this is dedicated to all friends and acquaintances who have journeyed along with me , adding smile, drying tears but most of all making me aware that it’s not the destination that matters but the  journey ..


The two sat in the corner, on tall bar stools, sipping hazelnut cappuccinos,

looking like the miss-matched cruet set that their fingers brushed


their words making invisible smoke rings of Conversation; sounding like well-oiled synchrony of an antique clock- Whirs, hums and occasional tick-tocks …..

Time spreading out in ripples of stirred coffee, they spoke, uncaring of the world …

Who were they?

Political rivals, jabbing the air in unending debate?

Now scribbling concentrated lines on flimsy tissue!

Were they business partners sharing a dream and stock market graphs? Then, shedding tears and holding hands in familial solidarity,

like lost siblings or distant family, who were they?

Lovers? Looking tenderly at each, lost in their universe? Actually,

Just friends! Sitting like book ends holding together the myriad genres of life, in warm timelessness.

Nothing changing though everything did- The cold war into global warming; flower power into political springs;

The parents and teachers into children and students; Smoothness and curls into straggling greys and wrinkles,

all held together by the changeless gurgling of their laughter and eyes that twinkled!

They sat, a spot of eternity, oblivious

To the waves of change crashing around them, Comforted by their shared warmth and coffee; cherishing their bonds of friendship with each sip.

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The Gecko

My writing is an amalgamation of memories , personal philosophy & experiences of the world around – not in put in any particular order; there are large areas where one merges with the other and time smudges over reality with fiction.

We remember the most awkward instances and oddest personality traits; what remains true is that Time gilds the edges of our memories framing them and making them valuable …

The last plate lay in the sink! I was DONE- that was a loaded word for me!lizard

Done picking up dirty dishes and leftovers after the last air-kissing guests left—Some tottering and giggling, with their make –up melted all over their face; others loud and brash with their unbuttoned shirts coming untucked at the waist, slurring incoherent desires to undefined partners..

Done with entertaining vacuous self-centred crowds, with the hope of meeting that one meaningful person..


Done looking for home, comfort and a sense of belonging in this alien place!

With exhausted relief, I picked up the plate in the sink and felt something cold and wispy touch me; my eyes widened, I screamed…..

The cold, pale body with black mustard eyes just ran up my lathered arms leaving a slimy trail! ….Lizard! House gecko! God’s lowliest creature!

It ran up my arms till it perched on my shoulder!

I was transfixed with fear; my mouth was so wide open that I could not breathe. I was choking in horror while this little beast, with its pasty skin so like unbaked dough was making itself comfortable on my shoulder.

I shuddered! My shaking with fear and disgust unsettled the critter; it fell of its perch onto the kitchen floor. It gave a quick glance backwards; flicked its evil tongue and disappeared into the dark damp shadows that exist in all our lives.

I was left with eyes brimming with helpless tears and the unclean feeling that Eve must have had while conversing with the reptilian Satan.

Why Me! I told myself as I stood under the shower, letting the water droplets wash my skin and sooth my soul. Why was I chosen by these colourless twisting animals as their victim? This had happened before, I even had proof….A photograph, which despite its fading colours and graininess, had captured the moment well— my desire for greater glory fighting an obviously losing battle with cringing fear & disgust—starkly visible for all to see.

What was the greater glory? In a moment it all came back to me:

The myth or was it a legend? Or probably just a superstition to help Us and Them to exist in the same ecosystem that my eco-crusading mother had mentioned about the gecko while photographing the scene—

A gecko, according to villagers of Bengal had the power to transform one into royalty by merely falling on one’s shoulder—

‘Don’t scream!’ she had said excitedly ‘be brave! Let me take a photo of you because one day you will be a queen. Trust me! One day this prophecy will come true’

That was Ma, full of joie de vivre about the smallest events in our lives. I stood there with a sickening feeling that I was going to faint before Ma got the camera focussed; dreading the moment the  gecko decided explore other parts of my anatomy, but I had stood firm! Everyone had clapped at my absurd good fortune.

In fact, I am sure one of younger cousins had looked up at me and said ‘How brave you are! I wish I could be like you, and then maybe the gecko would have chosen me.’

That was the power of superstition and innocent belief! Well, at least memory calmed me down and brought a cynical smile to my face.

Royalty! Images of my battle-strewed life lay around me like a carelessly put together collage: the pain and heartbreak; the sense of loss; the abuse; the violence; wailing children; teary eyed sleep- yes! I had fought it all, conquered it on my own. Now I was here, with my own space, on my own terms. Maybe, the gecko was right after all, I was the Queen of my own destiny!

That encounter and its aftermath helped me forge a bond with the creature. I would let it remain in the shadows of my life, watching me vanquish all odds and become a queen in life’s chess game. At least there was somebody watching over me.

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What’s in a name?

Her eyes sparkled with a watchful alertness that belied the soft tone of her voice

‘Would you want me to take care of all the details as always?’

‘Yah’ he shook his head and hand in a callous dismissive gesture ‘Do whatever you need to! Who is this Miriam?  So many millions for something I wouldn’t even remember, except for the compelling evidence she has! Yah! Pay her something, like 10 million …. Whatever—close it before the media and public know!

It was an elaborate process–names, passwords and numbers, a frown spread across her lovely face, she couldn’t make a mistake; she worked painstakingly, making sure she couldn’t be faulted. She placed her letter with rest of the documents on his table.

Her bag was packed and desk tidied. As she heard him roar, she jumped to the door.

‘You resign Lina! now when I am winning ! You can’t leave Me! You bitch! Who is going pay your bills- that overdosed shit who sold you here! Why have you signed – Shalina M. Moundar- is that your Name? What does M stand for?

‘Miriam’ she said, giggling with laughter she walked out.

Sheila Bhattacharya

Mumbai/ Jan 2019


what's in a name


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The Grasshopper and the Ant

The grasshopper leaned against the ant hill. He looked more blue than green, his long limbs frosted over. He sighed! The warm red glow from within the anthill brought a strange stirring of emotions within him.

‘I can’t take it anymore’ said the ant brushing against the grasshopper as he sat down on the cold mud ‘this monotony is going to kill us all’

‘Yeah! I like the cold rush of fresh air….’ The grasshopper said in a raspy tone   ‘with frosty crystals locking out all dreams, the wind numbing the hunger pangs …..

‘Hey man! Such poetry! Come on come on….’

‘I am too cold for poetry…..poverty doesn’t make great art!’ protested the grasshopper as the ant ushered him in.

‘Ladies and gentleman, I bring you the Grasshopper hipper—.’

The grasshopper amazed at the opulence, sang out a melodious tenor- SILENCE

‘Not that! make it screechy, make it rap! These are ants with class’ said his benefactor

He took a deep breath and began:

‘Ra ra ant-on-pins

Let’s drink and grin’


Roars and thumps of delight greeted him. Later, flush, green and exhausted, all he said was ‘I am too warm for poetry… money doesn’t need great art!’


Sheila Bhattacharya

Mumbai/ Jan 2019   


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Diya scrubbed the table top, removing the stains and crumbs with considerable effort, hobbling on her disabled foot.

‘Thank you for letting me work here, Bhaiyya, the birds are so affectionate’ she declared cheerfully, ‘they don’t laugh at my leg at all’

Bhillu smiled; the overwhelming animal stench, the constant fear of his employer and the police, did not allow him appreciate the beauty of these exotic birds. He just wanted them quiet, healthy and out of his way!

He was no nature lover; just that he could not go back to the village defeated by the city!

Underage for the fast paced but fun job at the tea-stall; this illegal trade in exotic birds was an option for illegal young boys like him – giving him an intoxicating feeling of being dark and adult.

But the missing birds- loss of many lakhs! He feared the merciless thrashing!

The cages were secure and locked! It was a mystery! He decided to ask Diya about them.

Dragging her cripple leg behind her, her laughter filling the crumbling room ‘they flew away, they look beautiful flying free- I love them so much I set them free’

He stood, locked in fear and gloom!

Sheila Bhattacharya

Mumbai / Jan 2019

Google-pics for the photo


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15 august ,Independence Day — thoughts on freedom

The frenzy of practices  for the Independence Day show in school reaches such a fever pitch, it’s almost Kafkesque in its absurdity….. the decay, the filth, poverty and all that is wrong with the State of India, is frantically hidden from every body’s eyes behind the screen of grand speeches , melodious patriotic songs written by poets who had imagined a very different future for our nation and choreographed dances that reflect the many thousands of years of culture in our country! Everyone is made to practice steps, words and cadences with military precision and discipline ….. if the same effort and intent had been put throughout the years that our nation has grown and survived as a modern democracy, IF ONLY, then we would have never had to hide anything behind a smoke screen of false sense of honour and achievement!
But what really amazes me is total lack of freedom to change the format or disagree; the cold unsmiling faces with mask like expressions reflecting any suggestion that the event shouldn’t be just ceremonial but spontaneous……just set me thinking about all the things we need to feel free to do……oversleep, not understand math problems in the first reading, not to know how to make paper boats that float in the muddy rain waters… there are just so many…
Which led me to this thought…..

May we have the freedom to:
Explore any winding roads even if they lead to dead ends;
Lie down on the green slopes and make faces at the sun peeping through the clouds;
Follow instructions from behind the craft box and create a disaster
for display;
Laugh and say ‘ hey, I am slow, so could you tell me that all over again’….
without shame or fear
Match the colour of our hair with the colour of our shoes when
we go for stuffy interviews and get chosen!
Sing tunelessly in the elevator so that others sing along
Just to correct you!
Make mistakes on filling up complicated government forms
and not be taxed for it;
Laugh out loud, at things we find ridiculous,
no matter where we are;
And cry when we are hurt , feel cheated or wronged
No matter who we are…

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Journey- Floating Away

this leaf-basket of Marigold’s floated by me as i sat with my ankles dipped in the freezing cold waters of the Ganga at Haridwar… it’s brightness seemed a bit cheeky against the dull grey waters of the river that pretty close to it’s lowest level, as dry months of March and April was fast approaching. The flowers probably meant as an offering at a temple had got away! the bobbing basket seemed like a willful little girl out to explore and find her destiny…….

Bright sunlight                                             ,20140220_103634

Shadows and reflections of the sun,

Calmness of the waters

Leaving ripples all undone,

But I am floating on……


People calling out

About appointments never kept,

Fingers reaching far to see

What they can get,

But I am floating on……


Chants and whispered prayers

Along the river edge,

Lilting temple bells

Among the aromatic incense smells

But I am floating on….. 


Memories of hills

Beyond the river bend,

Sacred bubbling streams

With stony gravel beds

But I am floating on…….


‘Nothing can keep me’

She whispers as she goes

Time swiftly follows

As she flows,

Petals will fade, and the green will go;

‘I am on my journey,

To others endless it may seem

But that doesn’t bother me,

I am just floating on …….

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Beach Thoughts

Evening at the beach     

Watching frothy patterns, On the footprints in the sand; Swirling, bubbling, exploding, Wiping out reality! Till all that remains, are feet, Washed pink, sinking steadily into the beach And eyes that follow the waves trying to touch The ever receding horizon….. Or is it eternity?

Watching frothy patterns,
in the footprints on the sand;
Swirling, bubbling, exploding,
Wiping out reality!
Till all that remains, are feet,
Washed pink, sinking steadily into the beach
And eyes that follow the waves trying to touch
The ever receding horizon…..
Or is it eternity?


Fishing dreams!

She thought as she felt a tug at her line ‘I have been standing here since beginning of day; my feet sinking in the shifting sand, my skin itchy with the salt spray of the sea splashing around my knees and ankles…..hoping, as I cast my line that I will catch a miracle!’

She began to cautiously reel in line, muttering prayers to the million Gods– the one’s she had waved incense sticks at every possible opportunity, and a few others that she might have skipped in a hurry! The sweat trickled down her back, the nape of her neck blistered in the sun- she did not care. The crows cawed rudely, circling her with squawking aggression, ready to peck at whatever rose out of the ocean- she did not care.

As the waters receded, a big blob burst, splattering sand and salt spray…. And there, she crawled out …. Her middle aged face browned in the ageless sun, her dark hair bunched into a straggling bun, a gaudy red something….who was it?-Venus, a little exhausted with all the love through the ages and failed relationships or a lost mermaid, kind of senile and confused..!

She dropped the tackle and the sinker, screaming out her prayers and ran!



Through the smoky haze, she saw his twinkling eyes, his streaky white beard shaking as he guffawed. Trembling with anger, she accused him ‘you had promised me a miracle like no other, Guruji, Why did you do this to me?’

‘How many people fling a line into the sea and reel in a living creature—that was the miracle’ he shrugged and smiled, ‘What you did with the miracle, Woman, was your wisdom’!

Mermaids Lament… Oh Sea! Please, don’t run out on me! I am beached out here … Can’t you see? My shimmering tail with silver scales Have dried up in the sun, Oh! My woes … I see brown toes Am I going to be a mermaid on the run!  Oh Sea! Please, don’t run out on me! I am beached out here … Can’t you see? A lonely mermaid in the sinking sand Desperate and helpless, lying were the sea meets the land….

Mermaids Lament…
Oh Sea! Please, don’t run out on me!
I am beached out here … Can’t you see?
My shimmering tail with silver scales
Has dried up in the sun,
Oh! My woes … I see brown toes
Am I going to be a mermaid on the run?
Oh Sea! Please, don’t run out on me!
I am beached out here … Can’t you see?
A lonely mermaid in the sinking sand
Desperate and helpless, lying were the sea meets the land….



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Monsoon evenings

Rain drops in my hair , Moist gusts of wind in my face, thunder drumming a tune, colourful umbrellas skipping along paper boats in puddles…….     cup of tea and thoughts of you, warming me! 

Rain drops in my hair ,
Moist gusts of wind in my face,
thunder drumming a tune,
colourful umbrellas skipping along
paper boats in puddles…….
cup of tea and thoughts of you, warming me!


All I see are different shades of grey,

all soft and warm, enveloping my thoughts from drifting away…

Tea warm, fragrant and alert on the window sill,

I collect Liquid crystal drops in my palms

And watch them collide and form puddles of silver,

they are Mercurial and reflecting my many moods—

I am reflecting…..

that is when thoughts of you brush past me in a gust of monsoon wind,

I feel the memory of your breath moist and warm on my face, a silken touch

That unsettles the raindrop pools in my hand….

It’s rain washed, cloud rich monsoon evening…….

and I wish I could make memories with you.











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Passport Capers and children


He watched with deep concentration,

And pressed so hard on the scanning machine,

that his fingertips turned pink.

There was fascination in his ten year old eyes as he saw his paw prints receding into nothingness…

Then, with uncharacteristic patience, he followed instructions

And peered into the iris scanner, as they took his biometric details,

And without him understanding it, turned him into a demographic statistic!

The experience leaving him bewildered yet curious for more…. I wondered at his quietness;

Then he leaned over, with a cheeky smile and smug tone, told me in a stage whisper

‘Mamma, they tried very hard to take a photo of the REAL ME,

One that’s inside…….. but I don’t think  that eye machine succeeded!’

great! my child, you have defeated the system!



The queue was long, thick and snaky, putting any self-respecting anaconda into blushing shame! The air-conditioning was groaning, and beads of impatient sweat on every forehead. The dull grey outside, dripping rain just added to gloomy, sarcastic tone of the officials.

We just stood, seemingly forever, and then she began to hum to herself…. I caught few glances, some indulgent and some disapproving—

‘Hey, mom, I going put some life into these minibots…. I am going to sing’ flouncing off to the centre of the crowded waiting area taking advantage of the fact that I was caught unawares

 She smiled and winked as shook my head in a vigorous NO!

And screamed across a dozen heads ‘I’ll never have such a captive audience, ever again….. And if they don’t like it, they might just shift us to the top the queue…’

Some sniggered, some glared at the adolescent arrogance and I shivered at the thought that the passport office would impound my passport AND take away my rights to motherhood …

When she walked back with her head held high

‘ common’ , I was just kidding….. but those shocked faces and hands clutching hearts , is incentive enough to actually do it…. Another day… so relax’


Ok I know now , somebody up there is looking after me!  


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