I didn’t know her, neither did most of us. And now we never will.

She could have been my friend or yours. She could have been your neighbour or your aunt’s neighbour, the girl you saw on the bus one busy morning. She could have been the friend of the bride at a wedding next year. She could have been the person behind you in the queue at the markets, the person who ordered ice-cream at the restaurant while you placed your order. She could have been so many things. She could have been alive.

Every mundane choice that we have the luxury of today and tomorrow and perhaps after that, every damned thing we will do or not do will be an obscene opulence from now on. Because, that nameless girl has finally run out of them. I wondered what to eat for dinner and I tidied up my kitchen and I made a folder for school slips. Because I have a million choices. Because it is mostly a safe country here and the law listens and the law is alive and cases are resolved and there is a body that protects.

The law loses its battle the day it starts blaming the victim. A firefighter attitude is what we have when things fail. Only a calamity brings us together, only a blaze keeps us together.

But. A nation needs a sharp and spiteful memory. A nation should not always forget and forgive.  A nation should hold on to old wounds and guard its battle scars so that it always remember how to protect itself.

RIP dear friend, sister, daughter. I cannot promise that you will be the last. You need mountains of faith for those kinds of statements. I don’t have that belief in mankind at this moment. I cannot promise that no other girl will meet your fate because other girls probably will – it took millions of years for the neanderthals to morph into Homo sapiens. Perhaps that metamorphosis is still in progress, perhaps a million years down the line, there is hope.

I promise though that I shall do what I can to save a sister, a daughter, a woman if I see them being harmed.

I promise to listen, to make a noise.

Mostly though, I promise, that I will not give up hope so that your death is not in vain. I am not going to say that the situation won’t change in India or elsewhere. I am not going to pretend it doesn’t exist. I am not going to sigh and say my prayers and wait for peace.

I am going to live with hope from this moment because you deserved it.

Because, hope, my dear, departed friend is what kept you going.

So, sleep well tonight. Our battles have just begun.

There is hope. There is always hope. On the days, there is nothing else, there is damned and thriving and pulsating hope and the promise of a sunrise.



A Whole New World

Dear Miss A,

On some days like yesterday, I forget what life ever was like before I started loving, worrying and living for you. That is not supposed to be corny but truth and love are ridiculously corny and hence we must not make excuses for either. Here is the thing – time is a wretched, wretched sieve. There is so much I remember about the last 11 years and so much else that I don’t.

Time, again, the thief. We forget bit by bit, every single day – sunsets and sunrises, meals and laughter, names and faces, dreams and places. This is how life changes – we do it, it is all us –  we move on, we leave things behind and then we claim that we were robbed by the passage of age and time and life. So, this is what you and I need to remember about the year that was. I picked a memory that I suspect will never age. It is okay to forget some things. But this particular one, it defines the year for me. It is a harbinger of the things to be, I want to believe this.

You were Jasmine in Aladdin for the school play. You wore a purple harem dress. You sang “A whole new world.” My heart turned and twisted, my pride spilled over. You were under a spotlight and behind you was a cardboard cut-out of a silvery moon. The audience, I swear, stopped breathing when the opening bars of the song sounded. The live orchestra soared, it reached a crescendo. So did you.

The stage, it was still dark. The piano,it still played. Your voice, it was as sweet and crystal clear. And then there was magic. Your other classmates walked on to the stage, holding candles.  Just humming, barely so. Just harmonising with your voice, a part of your song but not quite. In your eyes, danced a million flickers. You looked towards the audience then, you looked at me, you ended the song.

And the stage was flooded with lights again  and the candles departed to the wings. We clapped then, all of us. We clapped and clapped and we cried a little, all of us. The actors for the next scene had to wait because of the applause. You walked off stage when the song was done, I saw you run backstage as you reached the wings. It was done, the big moment had come and gone, the magic had wafted away. Later, the teachers and the headmistress would write us a note telling us how magical your song was. Later, I would cry again, so many times, for the enchantment of those three minutes.

Memories do not make sounds when they are born. Or perhaps they do. Perhaps they whisper in our ears and say that they are going to be around forever now, that a corner of our heart has been rented till the end of time.

A memory like that is the best gift you can give anyone. And so on your birthday, I thank you Miss A. For the gift of that evening. For the magic, for the song. For a vision that will stay with me till the end of my time.

This was a year of great grades, state honours in competitions and commendable concerts and music exams. I am proud of you for all of this, I am – but it is ordinary mothers that talk only of grades. The things you do, the songs you sing, the music you compose, the stories you write – there is no grading system for these things.

You, my dear child, you are your smile and your curly hair. You are your giggles and your fast sentences. You are your music and you are your stories. You are your friendships and you are your temper. You are your songs and your ABBA dances. You are all the things that make you laugh and cry and talk and rage because you do not do anything by half measures, You are warm and ridiculously witty and passionate about things you believe in. You are funny and brave and kind and rather too beautiful (when you brush your hair). You are all those things and so many others.

Here is another thing this year taught me. Your horizons are yours, I cannot hand you mine.  There is so much about our journey that I do not know yet, there is so much magic that will arrive unannounced in our lives, so many moments of candles in the darkness, so many spotlights, so many harmonies. This is a blessed, blessed thing.

Happy 11th birthday. Sing. Dream. Soar. Glide. Dance. Write.  Eat. Wish upon a star. Stay up late. Sleep in. Chase rainbows. Run amid sprinklers. Work.  Work Hard. Laugh. Often and Everyday. There is a whole new world awaiting us.

Wonder by Wonder.

For you and for me.