Saturday, May 27, 2017

Goal

Sheela typed away seriously on her computer, compiling the report about the latest project she was working on. At every stage, there had been delays, hurdles they had to overcome, unexpected calamities that created situations needing fire-fighting, resource crunch... a zillion other things. But the team had worked hard, overcoming each hurdle and ready to face the next... Finally, when the project was ready, the customer had delayed implementing it up due to some team churn at their end.

While she felt euphoric, she also wondered if all the sweat had been worth it. Now, as she typed out the details, of course there was pride. But there was also wonder. Are deadlines really worth it? This was not the first time that the client, after putting pressure, had become slack. Or, having implemented, they failed to use it effectively. Or even if they did use it well, they rarely acknowledged the development team...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Prize Pen

Every time she saw a car in that colour - that particular shade of burgundy-brown-maroon mix - she would pause and smile. It was the colour, not the car, that made her smile like that. A childhood memory, worth not even a pinch of salt, and yet, lodged deeply...

She must have been 8 or 9 years old at that time. The association of the colony in Delhi where she lived had organised the annual celebrations that October for Navaratri, culminating in cultural events, including Ram Leela skit with the burning of the effigy of Ravana followed by an entertainment show on the 10th day. She had been very excited that year because she, along with four of her friends from her Kathak class, were going to perform at the show.

Since she was good and picked up fast, she was slightly ahead of the rest. So in addition to a group performance with the other four, she was also going to do a solo piece. She was thrilled, and preened at the silent envious glances from her friends.

After many rehearsals, the evening of the show finally came. It seemed to fly past in the blinking of the eye. She could have gone on dancing, but had to stop with one. Her mother embraced her, her neighbours congratulated her. The events continued and she watched, but her mind kept going back to her own performance.

"Let's go home and you can change," her mother called her. "Where is your CD?"

She stared blankly. Her mother ran backstage, found the CD and came out smiling. Suddenly her name was announced on stage. "This year, we would like to honour our young star, who enthralled us with her Kathak performance!"

Her eyes opened wide and jaw dropped. She ran up the stage to receive a big box, gift wrapped attractively. The loud applause made her feel truly like a star receiving an award!

She went home and eagerly opened it to see a flask. That dampened her spirits a bit, but still, the sense of euphoria did not fade. She changed into ordinary clothes and got ready to relish the food being served as part of the events. Just then, the bell rang and a man stood apologetically. "The other mothers feel you deliberately influenced us to give your daughter the gift when you came backstage about the CD. They feel that all five children should be given equal importance."

Her mother immediately returned the flask without hesitation. Once the man left, of course, she displayed her ire. "Envious fools! Can't appreciate quality! And the organisers don't have the galls to stand by their decision. As if I have to beg them to give you an award in this insignificant event!"

She looked at her mother apprehensively. Would this mean they won't be going back to the event for dinner?

"What are you gaping for? Come," her mother snapped and dragged her to the park where it was happening.

Again her name, and that of her friends, was announced. With the same enthusiasm she ran up and took the smaller gift handed to her. She couldn't wait to open the wrapper and was excited to see a burgundy-brown-maroon ink pen.

She was secretly happy about returning the flask and getting the pen. That pen was with her for a long time. But more than the pen itself, it was getting it unexpectedly and the joy she had shared with her friends, comparing colours with the others and feeling good about the one she had received that made it more memorable.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Flow of Life

I sit idly, and thoughts about life flow.

Does it have a beginning and an end?
Or does it just flow around the bends?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Betrayed

“I want to sleep,” Neela grimaced looking at the clock. It was 5.30 am. “I don’t even have school today!” complained the eleven-year-old as she made to lie down again.

“No, no, Neela baby!” her mother Kiran said, holding her daughter’s head before it touched the pillow. She pulled the child to her and made her get up. “You know what your new music teacher said? You must practice early in the morning for your voice to become sweeter.”

"I don't like the music teacher," grumbled Neela. 

"She is so gentle and sweet," Kiran protested. "And, she is turning you into such a fine singer!"

"I don't want to be a fine singer. I just want to sleep," the girl said as she closed her eyes and yawned.

"No, no! You have so much to prepare!! Come, come, come!" Kiran picked up her daughter and headed for the bathroom. In the last six months, the intense music practice, lack of any play and bribing the child with chocolates and sweets had made even carrying her difficult. But Kiran was ready to do anything to see her darling daughter selected as the little champ in music. She had the voice. She had the talent. Just a little bit of fine tuning... Just a little bit.

"Just think," as she helped her daughter freshen up and gave her a glass of milk with turmeric and honey. "You will be the voice of India!"

Neela sulked as she let her mother cajole her into believing how good she was. "You can pick up any rag just like that... And you can play with it, tease it out... You have a bright future in music... You just have to approach it with devotion..."

Neela loved hearing this. Every morning, every evening. Every time her guru seemed unhappy, every time she herself was unhappy. Every time a new song seemed difficult to learn. Every time she wanted to play with her friends but couldn't. Every time she wanted to sleep more, but had to wake up early. Every time her voice and chest hurt from all the practice. These words of assurance kept her going. 

Finally, the day of auditions arrived. The long cue, the hundreds of young aspirants, the sweat, the stinky toilets... 

Neela shrank under the stress. She was tired by the time her turn came. But her mother stood by her, patting her, cajoling her, boosting her confidence. "This is it, now nothing can stop you..." she whispered as Neela went on stage.

She sang what came to her naturally. As she finished, she waited to look at the judges - leading musicians in the film industry. Their heads bent, they discussed intensely. One of them looked up. Neela's heart sank, but she calmed herself that this was a ploy they always used.

"You sang well, beta..." the first one started and paused.

"Very tuneful, soulful... I liked it... Let's see what the other two say," said the second noncommittally. Neela was sure of having bagged it. But still, her heart raced and her body trembled.

"We feel that you have potential... But, you need more practice. The standards are going up every year..." the third said, trying to sound encouraging. 

Neela stood rooted to the spot. Tears flowed, but she felt nothing. She felt an arm around her and saw her mother. Her eyes accused her mother of lying to her.

Her mother's eyes blamed her for failure.

When they walked out, the mother whispered, "Next year."

The daughter replied vehemently, "Never."

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Raised Hands

The hands rose
To cut the trees
The hands rose
To raze the green
And raise tall buildings

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