m selfish in that way.

“Oh there was another little tidbit my assistant mentioned. But it wasn‟t followed by the press.”

I smiled at my publisher. He was too much into details.

“That story in your book, about the old man who sings at his landlord‟s house everyday…?”

“He died?” My heart missed a beat.

“Oh I don‟t know about that,” he was looking uncomfortable as if he had erred, “but, uh…there was a court case in which the landlord‟s relatives were involved. And guess what? An unauthorized will signed by him turns up as evidence in the courtroom. It gives away all his lands to the tiller.”

“What?! Really? The landlord as in the original landlord‟s son? Why can‟t I remember his name now?”

“You can never remember names,” my publisher laughed, “I wouldn‟t be surprised if you forgot my name one of these days.”

At that distinct moment, I really couldn‟t remember his name. Oh shit! Don‟t ask me. Don‟t!

“Ramlal,” he said. Err…that’s you name?? “That was the landlord‟s name. The old man sings at his family home every day. He died of course. And, so the will”

“And he wrote away all his property to the tenants?”

“Yes, he did. But, as I said, it was unauthorized. So, doesn‟t count,” he shrugged.

I was amazed anyhow. My publisher didn‟t realize the significance of the new development. The old man had, through years of faith and persistence, changed the cruel landlord‟s heart. Even if it was too late, even if nobody realized it. I heard the old man sing that day. I offered to drop him home after the medical camp, but he insisted walking up to the landlord‟s house because it was time. I had never known that a song could be sung like that. For the most part, there were just deep sounds and ragas. He stood straight, bent though his back was, had an expression as clear as the wind with but, a tiny frown of concentration and sang reverently. The sounds seemed to erupt from layers underneath. His voice boomed over the swoosh of the impending cyclone, over the sound of passing vehicles, over the screams of a child nearby and the steady whirring of a farming machine. It seemed like all those sounds had no significance at all over the pure and strong voice that was resounding from the depths of a frail old man. And he sang, for no reason or purpose. He had no hidden intentions except, probably, watching the landlord‟s face crumpled in disgust. It was just a part of his life, a part of the flow just like eating, working, communicating or sleeping. It was a part of a system, his system. And it satisfied him with its purposelessness. And worked its mechanisms over the other party for year after year till the end product was satisfactory. He didn‟t know it nor did he want it, but it worked.

As I rode to a hotel where I decided to stay the night, I smiled observing the familiar Mumbai traffic again. I felt a jolt in my heart as I remembered Arnie, who I shared with my fascination for unruly traffic. I did miss him. Terribly. But I knew with such certainty that I couldn‟t be a part of his life, as I had known the minute I laid eyes on Clooney that he would be a part of mine. The traffic droned on, singing the songs of the honks and engines, the pitter-patter of homeless kids on the sidewalks, the cackle of laughter from a saree clad woman sitting side-legged on a motorbike.

We stopped at a signal with a jerk as a beggar woman ran past us after her child calling his name over and over. My driver turned around in disgust and said pagal aurat (mad woman) as if directing the insult both at her and me. And that‟s when it clicked. The vivid visualization I experienced when Arnie told me the story of the bird returned in flashes. The bird sung for her unborn babies for years on end. The old man sung for his lost mentor in the same elemental way, finding the song not in his voice but in his heart. It is indeed a cosmic coincidence that the bird so attached to its offspring due to its species-preservation instincts should unknowingly lead a poacher guided by his selfishness alone towards something as

noble as species conservation. And so is it that a meaningless song should make a ruthless landlord give away everything he procured over a lifetime, guided by a single instinct: greed. They have both identified their purpose without knowing it till the end of their days, just by following their impulses. They have identified with an alien race, which was predatory even. And they have persisted. They have believed. In a scheme of things larger than themselves.

And the traffic droned on and drowned my thoughts yet again. A group of teenagers, pushing each other in their car, honking away to glory, a pedantic old man waiting patiently behind them on his scooter for leeway, the lunch deliverer clanging his bicycle along grooves and side lanes, the lone woman on a scooter fighting for balance…

Funny that Vinay had to bring up Clooney again much later in the conversation and say, “That dog sure took you to places!”

When we reached the hotel, the driveway was blocked with one too many cars waiting for the valet to get to them. I got down the car and was walking the rest of the way in the little space left by the line of cars, feeling unsteady somehow. The cars were honking way too loud now. And there was a man yelling somewhere threateningly. Out of nowhere a pebble hit my leg and I shrieked „Ouch!‟ trying to figure out what hit me. The yelling man came running at his folly. He was one of the hotel‟s security guards. “Ah! Sorry madam. Wo kutte ko bhaga raha tha, is liye. Aapko dekha nahi main!” (I was just trying to shoo a dog. Didn‟t see you). And sure enough there was a kutta brooding darkly from behind a manicured bush. He had markings just like Clooney, if in slightly different shades, and the same floppy ears.

“Kitna lagta hai pata hai tujhe? Aise bhagate ho kutton ko? Jao yaha se!” (Do you know how hard it hits? Is this how you shoo dogs? Get out of here!)

The man went and I inched closer to the dog, kneeled down on the lawn and called for him. He was still unmoving though and was looking into my eyes. Strange dogs don‟t like to be looked in the eye. But even as I was trying to look at his forehead or concentrate on the ears, he moved just a little so as to meet my eyes.

“Hey buddy! Come here darling, come here!” He didn‟t. I felt a prickle in my eyes thinking about Clooney and then I remembered all those dogs that looked and behaved just like him and were all over the Indian streets. Anywhere I looked.

“Come here baby! My Clooney sent ya?” I crooned. He inched just a little closer, still with the brooding look in his eyes and then ran away.

In my hotel room, I opened my laptop, connected it to the hotel‟s wi-fi and begun typing a mail. It was an obituary for Clooney.

To all my friends and family who have known and loved Clooney, I inform you with deep regret that he had passed on, on the 8th of March, 2004. I apologize for not doing

so before. It was quite selfish on my part, but today the mists have cleared. And I know that as I write on.

Clooney was the world‟s most amazing dog and as you had known, been all over the world! He had matched my spirit in more ways than any human could and for that I will be eternally grateful. But Arnie had asked me once if it is about going all around the world. And as I write on, I realize it isn‟t so. In his own little ways, Clooney had helped me identify with this country. I always wondered why it pricks me when someone refers to me as a white woman, an American or outsider. It irritated me because I never felt like an outsider. And as I write, I realize it was because Clooney stood by my side and made me one of them.

There are dogs like Clooney everywhere. They are called the Pariahs, meaning castaways, outcasts…these beautiful, soulful creatures. And as I write I realize, Clooney had taken me all around the country and not anywhere else because his family was here. And I was his family too. It isn‟t about going around the world at all. It is about letting your loved ones define your world for you.

My darling did just that for me. He made me believe in a scheme of things bigger than myself. I will always love him. And I will cherish the land that he is from as it is mine too. And I will live here as the outcast, just like him.

What I wrote did not make absolute sense to me. But I sent it anyway to Lana, Wyona, Mischa, George, dad and mum, Lavanya, Nikhil, even Kara (who just learnt not be scared of him before I left London) and many others who had known him or met him over all these years. After some consideration, I forwarded the mail to Vinay too, realizing for the first time, he wasn‟t spineless after all. He had the courage to give up his modern lifestyle to find and serve his roots. To realize his own identity in places far away from a world he thought was his.

I cried as new pangs of pain I had never known hit me with ferocity. It was as if for the first time, I have realized Clooney is not coming back. But, my grief had not made me sad. It felt pure. It made me pure. For in our grief, we find our memories and in memories, we find happiness. And that happiness I have identified with. For that happiness defined me.


After much rumination, I decided to set up an animal shelter for street dogs in India and other unprivileged animals. It‟s nothing huge or multi-dimensional. It‟s not even in a city. I would continue volunteering for other causes, but this is where I will stay. And the most wonderful part was, Wyona had come to live with me. It was my idea and Lana was agreeable. But after getting here, Wyona told me in no uncertain terms that she would like to be homeschooled. That she cannot digest the superficiality of high school. I ruffled her blonde curls and told her, schools in India are quite different. But, she wouldn‟t listen! She says she loves to spend time with the animals instead. I am mighty glad she‟s here anyways and Lana is mighty glad she gets to date peacefully again. Dating…it seems like such a far fetched idea at the moment. But, maybe fate will turn around. Who knows?

Arnie replied via email. It was blank. Vinay smsd saying I have connected my dots after all. And George called.

“How are you?! I just saw your email.”

“I‟m fine….and you?”

“Good too. So are you coming home? To the U.S?”

“Home is here. I thought you read my mail.”

“Oh, well, I‟m in the middle of actually…alright…Ok………..I get it now. I thought…”


“Are you really gonna stay there? For all your life?!”

“I don‟t know…”

“You still don‟t know?”

“Tomorrow is another day.”

“A-ha! Who says that?”

“Scarlett O‟Hara.”

“„Course,” He chuckled, “What‟re you up to?”

“I‟m having my dinner.”

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Post by janieb Wed 04 Sep 2013, 17:44

Wow, someone has a very VIVID imagination! Good story though!!Very Happy 
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Post by Pari Wed 04 Sep 2013, 19:28

Phew!! Is going to take me a while to read... and so much about/in India!? Smile
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Post by Mazy Thu 05 Sep 2013, 05:41

Katie thank you so much for all the work you put into posting that story. I did go to the site and try to get the PDF file but they kept trying to install programs onto my computer. I don't like when the force them on you. So I copied and pasted it into word. But it must have taken you a bit of work posting it so thanks again, I appreciated it very much.
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Post by it's me Thu 05 Sep 2013, 09:27

I read a bit at the beginning a bit in the end

Toooo long to read here and there

Can you please tell me where I can read about G only?chapters?
(There is also a dog, named after G, right to mess things a bit more!!!!!)

Thanks in advance Smile
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Post by Nicky80 Thu 05 Sep 2013, 09:33

So far I read until Chapter 7. G is mentioned already a lot. that means - It's me - you have to read it all the way through hehehe    Razz 

Let you know when I finish.
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Post by it's me Thu 05 Sep 2013, 09:44

It's not my first language
Difficult to me to read here and there.... Some refuses too got it even more difficult :/
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Post by What Would He Say Thu 05 Sep 2013, 11:33

Is this what they call "Fan Fiction or FF" ???

It's not "Fact" right ?

I am a hopelessly   s l o w  reader...but I will try.

They say there is a book in everybody....I think a 100 movies at least !!!
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Post by noodle Thu 05 Sep 2013, 13:18

I tried to struggle through reading it. I didn't find it very interesting. For me it's the same old thing. If you want people to believe you, you're going to have to prove it. Some pictures perhaps, being up front about who you are also. Until them for me it's just fan fiction.

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Post by Nicky80 Thu 05 Sep 2013, 23:40

So I just finished chapter 13. Anyone reading it too?
If I wouldn't be so death tired I would continue reading now. I mean first "love making" and than "the fight". Really I mean..... Can't wait for tomorrow to continue reading.

Last edited by Nicky80 on Thu 05 Sep 2013, 23:42; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : It's late I can't write anymore)
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Post by Pari Fri 06 Sep 2013, 09:39

it's me wrote:Pari
I read a bit at the beginning a bit in the end

Toooo long to read here and there

Can you please tell me where I can read about G only?chapters?
(There is also a dog, named after G, right to mess things a bit more!!!!!)

Thanks in advance Smile
So sorry It's me... not planning to read anytime soon though... Shall update you/here, once I finally have and if I feel something from it Smile 
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Post by it's me Fri 06 Sep 2013, 09:43

Chap 13 was interesting Smile
Thanks Nicky

Big job our writer but sorry, I am anyway interested in him only I dunno 
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Post by What Would He Say Fri 06 Sep 2013, 09:50

Oops IM I did the same. Usually I can get a grip by reading the end, but it didn't happen here. So thanks to Pari I read ch 13 last night. I dunno, I'm not a great reader, so I wouldn't be the best critic.
What Would He Say
What Would He Say
Mastering the tao of Clooney

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Post by Carla97 Fri 06 Sep 2013, 21:53

Sounds interesting. Haven´t had time to read it yet as I am in the middle of writing process myself.

I´m writing a new book and it´s called hundred and five shades of shut the fuck up". None of these shades are grey. One is breige, though, mixture of beige and grey. Exciting colors that go well with the story.

So what´s the story? Basically nothing. There is no dialogue. No one utters a word in this book, and it leads to...well my literary agent (she´s from London and you need to have one before writing a sentence!) is thrilled about it, said, I just have to get rid of all my silent side characters. They do not fit to the story. (Don´t know where they came from, but quite a bunch, I must say). I´m starting to sound like Stephen King. But otherwise she thinks I´m handling quite beautifully this difficult subject, which completely lacks substance and action.

The book is nearly finished. I´m just dividing some chapters that they are not too long to look at. Optimum is 3 train/metro/bus stop distance.

Because there is absolutely nothing in this book my agent suggested maybe we should add some pictures in it. I agreed, but only if I can draw them. Maybe I´ll do some sketches later tonight.
Clooney-love. And they said it wouldn't last

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Post by Mazy Fri 06 Sep 2013, 23:33

Sounds very interesting let us know when it is finished. We can compare it to this book. Good luck. I'm also writing a book I have everything set up even a special program to write in, for more than a year. This is my umpteenth try so I guess you will finish before me.
Achieving total Clooney-dom

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Post by it's me Sat 07 Sep 2013, 00:02

Oh damn
Am I the only one here who is not writing a book?! Suspect 
it's me
it's me
George Clooney fan forever!

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Post by theminis Sat 07 Sep 2013, 00:09


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Post by it's me Sat 07 Sep 2013, 00:21

Theminis! Tell me
Are you too?
Tell me not
Be my companion Crying or Very sad 
it's me
it's me
George Clooney fan forever!

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Post by LornaDoone Sat 07 Sep 2013, 03:14

Everybody is writing a book or script or blog or shopping list. its me even you are writing every time you post here so don't single yourself out as not writing anything! :-)


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Post by Katiedot Sat 07 Sep 2013, 03:24

I've just written a magazine, does that count?!

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Post by LornaDoone Sat 07 Sep 2013, 03:35

It all counts. What trying to get a better rate on that subscription or just cancelling?? Ha!

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Post by it's me Sat 07 Sep 2013, 08:56

I yesterday was at some conference in which they say
You can be creative in many ways
In your life

In your love relationship too

It was something I already 'knew'
But not consciously

Said like that made me think at
How much we can express our creativity
Fantasy (...)
In love too

It was a bit consolation
it's me
it's me
George Clooney fan forever!

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