Atonement

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I am currently reading Atonement again. To tell the truth, I came across the movie earlier than I read the book. The movie recommended the book to me. It is a brilliantly made movie, though feels to drag for a while too, specially the later half. But no movie could ever do justice to a book. A movie is just one perspective to view a book. When we read it, we all imagine it to be unique. Our own interpretations of the same scene are entirely different.
The movie is a treat to the eyes and your mind too. There is so much to deduce and the timeline of the plot starts playing inside your mind time and again as soon as you realise there is a play on the interpretation of memories. You want to remember as much as you can.

I am reading the book again because although there is nothing much to miss, I always stumble across a new detail that I hadn’t paid any attention to, earlier.
Ian McEwan is brilliant with the imagery. The scenes are so well illuminated that you see them unfolding right before your eyes. The movement back and forth in time presents a misguided version of the actual events as seen through the eyes of 13 year old Briony.
There is meticulous detailing of appearances and state of mind as well.
The best parts are when the author really delves deep into the stream of thoughts playing inside the character’s mind. A point in case is when Briony is inspecting her fingers and speculating movement:

A

nd when she did crook it finally, the action seemed to start in the finger itself, not in some part of her mind. When did it know to move, when did she know to move it? There was no catching herself out. It was either- or. There was no stitching, no seam and yet she knew that behind the smooth continuous fabric was the real self

Life

‘Auntie?’ , implored Ashima cautiously.
Her aunt Pamela, who was making hot chocolate for her favourite niece managed to mutter a faint ‘hmm?’

‘I am 25 now.’

Pam smiled.

‘All grown up, eh?’

‘Remember the question I asked you years ago and you told me you’d tell me when I was 25?’

Pamela handed her a mug of deliciously heavenly chocolate as she sank into her bean bag beside the young woman.

‘Of course I remember Ashi! Well, how time does fly!’

Pamela didn’t know how to begin but she decided to start with a routine query,
‘Tell me Ashi, have you been in love?’

Ashi eyed her delightful aunt with hesitation before lowering her guard.

‘On and off, I think I might have felt something bordering on love.’

Pamela chuckled.

‘And I hope that you get lucky, my dear.I hope that one day you’d be in that place where you just want to spend your life with someone, married or not. That you’d want to watch your child grow through trying times.’

‘For me, I never had that happy chance.’

Ashima raised her brows in mock disbelief.
‘You are telling me that you never fell in love, auntie?’

‘Oh, no, I did. I did fall in love so many times. Or I believed I did. In retrospect, everything is a blur.
In retrospect, everything seems a lost opportunity. At least that is what some people keep reminding me.’

She smirked.

Ashima knew only too well that Pam was referring to her brother, Ashima’s father. He had only lately resigned to the fact that his 51 year old sister was not a bitter woman who kept to herself because she hadn’t married.

‘But you never felt the need to have someone close to you most of the time?’

‘Ashima, I had my books!
I had my students. I had young, eager minds waiting to be sculpted. I did not feel the lack of a family.
Sometimes I did feel lonely. But you see, you can feel lonely in a crowd. If it is meant to be, you can drown in your own loneliness as you sit with your arms wrapped around someone.’

‘And it surely gets painful at times, Auntie?’

Pamela placed her mug on the floor. Ashima couldn’t make out her aunt’s expression as she bent but when she looked up, her gaze seemed distant.

‘I’m sorry if -‘
She began but was cut short by an impatient wave of her aunt’s hand.

‘I do not know Ashi, why the world wants to believe that I am resentful because I chose my way of life. Isn’t that wishful thinking? Like I manage to break away and you’d make such a fuss about it, and say youre sorry about my life, making me question my own choice at times.
But that is just how the world works. You ought to be a wretched wreck if you decide to do anything that they dont sanction. It gives them the satisfaction of saying, ‘I told you so!’
But you see, I have had my books clutched tight, drawn close to my chest on some nights and I cherish that.
I have had my students look up to me and that is enough.
I have this family. You are enough.
I sing and dance and draw and make friends.
This too, is beautiful.
As beautiful as walking into the sunset holding hands.’

‘And if I ever wanted have the joy of watching a child grow into a wonderful, kind person, I have had you. Nahi?’

Ashima fought hard to hold back tears. She alighted the wickerwork chair and walked up to her aunt.

Bending down, she wrapped her hands around the woman, tears streaming down her cheeks and onto Pam’s shirt and said,
‘Yes, ofcourse, yes.’

Fear II

I heard footsteps in my room.
Someone stood for a moment right beside the bed. That person hurriedly moved towards the bathroom to ensure there was no one hiding and shouted something in a language I had no knowledge of.
He ran outside, and they ambushed someone in the very next room.
I felt suffocated as the smell of gunpowder reached me.
Outside, sirens blared on patrol cars.
The assailants must’ve spent about five minutes in the other room.
There were two of them, talking to one another.
And then, there was silence after the last footsteps down the corridor had died down. I slid the door of my closet.
Even with all the commotion around, the cacophony dropped dead as I tried hard to strain my senses as to find out if they had really left.
Cautiously, I stepped outside and stood for a second. On tip toes, I moved towards the door.
I stood holding it, moving just my head to peek outside. To my right, I saw the couple lying in a pool of blood, still holding hands. I headed left, and reached the room of the next door. I could take deep breaths now. But for reasons beyond my comprehension, I still was breathing scantily between the gulps of air I took in to hold. I was no longer in the closet. I will never know why I did that.
Another explosion. It rocked the hotel as if there was an earthquake. I clung to the wall. My legs felt funny. They were failing to hold me up.
I heard voices, coming from the end of the corridor where the terrorists had moved to. And footsteps. This really, was the end of my life. I gathered all my strength and focused it all on my feet.
But they gave in. I fell headfirst on the creaky wooden floor, but not before catching a glimpse of armoured officers rushing towards me.

Aparajita

Fear I

I was standing at one of the windows, watching the parade that day from the third floor.
Suddenly, amidst the noise, three explosions down the length of the road had me falling down on my knees and covering my ears. I looked up and saw people running, flesh strewn about the road and the some of the exhibitions had caught fire. There was just too much to grasp. I was in a panic, sitting there, staring immobilised.
And it was then that I saw,
A pick up van arrive and its tyres screeched as it pulled to a hault. At least ten men came scrambling out of it.
These men wore masks. They opened fire at those who were fleeing and the second a siren was discernible, they separated in groups of three and entered three buildings.
And I saw them entering the hotel I was in.
I just couldnt move. I could hear gunshots downstairs.
I rose and looked at the open door. My thoughts went to my husband who had gone down to bring breakfast.
I saw a couple run past my room and I ran straight to join them.
But I stopped midway when I heard the woman scream. And then, multiple shots.

Was I going to die?
I heard commotion in the hallway.
Mechanically, I sprung into the closet space and slid its door close.
And I held my breath.
I switched off my phone lest it started ringing.
I no longer remember, how long I was in there.
I think I spent my entire life hiding out in that closet.
Almost as if all that had transpired in my life before that was lost in a haze. There was no beginning and I saw no end to that endless wait.
I was like a bullet mid air.

Aparajita

Incomplete #5

He waited with a bated breath for her to betray a glimpse of that unflinching storehouse of utmost affection that she had once showered on him. His condition, he felt, was like a moth ready to char itself to death in the devastating flame of the candle. He loved the heartburn more than ever. Inside him, his heart was creating a deafening ruckus. To his surprise, he realised that the lively Ananya had lost the spark she carried effortlessly as a young undergraduate in Delhi University. Prominent dark circles showed beneath bewitchingly demure eyes which had perhaps, in the last couple of years known a lot more pain than a tender soul as hers could carry. She looked so fragile and helpless. Ishaan felt dizzy, as if an ocean of emotions wrecked havoc within him. It ran in his veins with terrifying ferocity. He felt a sudden desrire to take her in his arms and let the expressive eyes tell him her story.

Ananya’s thoughts, on the other hand, were going through a turbulent storm in which incessant memories hurled themselves against her calm demeanor. They threw in front of her whatever had, at one time, passed between her and Ishaan. They had once again ignited the desire to be loved. She regretted having stopped.
But as destiny would have it, distrust and agony reigned supreme in the end, thus taming the wild turbulence her mind was racing through.
***
‘You must restrain yourself from trying to make amends now, Ishaan. You know that once anyone loses my trust, I’d rather not have anything to do with that person if I can help it. I’m surprised, though, that you even dared to shamelessly ask for an apology for an act that has, lets say, deleted you from my mind.’
Ishaan looked on listlessly.
‘Is it not enough, Anu, that I’ve come home to you? Now I know that it’s not Riddhi but you that I want to be with in the end. Does it matter so much that this realisation comes a bit later?’ He looked at her squarely.
Ananya shook her head in desperation, concealing the disappointment that he wasn’t able to see how much his actions had hurt him. How he had said things that would stay with her throughout life, pinching her conscience. She stood up, pushing the chair behind her with such a noise that Mrs. Rosy, the assistant librarian, looked up, eyeing her sternly. ‘Silence please!’
Embarrassed, Ananya apologised and turned to Ishaan, leaning forward and said, ‘Considering how tactless you can be at times, Ishaan Sharma, let me get my point straight. I’m just sick of your trial and error method of finding out which lucky girl takes you home. Do you think I even give a damn about who you’ve zeroed in upon? You should’ve known better than sleeping with her.’
Ishaan was too shocked to react against her tirade. Ananya softened a bit. She was struggling hard to gulp down a lump that was weighing down on her and tried to keep herself from clying. She must be strong.
‘This is my life, for God’s sake! It isn’t a fucking TV show! You are never to contact me again. I’m going back home next week…
-she paused-
…and that ends it.’
She stormed towards the checking out counter. Ishaan rallied behind, trying to talk to her.
‘Anu, please listen to me once naa.’
He overtook her and fixed himself between her and the exit. ‘Lets talk things out. Give me a chance to explain.’
Anu lost her temper and glanced around. Quite a number of heads had turned towards the two. She almost found herself shouting.
‘ENOUGH!
Get out of my way.’
Mr. Shantanu Ghosh, the History Professor noticed the commotion and stepped in, throwing an inquisitive glance at Ishaan. ‘Is there a problem here?’ Ananya shook her head and answered in a composed tone.
‘None Sir.’
‘Still, would you two consider taking your personal issues outside the library?’ Ishaan walked out and stood in the corridor, leaning against a wall.
Ananya walked past him and stopped short. She turned to face him.
‘I hope I never see you again.’
Ishaan pursed his lips and nodded.
‘As you wish, Ananya.’
***
Back, in the market, Ananya didn’t let even a hint of her emotions show on her face. She gave a cursory glance with no approval of recognition, turned, and walked away.

Incomplete #4

‘Will the pendant be ready by the 3rd?’
Mr. Sen, the jeweller nodded in affirmative and handed her the acknowledgement receipt. Assured, Ananya left the shop and came out of the complex.
Although it was early April, the day was nevertheless getting much too warm for her comfort. She realised that Manoj the driver would be waiting at the far end of the city centre and moved ahead in that direction.

‘Anu?’

She wasn’t sure what stopped first- her steps or the heartbeats.

‘Ishaan, you have such a voice that I can always recognise.’ She had said, running her fingers across his black curls.
‘Really?’, he had quizzed playfully.
‘And if I disguise it, Anu? I can really fool you over the phone.’
Her mellow laughter followed.
‘No you can’t! Your voice is seductive and with a tinge of smirk that cannot be hidden. I will always know it is you.’

But it wasn’t 2010 and neither was it Delhi. That it was Ishaan’s voice was beyond doubt and she turned. There he was, looking at her affectionately, waiting for her to respond.

Incomplete #3

In the confusion, she didn’t notice that a young man had stopped short some feet away. He was, if it can be explained thus, trying to believe that it was actually Ananya in front of him. He strained his eyes to take a better look at Ananya who was just too absorbed in recollecting her stuff. When she started walking again, he stood there, perplexed. He recalled the last encounter the two had had four years ago and specially the very last sentence she had uttered.
‘I hope I never see you again, Ishaan.’

He felt his face flush and an urgent desire to turn away and leave overpowered his senses. Yet, all of this didn’t even extend beyond the fraction of a second. Once again, she was walking away, without even knowing that he watched her. She disappeared into the store and he was still there. He moved towards the exit with leaden steps. All he cared right then was getting away. All this while, he imagined a thousand scenarios that might have taken place if he had dared to intercept Ananya.
What if she rushed and embraced him? Or walked away as if he was a stranger? What if he wasn’t able to control his feelings and perhaps planted a passionate kiss on her endearing lips?

Incomplete #2

She made her way across the market to the pavement. She heaved a sigh of relief once inside the air conditioned complex and started walking in energetic strides towards the other end where the store was located. She was oblivious to the people walking past. It was almost as if she was walking in a narrow corridor the other end of which only stopped at the store itself.
Her friends had often remarked that she walked upright, almost commanding an authority. They even joked that she’d not look at people even on an inkling of having known them. In her march, she abruptly bumped into a man midway and the contents of the other bag fell on the tiled floor.
‘Damn!’
Soon the fruits trickled out and spread across. She threw a quizzical glance at the man who bent down to undo the act. Soon enough, the contents were back in place and she started again.

Incomplete #1

Ananya had, of late, developed a fear of crowded public places. Any commotion made her extremely nervous and insecure. Yet today, as if she had to face the devil right in the face, she was haggling with the sabjiwala over the price of red juicy tomamtoes and overtly conscious of the shrill voices around her, she felt weak in the knees. It was almost as if her sanity had broken down to many dimensions, each dealing with a different dilemma -scorching heat, people brushing past, a man staring at her and the horrible fright of having her purse snatched. Having bought all that she needed for the week, she waved frantically to Manoj, her driver. Noticing her, he hurriedly disposed of the cigarette butt and rushed to help her with the bags.
‘This one. Keep it properly in the back seat, okay? It’s quite heavy.’
‘I can carry the other one, too, Madamji.’
‘Na na. Just take that one. I’m coming. I have to be at the jeweller’s. So do something, Bhaiya, park the car in front of the United Clinic.’