Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spare the child...

My little one is forever full of questions! Maybe all children are like that. I was cooking dinner, when he strode up to me, his toy zebra in one hand, and tugging my dress with the other.



“Why do animals live in the jungle? Why can’t they live in apartments like us?”

I will save our conversation for some other day, but I remembered his question in context to a news that I saw on TV a couple of days ago.  A live-in maid inPune, who took care of a couple’s 11 month old baby girl while the parents worked in night shifts, was tossing the baby in air, kicking it with her feet and terrorising it in every possible way! How on earth can anyone be so heartless, was beyond my comprehension. To say I was shocked, would be an understatement. I felt repulsed just watching it. The contents of my tummy did a flip, every time she threw the child in air and played with like it were a toy! Luckily for the child, there was CCTV installed in the house, and alerted by the little ones reluctance to be alone with the maid, the parents decided to check the CCTV footage. And this is what they found out! Was the woman mentally sick to have been so ruthless with a toddler?  

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wanting what is not!

For the past two months, there's been no difference between my house and the fish market!

Summer vacations+ kids at home+ neighbours' kids= one deadly concoction + terrible headaches!

And the most irritating aspect of this holiday is the constant ringing of the door bell! Ting tong- "Aunty, can S and S come out to play?" Ting tong- "Mamma I wanted to take my skates" Ting tong "Mamma, take these skates, give me the cycle keys" Ting tong "I'm thirsty" Ting tong "Aunty, I want water" Ting tong-" Can I take monopoly?" Ting tong"I'm hungry" Ting tong "I want my bat" Ting tong "Susu"...ting tong...ting tong.... the entire day,the bell keeps chiming and I keep marching to and fro, leaving whatever I'm doing, to open the door! Like precision clockwork, they keep ringing that bell, leaving me feeling like a doorman! Enough to drive anyone insane! And god forbid if it was our house that was chosen for indoor games! I swear, I could see the walls shake, the floors tremble and the doors creak on their hinges, and the windows just about stopped short of cracking their glass!

I complained to my mother, how this was affecting my concentration, and how I haven't been able to write and submit my work on time because of it. Mom's answer? She laughed, "Are you under some false impression that you were a quite child who only stayed indoors all day and helped me with the housework? You created the most racket, my dear, and added to that was your incessant chatter! You drove me nuts! All kids are like that! And it's just a matter of a couple of months." Couple of months seemed like light least the kids ensured that I felt so! Mom wasn't really being helpful, so all I could do was grin and bear it! I just wanted some quite and peace.

That time has now passed! The holidays are over. Today, the school reopened and kids are back at school. I think that I might even hear a pin drop, if it falls anywhere in the apartment! But there's an eerie silence too, and it's like I'm suddenly missing all that cacophony of the sweetlings! (Oh wait.. did I just call them sweetlings?!)

Someone said it right, "As a rule, man is a fool, when it's hot he wants it cool, when it cool, he wants it hot, always wanting what is not!"

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Apron Strings..

“Mom, see what I drew in class today”, my elder one chirped as he came back from his drawing class.

“What’s this, it looks beautiful.” I said taking the sheet of paper he so enthusiastically put in my hands.

“Sir wanted us to imagine that we had turned into ants and have crept into mummy purse. We had to draw what we saw inside.”

That sounded cool! ‘Let me see how far his imagination had run’, I thought.

He had drawn an open purse, brown, just like mine, and the contents inside. I couldn’t really make out what they were so I asked him to explain.

“See, that’s your lipstick and that, is your eyeliner”, he said pointing out to two familiar looking shapes in brown and black, “and this is your hanky, your comb, your mobile, your keys, vehicle license, and see I even drew your book.” He sounded quite pleased with himself. Actually, I was quite pleased with him too.

I didn’t realize an 8 year old knew all that! There, I could make out, whatever he had just described, and yes! the book….a red cover with ‘Danielle Steel’ written on it! (Spelled correctly too!)He knew what I was currently reading! 

 I was touched.  

When had my little baby grown up?

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Temple run....

It had been quite some time since I visited temples. Not that I am an atheist or something…I am a firm believer in the Almighty. But it is the crowd at the temples that makes me stay away from them. There is no space to sit and meditate and have that conversation with the Lord in peace. In most of the famous temples that we have here, you’d be lucky, if you are able to have as much as a glimpse of the Lord after those long hours of waiting. Push comes to shove, and you are out of the sanctum sanctorum even before you realise you are in.  I would rather have my quite time with my God in the tranquility of my home!

Well, at a recent visit to a temple, I was pleasantly surprised to see lesser crowd than usual and I decided to have a quick “parikrama” or “pradakshina,” which means going around the deity thrice and seeking his blessings. But very soon I realised,there would be no quick parikrama, as an elderly lady walked slowly ahead of me, presumably with a friend. “My daughter-in-law is such an awful cook, I tell you,” the elder woman complained to her friend, as the other lady nodded sympathetically, “wonder how my son manages to eat what she dishes out!”  Nice place to nitpick! “He seems to have lost a lot of weight, I remember he used to be so chubby as a kid,” remarked the friend, while the elderly lady let out a ‘tch’.  The idiom, “adding fuel to fire” must have been invented by observing someone like her friend, I assume.  As for me, I itched to just get past them. As the conversation continued, I politely asked to get ahead of them, inviting cold stares. Not that I cared!

I had not even walked half a dozen steps, when I passed a couple discussing where they should head for dinner later that evening. Good lord! That couldn’t wait till they got out of the temple? That was not the end, because next was the world’s busiest man, talking on the phone while doing his parikrama. The phone call couldn’t wait until later,I presume! So while he robotically went round the lord, he kept talking loudly on his mobile, oblivious to the fact that he was disturbing everyone else! 

A group of girl’s excitedly discussing their results were next. By the time I finished my first round, there were few new faces, and among them a couple, the wife chiding her husband for not wearing a dhoti. “You could at least wear dhoti when you come to the temple,”she said, a marked disapproval on her face. “Don’t start again,” warned the husband, as he inched past her leaving her fuming to complete her parikrama alone. Not all were like that though, some were seriously lost in their world of prayer, and I couldn’t understand how one could achieve that state of meditation amidst all that chatter!

I decided to stop right there after completing one parikrama. I had hardly been able to concentrate on praying, my mind being distracted with all the drama going around me! There was no meaning in doing something just for the sake of doing it, or because it was the norm, when the body and soul were not in tandem, each going their different ways!

I looked at the idol of the Lord as I bowed before him as I left… He must be having the last laugh! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From grieving to obsessing......

How much can one grieve over a lost purse? I guess grieve would be a wrong word..I guess I should say, obsess! That's what I have been doing since my purse got picked at a railway station. It is not so much about the money that I lost, it is more about the pride that was hurt. I have always been proud of being a very careful person when I travel. I don't recall having lost anything ever, not even a small key chain. God knows when, but someone managed to open my bag and flick my purse. I was horrified to say the least! The thought of a thief stealthily picking my purse without my knowledge, was insulting! How, where, when, my mind tried to analyse, but found no answers.

It is in situations like these that we are most likely to jump to conclusions. Could it be that lady who sat close to me on the platform as we waited for the train? She did look suspicious! Maybe it was the strange looking fellow who almost pushed me as I boarded the train? Who stole my purse? With no answers coming forth,my mind would not be at peace!

Writing has always helped me channel my mind whenever I have been lost. And that is when the first piece came up, “The sighting”. I couldn't let myself be judgmental, because I didn't know for sure. No one could be guilty until so proved. I couldn't think ill about someone, I didn't know if he or she was indeed the culprit.

But that didn't end my misery. I still missed that old purse. With that was born the second story, “The search”.  And I tried to convince myself, that true happiness and love lies in the confines of our heart and not in materialistic things. So why get attached to something as worldly as a purse? That did make me feel a little better!

The way my mind flowed from one theory to another, from one story to another, sifting between possibilities, made me write the poem on the fickleness of the mind, "Flowing like a river"

And then came the last story, “Labour of love”. That was based on the thought that, what if there was a mistaken identity due to a purse being stolen? There were a few more stories being churned by my imagination, but suddenly it felt enough.  Like writing about it, and then turning a negative feeling into a positive one had me redeemed. I no longer missed the purse and decided there would be no more stories on it! The obsession ceased to exist!

I think we all have some way to get over bad news, bad feelings, or bad events. It is about convincing yourself that it is ok! And that it can happen to you too. No one can do that convincing job better than yourself.  For me, writing always helps. It is like a catharsis to my emotions and feelings.

How do you deal with it?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Labour of Love.....

Neeta sighed as she sat down at dining table. The cake looked lovely. She was pleased with her effort. A heart shaped strawberry cake decorated with freshly sliced strawberries and a “number 15” candle on it. Fifteen years of married life, that’s what she was celebrating tonight. As usual Atul was late. He would have some plausible excuse, some urgent work, an unexpected client, a delayed meeting, something..…and as usual, she would smile and tell him it was ok. She sometimes wondered if he realized how much it hurt her, when the little things that mattered to her, didn’t matter to him at all.

But he was not a bad husband. He loved her to bits and she was aware of it too. He was just not as expressive as she had wished he would be. He never told her how much he loved her. He had just assumed she’d know it. He had done everything to keep her happy, and she was thankful to him for it. And though the love was there, the passion had become less and less intense with each passing year. The worst part was that he thought it was perfectly normal to gravitate towards a bond like friendship from a bond as intense as being lovers.

She sighed again as she looked at the spread before her. She had been cooking for him practically all day, when most wives would have insisted on dining at some fancy restaurant, given the occasion. Not that they couldn’t afford it, rather she felt it was a statement of her love for him. But knowing him like she did, he would probably not even notice the enormous effort she had put into everything. She straightened the ribbon on the gift box she had packed for him. It was the same every year, a shirt, a tie, a bottle of his favorite perfume and a pack of hand embroidered handkerchiefs. And like always, he’d smile and give her a warm hug. So much for celebrations!

She rested her head on the table, thinking about him. There was something about his hug that melted her heart even today. She felt so much secure resting upon his hairy chest. Her worries almost instantly seemed to evaporate. Even though they spoke less, words never seemed important between them.  But there was so much left unsaid that she wished they would spend some time together and speak to their hearts content. Maybe he could tell her how much he loved her and what her presence in his life meant to him. Yeah…maybe someday!

The doorbell rang, waking her up from her thoughts. It must be Atul, she thought as she opened the door.

“Hi” Atul smiled as he brought out a bought out a bouquet of purple orchids from behind him, surprising her. “Happy Anniversary, my love,” he said drawing her close, and placing a tender kiss on her lips.

So unlike Atul, she thought, trying to smell his breath before she quietly withdrew from him. The smell of his perfume mixed with his sweat lingered in the air around her. He didn’t smell like he was drunk. Why on earth was he behaving so weirdly! She tried to think when was the last time he actually surprised her like that! She drew a blank.

“Oh dear, you spent all day cooking for me?!” he exclaimed looking at the spread on the table. “We could have gone out somewhere.”

Another first. He actually noticed her cooking?

“Come here,” he beckoned, taking her hands into his, “Have I told you how beautiful you look?”

Her expression changed from one of surprise to one of doubt. What in the world was wrong with Atul?

“You have the world’s most beautiful pair of eyes that drive me insane just looking into them.”

“Atul….I think....” she wanted him to stop this madness. She liked his former self better. This romance and crap didn’t suit him at all.

“…Shhhh…..” he tucked away a stray hair from her forehead, behind her ear, “I love you, Neeta, more than anyone in the world. I may not say this often, but you are the only one I ever loved. And I want you to know this.”

Tears filled Neeta’s eyes as she looked at her husband. It was like a wish had suddenly been granted. While she stood mummified, still unable to believe he was saying all this, he gave her the warmest hug he had given her in years.

“I’ll just freshen up and then let’s eat this awesome food. Later I have another surprise for you,” he winked, as he went to their room.

Neeta nodded, still half teary, half happy. As she arranged the plates and cutlery, humming a tune, she heard the doorbell ring again. Who could it be this late into the night, she wondered. The kids were at her mother’s place and she knew they wouldn’t be back until morning, unless there was an emergency. Half fearing that something had gone wrong; she rushed to open the door.

“Madam, Inspector Raut,” a smart officer stood at her door, his police cap under one arm and a plastic bag in the other hand. “I’m sorry, but we found a body at the Somwarpet railway crossing today afternoon, and this wallet, watch and visiting card were found along with this briefcase,” he said showing her the contents. We believe it belongs to one Atul Joshi, and the address in the driving license found in his wallet says that he stays here…Now, madam….”

The rest of what he spoke was a blur and Neeta found her head reeling under the barrage of information the policeman had given her. How could that be? Hadn’t Atul just walked in, surprised her like he had never done before, given that bouquet of her favorite flowers, held her, kissed her, and professed his love to her? No, there must be some misunderstanding; the body could not belong to Atul! She must tell the policeman that… or better still, she could just call Atul and he could let the policeman see that he was alive.
She looked at the center table where she had just kept the bouquet of flowers Atul had given her.

No flowers.

How could that be?

Was the policeman telling the truth?  Could it really be Atul? She had read somewhere, about people who died unnatural deaths; their spirits often visited their loved ones one last time. Was that why Atul was behaving so weirdly? Had he come to say goodbye to her?
As she grappled with the news, she felt more and more suffocated, and unable to breathe. She shut the door on the policeman’s face and dropped down to the floor. Atul was no more? How was she to deal with this? What would she tell her children? Before she knew it, she had slipped into unconsciousness.

The door bell rang repeatedly and it was quite some time before the sound eventually woke up Neeta. Her eyes were moist and suddenly realizing that the policeman would be at the door, she broke into a loud sob all over again. Gathering her courage she walked to door and unfastened the bolt.

“Oh my god Neeta, what happened? Are you ok? I was worried sick. I have been ringing the bell for ages! Did you doze off waiting for me?”

Was that Atul she was seeing? Were her eyes playing tricks on her again? She stood speechless searching for the policeman, but there was no one else at the door other than Atul.

“Are you angry I am late, Neeta? I was stuck in a meeting in office. You know that client Batukbhai  and Jamnalal, don’t you? They…..”

“…..Shhhh….” she placed her palm on his lips, “Its ok,” she smiled, hugging him ever so tightly, like she’d never let him go. “I love you Atul…..I love you very much,” she whispered in his ears, as he hugged her back wondering what was suddenly wrong with her.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flowing like a river...


Flowing like a river,throbbing with life...
ageless but not aimless...
restless but not rudderless...
animated yet not with animosity to others...
flowing single mindedly but not selfishly...
no time to rest, yet not hurried to reach anywhere.....
that's how my mind thought dissipates...
taking on a meandering fluvial contour, 
sometimes raging, at others quiet riparian....
the white sanded littoral paradise,
seems so near yet so distant...
and yet it flows unperturbed..
A halcyon over the tempestous run! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The search...

Today was the last day of the search. She had searched everywhere. Everywhere that she could think of. She had looked at the streets and houses on palm tree road last week. And the week before that, she had searched every single house behind the huge village well. This week she had spent searching the houses near the school and the old kali temple. She hadn’t found it anywhere yet. Today she had tried looking in the houses and streets near the banyan tree and post office.

But like every day she had drawn a blank today too. She let out a sigh and sat down on the cemented patio outside her house. Perhaps she wasn’t destined to find it anyway. She wondered if she should just give up. No, she couldn’t give up so easily. There might be some other place she might have missed looking. She would think about it tomorrow.

Now where was the key to her cupboard? She needed to store her torch for use some other day. At least till she found ‘it’.

Ah! There was the key, saddled to a thin string of wire hanging by a rope on the wall. She hadn’t opened the cupboard in a very long time now. There were cobwebs and dust on the cupboard, a sign of utter neglect. She dusted the cobwebs off the door and opened the creaky little cupboard to keep the little torch away until she needed it later.

It was then that she saw it.

So here it was! Lying just behind the jar of happiness was the little rusty lamp of love!! What a fool she had been! She had been searching for that lamp of love everywhere. It had never occurred to her that it might be right under her nose. Only if she had tried opening the doors a little earlier!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The sighting....

CST was still a nightmare to her. After two years of living in the city that never sleeps, Sheela had still not got adjusted to life in Mumbai. As she waited for the train to arrive, she saw a shabbily dressed woman, with unkempt hair, a smattering of ash on her forehead, with a big round coin sized vermillion in the center, and pan stained lips, loitering nearby and throwing cursory glances at her. Sheela tightened her grip on her purse reflexively. Her purse had been picked a few days back and she had learnt to be more vigilant of her surroundings ever since .She walked a few paces ahead, as if standing next to that woman was some foreboding of ill luck. Every few minutes she looked back, checking on the woman, and seeing the woman look at her, would immediately turn away, looking elsewhere. There was something sinister about the way the woman looked at her, and she hoped the train would arrive soon and she would be spared the sight of her.

She usually took a local train to her workplace in Kalyan each day, but today she had missed it. She waited to board Udayan express that plied between Mumbai and Bangalore. The train would be crowded no doubt, but she could either board a crowded train or miss going to work. The only option seemed to be the former. She let out a sigh, not that anyone could hear it anyway. It was almost 8am, the train would arrive in another 5 minutes and she could be on her way. Going to Kalyan by this train would take longer, at least an hour, compared to the faster local trains, but today she did not have an option.

Just as she was about to start to work in the morning, her son had called up. He had met with a minor accident on the way to college, near Dadar station and some lady had taken him to the hospital. He was on his way back home and he needed her to stay back and give him the keys to their home. She had been worried sick about the well being of her son, and had placed a handful of khadi-saakhar (sugar cubes) in a small cup in front of the idol of Maa Durga, praying fervently for the safety of her only child. Maa Durga had been like a safety net for her and her son, always protecting them from any troubles.

She had been contemplating taking leave, but seeing that her son was ok, except for a few bruises, had decided to get back to work. Half her batch of colleagues had been given the pink slip, as the organization was cutting down on employees, and people who were not regular had received the first strike of the axe. She could ill-afford a lay off at this time of her life.

Udayan express finally chugged into the platform, and her nightmarish experience of boarding the train began all over again. People scurried to board seats, pushing past each other, stamping on each other’s feet, smearing each other with their sweat, so graciously awarded by the climate of the place. There was a huge morning crowd between her and the train, and even moving ahead was difficult. She heard the engine whistle, signaling that it was ready for departure, and an announcement was made to that effect.

The train had slowly begun to chug off and she was very close to getting in now. She doubted her ability to board a moving train but decided to give it a shot anyway. As she struggled to get into a compartment, her feet slipped in between the platform and the steps of the bogie, and she froze with fear as she realized what a nasty fall she was about to have; going head down and probably get crushed in between the platform and the train or under its wheels. A scream escaped her lips, even as she tried to grasp anything that could break her fall. In the fraction of second that ensued in between, she felt a firm hand grip her palm and pull her up. Her heart beat furiously, as she sat on the platform watching Udayan express pass by, clutching her reeling head with one hand and the hands of her savior with another as if she was afraid to let go. She felt her body go cold and numb with fear at the thought of what a close shave she had.

She felt a reassuring hand patting her head and stroking her back lovingly, telling her it was ok and she was now safe. Slowly she stood up and gratefully looked at her savior. She saw the same pan stained lips, before her eyes moved to the ash smeared forehead and the familiar face of the woman she had been thinking of as sinister all along. Her eyes filled with tears of shame and gratitude at the same time, and she broke down sobbing uncontrollably, hugging the very woman she had been running off from.

“Today seems to be a day of accidents,” remarked the woman, once Sheela had regained her composure, “A young boy was knocked down by a car near Dadar station in the morning, I took him to the hospital. And now you. I hope there are no more mishaps today. Here eat this, you’ll feel better” she smiled, placing a handful of khadi-saakhar in Sheela’s hands before walking away, humming a tune, leaving Sheela wonderng if it was the same "Prasad" she had offered Maa Durga in the morning!

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