“What is your favourite cartoon character?” A random question from Neerja and a slideshow began inside my head.
“Kungfu Panda”, I said. I don’t know why I said that. She pulled my cheeks and responded, “Oh, you look like one, for sure.”
She walked away sashaying down the hall to the kitchen, as I yelled at her, “Was your hand sanitised?” This is perhaps what the pandemic pandemonium has left us with. Distrust, paranoia and anxiety.
As I looked at her shapely body receding into the doorway, I felt like the clumsy cuddly panda Po. Confused and waiting for Master Shifu to come and lead him to some miracle.
The vintage green carved wood mirror on the wall across reflected a cute image and I smiled at myself, “Pandas are cute.”
Somehow, that reassurance didn’t work well. After that webinar this morning, my mind was focussed on that black dot.“Pandas have cute dark dots on them”, I thought.My mind shouted back. “Idiot, those are patches not dots.”
No, I am not obsessed with pandas. Yes, I do have these random conversations in my head.
I am not into motivational speakers. I had to log in for an assignment. These days I am enjoying my freedom with freelancing assignments.
A globally known motivational speaker was talking about “That Winning Streak.” Mrs Kurien, as she is fondly knownwaved a white paper across the screen and drew a small black dot at the center.“What do you see?” she asked.
An enthusiastic attendee quickly replied, “I see a black dot.” “Okay, what else do you see?”, she asked again. “A black dot,” replied another.
“Don’t you see anything besides the dot?” – she asked.
I had to write a brief about the session.ButI logged off without listening to what she intended to say. “The same darn thing,”, I told myself.
Something was bothering me deep down. “Am I that black dot?”“I think I have a black dot in my head. It could be tumour.”
“Ok, enough of Pandas and dots,” I silently screamed at myself and went back to my laptop.
I was seeking zen mode for a couple of days at my friend’s cosy two-bedroom apartment in Sainik Farms. “Your home feels like Ananda Spas in the Himalayas,” I keep telling her. I don’t need to cook, clean or lose myself in those piles of washed and line dried clothes lying like some shrivelled looking body, waiting to be eaten by scavengers.
“Is it that bad,” I thought of the usual routine of life. COVID 19 has rendered us homebound. Everything in my head leads me back to something like that black dot.
My parents have been asking me to get married. My friends keep telling me, “This is the right time. You can get married with 20 people.” “Yeah, right you jealous bitches. Let me enjoy my life.”
Completely disinterested in completing the report, I clicked on a blank page. In one languid moment, I clicked the insert tab and clicked on shapes and made a circle. Filled it with black. The black dot.
“The report can wait.” I got up and walked into the kitchen to hunt for some soul food. My mind could only think of the yellow in the Maggi packets, the ultimate comfort food. Sheela didi has taken a day off.
Suddenly, I saw Neerja snoring on the green sectional sofa, hugging the TV remote.“Why is everything in her house in green colour,” I thought. The mirror, the furniture, the curtains, the coffee mugs, her mobile cover, even her nail paint.
“Thinking is such a waste of time. I believe in action.” That’s her favourite statement.And her favourite action is sleeping. I glanced at her peaceful face. She looks so innocent sleeping. Green definitely is her colour. “Is black mine?“
“Ying and the yang. Nivee and Neerja”, I must have said aloud. How two seemingly opposite forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent, I wondered.
“Dawn of creation blessed in devotion, Love, lust, spaces and time bringing colours to life,” my phone jolted me out of my reverie. “I need to change the ring tone”. This Temples song was too loud and colourful for my taste.
I almost ditched that unknown caller who was frantically trying to reach me for the second time. My abhorrence towards the mobile phone climbed a notch higher, as the phone rang for the third time.
While mouthing an abuse with the ardent will to hurl it at the caller, I shouted a hello.
“Am I speaking to Ms Nivee Pareek?”, asked a very calm and composed voice.
Fumbling for words while switching from that devilish mode to a normal one, I croaked out in affirmation. “Who is this?”
“Ms Pareek, we met in August.” My head went racing against time to recall this seemingly familiar voice.
“You came to my office for a presentation.” I felt like slapping myself for being so lost in pandas and back dots that I could forget something like this.
“Can we meet today? Around 4 pm? At my office?”, he calmly asked. I mumbled something to the tune of a yes and thanked him for the call.
“Sorry it took a while to respond. I was travelling,” he said with an earnest tone.
I could barely breathe when I disconnected with another thanks.“Airports aren’t safe”, my thoughts wandered again.
Why do I only see black everywhere? I avoid colours. What is wrong with me? The eternal questions in my mind.
“You stick like a sore thumb”. My former manager often bullied me. I knew I was a good worker. But the definition of ‘good’ varies for people. When people can’t accept for what you are and when you stick to your grounds no matter what, you will definitely antagonise many.
“In the rat race, I don’t want to be a rat.” I wrote on the white board that Rizvi had gifted me.“Keep writing notes to yourself”. Big and clear till you get to it.”, he had said.
The sore thumb remained sore till it realised that it was trying to fit in to a wrong hand. To avoid being a rat, I had to move away from the cage. But the world outside the cage was a big and confusing one too. I felt lost in a maze, mostly in my head.
My white board was my refuge. I kept on writing and wiping till it was a mess of black and white, like my life.
“Dear Maa, I wish I could go back to the old days.” It was like an automated note in my journal without any particular thought and I kept pouring what was brimming inside me. I have always been a letter person. Phone calls seem boring.
I could never send this letter to my mother. I am a modern, independent, grown up woman and I can’t be a cry-baby. I can’t be so vulnerable. I am supposed to be strong.
“Niveeeeeeee,” a loud scream and I was out of my reverie again. I have to stoplosing myself in this parallel world inside my head.
“Do you want to kill me? Do you want to burn me into ashes?” The melodramatic “Green Warrior” came running. She had woken up.
I had kept the stove burning in anticipation of satisfying my hungry soul with the monosodium glutamate induced 2-minute marvel. The charred pan smelled like smoke.
I knew it could have been a disaster. But now that I might have a bigger disaster waiting for me, I ignored the raving women and went to the bedroom. “He sounded positive”. “No, I think he just called me in to reject me on my face”. “Ok, Whatever. Let’s see”. The voices in my head started their meeting again.
My lucky black chikankari suit from Noor Karigaars in Lucknow and the silver earrings gifted by Maa. I carry it everywhere. For once, I had clarity.
A black bindi to add to the look and I was ready. The black bindi…the black dot!!!
My heart did an Usain Bolt, as I entered his office. This time, he looked intimidating in his navy-blue tailored suit. Top button of his light grey shirt was undone. I don’t know why but I was somehow relived that he wasn’t wearing a tie
Last time, he looked a little older and unkempt. Or maybe I am mistaken. I am not sure. I think he is good looking. He will look good in a black plaid shirt and faded Levi’s. “Shut up”, I almost said aloud to the meeting inside my head.
He stood up, extended his hands and gave a nice warm smile. “Are his hands sanitised? Maybe they are manicured.” I was flustered but managed to shake his hands, firm but warm hands. “Kanav Vincent, CEO, Smart Minds LLC.”, his nameplate read.
“Ms Pareek or may I just say Nivee. I hope you haven’t changed your mind.” I could only manage a tiny smile as the corner of my lips crooked.
“Is he mad? Why would I change my mind? Kanav, you took four months to respond. You had already lost me to a competitor. Lol.”
Ok, so I started calling him Kanav in my mind already. “He should have perhaps worn a tie, a sangria-coloured tie.”, I thought uselessly.
“Post Box for Life is a remarkable thought that you have come up with.” He sounded excited.The name of my project sounded so romantic in his voice.
I think his voice sounded like Jason Statham. “Is it the style. Or the texture. Was it The Transporter or the Italian Job? Ok. whichever, his voice would be the same.”
I think I will only remain a black dot for him, if I wander around his suit, tie and voice.
“I saw the presentation but I want you to tell me your story again. What made you think of something like this?” He still sounded excited.
“Once upon a time, when I was unhappy with my life and when I had started to feel useless, I wanted to do something different in life and I…” I stopped the flashbacks inside my head.
“I love writing letters. I feel a lot. I think a lot. But I have always been very less expressive. I want to give a platform for people like me to express. In whatever way they can. Connect people. Create stories. Spread love. Create literature.”, I blabbered till I started to sound almost like a schmaltzy heroine in an exotic romantic location, expressing love to her beau. “I can’t tell him about my letters to Maa. They are still unsent.”
“I love the thought. But how do you think it will help you make a living out of it”, he still sounded excited but he brought a halt to my romantic reverie.
“It is not just about money.It’s not that money is bad. I want to create a platform which gives purpose, meaning, fulfilment and at the same time generate some money.I am sure we can make it a sustainable model.” He nodded .and looked straight into my eyes. He seemed distant though, lost in thoughts. He has a parallel world too.
“Okay then let’s create Post Box for Life. Smart Minds would like to be a patron.” that’s all he said. His voice now sounded like Master Shifu. Or did he sound like the lost Po? Did he find his Shifu in me?
The Panda and the Master met. “Who is panda, who is Shifu?” It didn’t matter anymore.
“I have the Dragon Scroll. Post Box for Life will happen. No matter what.” I think those eyes gave me back something – my lost self.His eyes were my Dragon Scroll.
While walking out of the room, I noticed that the walls were a beautiful shade of blue. The desk was mahogany. Rust coloured chairs with soft orange cushions. A tiny lavender coloured ceramic pot with Chamaedorea Elegans Mini Palm. The little coaster on the desk was a mix of teal and cobalt blue. The clock in the wall looked like an abstract painting with ticking hands. It had blue, yellow, green, red, orange… perhaps, his eyes reflected these colours too.
Time seem to be changing. The hues seem to be changing. The Black dot in my head seem to be merging with the colours outside.