Author of Words Not Spoken and The
Longest Pleasure (Finishing Line Press, USA), Vinita is a Mumbai based,
award winning poet and writer. She won the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award
for literary excellence 2015. Her poems have appeared in Asiancha,
Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Pea River Journal, Open Road Review,
Stockholm Literary Review, Poetry Pacific and over a 100 other national and
international journals. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards
2011, awarded first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014, commendation
prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2014 and won the 2014 Hour of
Writes Contest thrice. Her poems have found a place significant national
anthologies like Suvarnarekha and Dance with the Peacocks in several
international anthologies compiled in Australia. She was co judge for the
Asian Cha Poetry Contest 2015. She has given readings at two SAARC events in
Delhi and Agra. She also read her poetry at Hyderabad at an event organized
by the U.S. Consulate to celebrate the Women Poets Of India, at Delhi for
Delhi Poetree at the launch of Word Wine an an anthology of her poems and at
Mumbai, Cappucino Readings, an eclectic platform showcasing poets from all
Visiting Orchids (a short story) by
Tony hadn’t intended to buy the orchids. A rolled down window
at a traffic signal was hardly the best place to shop for flowers. Besides,
they were a trifle droopy, as if they’d been in the sun all day without
moisture. The gypsy-like little girl, who had sprinted up to his car at the
busy crossing when the lights were red, had looked at him so appealingly.
Her dark eyes held an almost coercing light in them. She wasn’t exactly
begging him to buy the flowers. No! Instead, her look was curiously
compelling. They were purple orchids, he noticed and they reminded him
achingly of Ria. So Tony gave in. He found himself paying for the orchids in
the fading twilight.
He looked at his purchase as drove home from work. Ria’s favourite flowers!
When he and Ria had parted ways a month back he had though it was just
another of their lovers’ tiffs – but this time they hadn’t spoken to each
other for over a month. In this time he had realized that no amount of hard
work, not even working like a dog in the office could fill the emptiness her
going away had created. Ever since she had walked out on him, he felt as
though he’d been drifting without a cause. He had worked an extra Saturday -
today - for that SmithKline deal. But the passion for his work was a tawdry
balm on the emptiness eating his insides. Deep down he’d been missing her
like crazy. She hadn’t called and frankly, neither had he. But he’d thought
of her every minute and spent every night pining for her. The separation had
proved one thing – there was no way he could live without her. He missed her
in his soul and wanted her back in his life forever. He wasn’t going to let
his silly pride and stubborn expectations come in the way ever again. His
only fear was whether Ria would want him back – but he dismissed it on a
note of optimism. She would, he thought without conscious arrogance - love
like theirs was meant to be.
When he got home, he filled a jug with water, thrust the flowers in it and
kept it on a table on the far side of his bedroom. Just gazing at her
flowers made his heart ache, it was all he could do not to grab the phone
and speak to her right then. But he held himself back. This time he was
going to do it properly. He would go to her house tomorrow. Even speak to
her parents if it was necessary, they probably still hadn’t forgiven him for
hurting their daughter. He couldn’t blame them - he’d behaved like a boor.
He resolved that this time there would be no mistakes. He would be patient
and wait until the next morning. Good thing that it was a Sunday tomorrow!
He turned his head towards the orchids and threw them a silly smile, “You
are the sign I’ve been waiting for,” he mumbled sleepily. Happiness was just
a night away, he thought with warm anticipation. God! How he believed in
He came awake with a start. Something had woken him. His breathing was
uneven and he was sweating as if he’d just run a marathon. Strange, because
it had been a pleasant, mild night and he’d even left the curtains
half-drawn for the breeze to come in. His heart was palpitating wildly. He
switched on the night lamp next to his bed and stared at the clock on the
opposite wall. Just a little after three, he noticed, as he tried to figure
out what on earth could have woken him up in this state of apprehension.
He turned his head to stare out of the window. It was dark of course but
brilliantly so, for the moon was full and still high in the night sky.
Throwing back the thin sheet, he walked over to the window and peered
outside but saw nothing unusual. And then it struck him. It was the air! The
room felt almost chilly – as if invisible snowflakes had been scattered all
around it. When he poked his head out of the window the night air still felt
warm and balmy.
The coldness of the air seemed very real. Then why was he sweating, instead
of shivering? Was he having hallucinations? Was he becoming unhinged?
A rush of sheer fear invaded him – he had no clear idea why he was feeling
so alarmed, except, just, that he was. He turned from the window to face his
bed again and it was then that he saw something that froze his guts.
Sitting in their jug, the way he had placed them on the table on the far
side of his bedroom, the orchids were glowing.
A queer light seemed to be emanating from them. A kind of a lavender mist –
as if the flowers had been drenched in moon’s milk and left to dry. The
sight chilled him to the core. A frisson of fear ran through him. He stood
and stared at the orchids, mesmerized; transfixed by the ethereal glow. Some
sane corner of his mind still wondered whether he was actually seeing this
or whether it was some dream…but the tryst with sanity was brief. It did
nothing to stifle his frightful helplessness.
He drew the curtains to cover the windows completely – to block out the
gleaming moonlight but a second glance confirmed that the moonlight was not
the source of the luminous halo around the orchids. Trepidation warred with
fascination. The latter won and he walked closer to the eerily magical
spectacle. Up close he could still see their light!
Terrified and completely perplexed he whirled around gazing at the room
wildly, searching for explanations. They were flowers for God’s sake, he
told himself. Flowers did not glow. Besides he’d bought them himself, just
this evening – from the little urchin with huge dark eyes. Her bright dark
He chided himself for being fanciful. Nevertheless, he could feel his throat
drying up. Panic assailed him. The walls of his bedroom seemed to close in
with claustrophobic intensity. His hold on rationality was slipping. Nothing
was making any sense any more. He couldn’t bear to stay in here a second
longer. He needed to flee.
He awoke around seven the next morning with a sense of immense foreboding.
The events of the night before exploded in his mind with renewed potency,
making him spring from the uncomfortable sofa in his living room where he’d
tossed and turned for the rest of the night. He dashed to his bedroom. The
orchids looked quite ordinary from the doorway. The sunlight filtering in
through the drawn curtains seemed to have usurped their spooky glow. But as
he got closer, he was dumbfounded to discover that they were amazingly
fresh, as if they’d been smothered in dew. Their serene beauty reached out
to him and filled his heart to the brim. Like Ria! The thought came unbidden
to his mind.
Just then the phone rang, disconcerting him. He fumbled as he picked up the
receiver. His friend Arun was at the other end. He worked in the same office
as Ria’s sister Charmaine.
“I’ve got some bad news buddy,” there was a
give-me-the-strength-to-say-this- kind of pause. “Charmaine asked me to tell
you - Ria’s dead.” Arun spoke in a low tone, his voice heavy with grief.
Tony felt every muscle in his body clench and brace itself at Arun’s words.
“A Truck driver rammed into her car on the highway, man!” Arun was saying, “
A pretty awful mess-up, I hear. She was alone, returning from some official
trip when it happened. Died on the spot, she did. She was buried yesterday
at 11 – at the Bandra Cemetery. If there’s anything I can do Tony…”
The receiver slipped from his fingers and dangled in the air. The room
started to spin like a top. Some far corner of his mind screamed silently
that he should have been informed earlier. The thought was followed by a
stinging whiplash of realization - did Ria’s folks hate him so much that
they wouldn’t let him attend her funeral? It certainly looked that way.
With the greatest of efforts he put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt,
grabbed his car keys and dashed out of the house. He reversed from the
parking lot with a wrench of the steering wheel and a squeal of tyres and
drove like a crazed man towards the Bandra cemetery.
The Sunday morning traffic was sparse. He found himself at the same signal
where he’d bought the purple orchids last evening. The lights were red
again. He braked. A little boy ran up to him, his face eager, in his arms a
bunch of roses and orchids and lilies. With a devastating sense of déjà vu
he turned his face away from the sight. Just then another car drew up next
to his. A balding man in his fifties with a jovial set to his lips was in
the driving seat. He took in the scene with one glance, nodded and smiled.
“That’s right, young man! Never buy those flowers.” He flicked his head
towards the children selling the flowers. "They pick them straight from the
graves in the cemetery, they do. Crying shame, I say! To pick up flowers
from graves and sell them! God bless the departed souls! It’s a cryin’ shame
I tell you… Hey! You look awful! Are you all right? Ah! It’s our turn to go
now…gotta go or I’ll be late for Sunday mass," the man drove off with a wave
of his hand.
All right? Was he all right? Would he ever again be all right?
Oh God! He hadn’t known this macabre truth behind the flowers sold here.
Oblivious to the impatient hooting of horns around him, blind to the funny
looks that the other motorists directed at him, he sat there like a zombie.
All he could see was the dewy-fresh image of the orchids he had seen this
morning– Ria’s orchids. He knew in his heart that she was at peace. Love
like theirs was meant to be.
Two poems by Vinita
grandeur on its knees.
green is so white inside.
their aura still croons
the pied piper’s tune
bedrocks jut out
their shadows strut about
in the introductory sunlight.
the breeze- a ballerina
who will never dance again
pock-marked with fumes
and poison‘s bad-breath
she swoons at my feet.
The night rises
like a tide of thirst
a fallout of
I am stranded on
the sinking shores
of a lonely doorway,
the echoing ring
of ‘I’ll be late tonight’
from your office
We are a braid
with the winds of time.
in the middle of
our living room,
I stare at the carpet and wonder
why vacuum cleaners
cannot remove the vacuum
and whether we need
the money or the love…
I peel off the flatness
of waiting from my body
and try hard not to
let the scent of an office
get into bed with me.