Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dobie and Me: Chapter 3

For previous chapter: Click here

Reluctantly I left the clinic cum home of the vet and followed the man, Gautam, to his car. I realised that the car needed cleaning. “I am sorry about the mess… And thank you for the timely help,” I said finally, showing some decency.

“It’s okay… I shall have it cleaned. I am glad it was nothing serious,” he said.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dobie and Me: Chapter 2

(To read Chapter 1, click here)

To make up for it, I took him out for a walk. It was late, almost 11. I let him lose, since the traffic was less. The joy he felt as he bounded down the road was a treat to watch.

But it was short-lived. A car turned the corner, and before Dobie could move out of the way, it hit him. The yelp pierced the night and rendered my heart in two as I watched him roll helplessly. The car screeched to a halt and the driver got out hurriedly.

He and I reached Dobie at the same time. Dobie straightened up but was unable to stand. He was whimpering.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dobie and Me: - A Short Serial

Chapter I
He nuzzled me persistently, licked my face, forcing me to open my eyes. “No! Not now! It’s too early!” I complained and looked at the clock. 5.30. Damn! It wasn’t all that early!

I sat up and stared at him with a pout. It had no effect on him as he ran out of the room and ran back, his tongue lolling. I shook my head and got up with a sigh. I opened the door and let him out then went back in to freshen up.

Monday, December 7, 2015

One Earth: For a Rainy Day

One Earth: For a Rainy Day: I am just an element, I was in my elements. I know nothing of joy and anger,  Nor indeed of safety and danger. I fall from heavens...

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh: Chapter 7 - Meeting the Monsters

Read Chapter 6

She picked up the fallen bat and saw that, as she had suspected, it was not a real bat but a mechanical one. She handed it to Param, who had followed her. He shook it and then dismantled it. It had electronic parts. They went out and approached the monsters. One of them bent and boomed. Though she knew it was Udit playing pranks, still it was scary. She went near slowly and touched the monster. She felt something wet and solid. She looked at her hand. Because of the floodlights, the visibility was better. She saw her hand was white and foamy. She smelt it, and was pleasantly surprised to smell detergent. She touched the monster again and realised that the smell of detergent was quite overpowering.

Rain Train

In the year 1986, one of my cousins was getting married. I was in Calcutta that time, studying in school. The wedding was in August, when school had started. My father was on tour, brothers in different cities and it was only my mom and I were to travel. I fell sick the first week, when I had anyway been denied permission to take leave. 104 at night, 102 during the day... But my mother was keen and so we started. Reaching the station itself was an adventure because we got delayed starting, got caught in the famous Howrah jam, but the govt. vehicle took us just in time to see the train starting. The driver and the inspector somehow got us in into some compartment, and the luggage in another.

Anyway, adventure had just begun.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 6: Gagged and Locked Up

Read Chapter 5

Now that she was away from the prying eyes of the monsters, she pulled out her phone and passed
Illustration: M Rithika
it to her son. “Find our location and message Uncle Sandeep. Tell him to get help.” Anyone entering the house would be able to see the children easily, but she could not see any other spot that was safer – the CCTV ensured that it would capture anyone moving about in the room.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 5: The Monster Seeks them Out

Read Chapter 4
And most importantly, she was scared. She could sense that her children were scared too. She
Illustration by 13-year-old Rithika Murugan
wanted to leave before either of them came to harm.

But she could not. Not without Udit.

The bat blocking that entrance seemed significant. Even injured, it looked scary, and add to that the monsters staring at her. She looked back at the monsters and counted five. But one of them had become smaller, another was shrinking. She frowned thoughtfully and turned to face them fully.

“Go! What are you waiting for?” the tallest one shouted and the shrinking monsters again swelled up with a bushsh sound. Sulekha recoiled in fear and nodded, wondering if the gesture would even be visible in the dark.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 4: The Warning

Read Chapter 3
Any way she turned, she felt she was being watched, but could detect no one. She even turned rapidly, hoping to catch the prying eyes unawares, but met with no success.

Her children whispered to her, “Mommy, where is daddy?”

She covered her eyes with a hand and sighed. Why hadn’t he come down yet? Where was he? Was he alright? Were there other monsters nearby?

By now, Sulekha was fairly sure that these ‘monsters’ were not going to run them down and tear them to pieces. If they had not done so till now, they were definitely not waiting for an auspicious moment to start.

Though she could detect no soul around her, she knew she was being watched. She stared at the stationary bat steadily. It stared back. She knew it was no ordinary bat. She stepped closer. It moved back and then plunged towards her. She squealed and ducked. Her children scampered, shouting in fear.

The bat hovered at a distance. She felt it was watching her warily. She glanced at the stairway from which it had come. She wondered if there were more there. Normally they lived in colonies, or whatever a group of bats was called. She had no interest in exploring the social life of bats. And she assumed that Udit was not up there.

She went back to the first block near the gate and slowly made her way up. She could smell bats here too and a couple whizzed over her head. Her children cried out. “Mama, please, let’s go to the car and wait for daddy!”

She climbed down, only to try the next one. She went through each of the blocks and realised that the bat smell was missing in block three, the block from which this current, watchful bat had emerged. Her children glanced here and there as they followed her up and down in her frenzied search, not understanding what this was all about.

“What are you doing?” Param asked her. They had stopped bothering to whisper now. The bat was right behind, hovering, but not attacking.

“We are going up block 3. Come,” Sulekha said headed back to the third block.

She explained her guess as they walked hurriedly. The bat whizzed past and hovered in front of them. It seemed to block her way, confirming her suspicion that that was where she should go. She looked around, and finding nothing hard, removed her shoe and flung it at the bat. The bat moved, but the shoe caught it’s right wing and it rotated at the impact, hit a nearby wall before it righted itself. Something fell, apart from her shoe, that is. She sent Param to get her shoe as she bent to examine what it was. The bat seemed unsteady. She picked up the piece and noticed it was black and felt like the part of a gadget.

She looked at the bat thoughtfully. It was unsteady but still in the air. She took the shoe from her son and was about to throw it at the bat again.

The big monster boomed, “Nnnnoooo!!! Stop that, woman!”

The sudden sound after much silence startled the three of them.

“If you want to leave this place in one piece, stand still!”

Sulekha was stunned. She was drawn towards the one that had bent to speak to her when the voice boomed again. “Stop! Don’t move and drop that weapon!”

She stared at her hand before she realised the monster meant the shoe. She dropped it and wore it discreetly.

“Vacate this place if you value your life.”

The monster sounded menacing and as if it meant business. She trembled. Her children huddled around her. One monster straightened and stood tall against the dark sky.

She felt small and insignificant in front of it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh - Chapter 3: Missing Husband

She turned to run, dragging her children with her, and bumped against something hard. A pillar... She grabbed her children, pressed her body against the pillar and pulled the children close to her. She saw the form bending and flailing, as if looking for them. She used the cover of the pillars and the darkness in the parking lot – for she realised this is what it was – to stealthily make it to their car at the entrance.

The car stood with the bonnet closed. Standing on its own, with no Udit in sight. Where was he! She looked here and there and went around the car. But there was no sign of him. Worried, she turned back to look at the building. She saw the giant forms looming large, but the original one seemed shrunk in size. In fact, it was shrinking fast! Her heart beat raced. What if the shrunk form came running towards them? Where was Udit when you needed him!

Had he run away? Had he come looking for them? She looked towards the building, her heart sinking. She could find no clue and the dark made it difficult to make out anything. She took her mobile phone out and dialled his number. She heard the phone ringing, and the sound seemed to be coming from inside the car. She looked at the complex again, wondering where he was. She felt certain that he had gone into the complex but the two had missed each other.

Now what should she do? She decided to wait, hoping he would come back. The monsters were still swaying, but she realised that the shrinking one had not followed her. Had that caught Udit?

As the seconds dragged to minutes, it seemed like hours to her. If she were alone, the question would have been easier to answer. With two preteens on her hand, her dilemma deepened. Obviously leaving them behind was out of the question. Not looing for Udit was out of the question. What was she waiting for? She turned to her children and said softly, “Your papa is in. We have to go back and look for him. You have to come with me… Be quiet, okay?”

The children nodded gravely.

She turned to face the colony gate and braced herself for the worst. She could still see the monsters swaying. It sent a shiver down her spine. They looked eerie. She determinedly ignored them and hoped they would ignore her too.

She glanced around and could find no trace of any movement. Where should she look for Udit?

There seemed to be at least 70 apartments in the complex. She ran a quick eye and noted that there were 8 blocks; each block had three floors; each floor seemed to have three houses, though it was hard to be sure of that.

Was he climbing up and down each block looking for them? But they all seemed abandoned and dark. Even the prospect of meeting him in one of the blocks could not motivate her to step into any of them. She decided to wait. He was bound to come down.

She was exposed, in case someone was watching. But that also meant Udit would be able to spot them from any of the floors if he cared to peep out. Only, there seemed no chance of that.

It was eerie and she felt scared, she reluctantly admitted to herself. But she didn’t let it show, for the sake of her children. “What are we waiting for?” Manya whispered.

“Where do you think daddy is?” she whispered back.

“Shall we split and search?” Param, the devourer of detective novels, asked.

Sulekha shook her head firmly.

She glanced behind her. It was dark and impenetrable. The complex was at least visible to her in starlight, and the monsters etched obviously against the dark sky – darker than the sky.

She observed them, to see which direction they would move in. It dawned on her that they were rooted to one place. They bent forward, backward, swung their arms… But they did not move from the spot they stood in. Even the one that had shrunk had not budged an inch.

She frowned, wondering if she was overreacting. Maybe they were harmless. But why were they there? She moved forward slowly, egged on by curiosity, forgetting Udit for a second. Forgetting even her fears. She ducked into the shadows, forgetting to be visible when Udit came down. She entered the parking space, glad that it was at ground level and not underground. The cover of the apartments above protected her from the prying eyes of the monsters. But what else lurked in this place, who could tell?

She looked at the stairway entrances on this side. Something whizzed suddenly, brushing against her, and she squealed before she could stop herself. She turned and was relieved to see it was just a bat. Just a bat, she thought and smiled wryly at the irony. Once upon a time, that would have freaked her out. She kept an eye open for more bats when she thought she heard a humming sound.

The bat hovered around her and the sound was coming from the bat. Her heart stopped. She stared at it. Bats tend to circle, she knew. But this one hovered above her. She did not know much about bats, except that there was a vampire bat that sucked blood. She wished she had paid closer attention to the photographs. Right now, in this darkness, she couldn’t make much out.

She reached out for her children and told them to keep an eye on the bat. Gingerly she sought for some weapon to chase the bat away.

It was then that she realised that though the bike was mostly empty, there was one truck standing near the compound wall, outside the parking area.

She started moving towards that but stopped because the bat seemed to follow. She turned to look at it squarely. She remembered Udit, and that he had not come down yet. She realised the monsters were still swishing but had made no move.

Her children and she were silent and yet moving all over the place. Everything else seemed to be humming and moving and yet were at a standstill.

Chapter 4

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh: Chapter 2 – Spooked Out

Sulekha looked at the surroundings. Unkempt fields with tall grass made her wonder what lurked within. She quelled her trembling heart and entered the colony. She looked around and felt butterflies in her stomach. She had to admit that the place looked a bit spooky. She had expected to see some activity, some children maybe, mothers, men, servants… Someone, anyone… But there didn’t seem to be a soul around. No security, no random resident, no visitor... Except them. She looked back. She could make out their car and Udit still puzzling it out.

"Mom, I want to use the bathroom," Param whispered as they moved through the passage between two buildings. Sulu's heart was beating fast. In the near dark, she saw a drain, partly covered. "Quick, do it there and let's get back," she urged.

A sudden 'bushsh' sound startled them. They stood frozen. The sound didn’t stop. White foam rose from the gap. It started small and fluffy. It was so incongruous, so unexpected that the three chuckled involuntarily. But they stared fascinated as the foam grew bigger and bigger. Suddenly, it was not so funny. The bushsh sound had amplified and it filled their ears. They saw two foamy limbs pushing itself up from the drain even as it kept growing in size. A scream froze in their throats as the foam became their size and then grew bigger, towering over them menacingly. They stepped back instinctively.

Mother's instinct kicked in. Sulekha reached out, pulling her children to her. The foam bent towards them as if examining them. Sulekha felt suffocated. She felt her children clutch her back and she felt hemmed in from all sides. "Mommy, mommy!" Param and Manya cried out. The foamy monster straightened and seemed to touch the sky.

“HHooo arrrre youuu?” asked a metallic voice. Sulu realised that it was coming from the monster, though it didn’t have a mouth. It was creepy. She looked around, to see if she could slip away with her children.

She stepped to a side. “Aaaa minnnnutttteeee lady,” the monster said, looking down, as if peering at her.

Sulu felt her throat go dry. Her hands were damp. She clenched it. The gesture reminded her of the mobile phone and she wondered if she could reach for it in her pocket without the monster noticing. She was paralysed with fear.

She put her hand into the pocket slowly.

“Nnoooo… Nnnnoooo guns pleeeeaaaassseee…” the monster said. Then it cackled. “OOOOr mobbbbile phonesssss.” She realised it was laughing. That did not reassure her.

She caught the sound of another hiss that was growing larger on a side. She glanced up and saw another monster. It was dark now, but still, the monster seemed carved against the sky, darker than the night.

For Chapter 3

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Brush with Bushsh: Chapter 1 Car Stops Suddenly (Children's Story)

Udit stopped the car. Or so Sulekha thought. But it turned out that the car had stopped on its own. Their 8-year-old twins - son Param and daughter Manya - looked at their parents sleepily. "What happened?" they asked in unison.

"The car stopped. Let me check what's wrong," Udit said, getting out of the car.

Sulekha looked around and didn't like what she saw. They seemed to be outside a housing colony - the blocks of houses looked old and dirty. It was dusk, and the dimly lit building seemed eerie. She could see no one around.

She frowned. Were they in a ghost town? She looked around. The housing colony probably had about a hundred houses. Strange that there was not a soul walking about or peeping from the balcony. She peered closely and saw that even the balcony doors were all shut. None of the houses had lights on though the common area near the entrance had a few tube lights on.

The family of four was returning from a holiday. Udit had missed a turn and urged on by a spirit of adventure, they had decided to keep driving on the road instead of returning. They had travelled on mud tracks, surrounded by farms, with houses few and far between. When the sun was shining, it had seemed fun. But clearly, they were off by miles from any civilisation.

Luckily Sulekha had packed some snacks and so they were not hungry. Fields had provided them with enough open and private space for nature breaks. But, they were all fed up.

And just as they seemed to be nearing some civilisation, the car had given up.

Sulekha got out of the car. She looked at the time in her mobile phone. 6.15. Maybe lights will come on shortly. She looked at her sulky children. "C'mon, let's explore," she invited them.

Udit looked up from the bonnet and said, "Don't be a fool, Sulu! We don't even know where we are!"

She waved indifferently. Caution was his middle name. Adventure, hers. She winked at her kids whose eyes widened in excitement. It may all turn out to be boring, but hey, it was better than being stuck inside the car.

“We’ll find out. We do need to take the right road out of this place after all,” she pointed out sensibly to placate his irritation.

“Be careful,” he called out. "I can see nothing wrong," Udit informed her, peering in again.
"Can you start the car?" he asked Sulekha. She grimaced as she sat behind the wheel, thinking it was Udit’s ploy to stop her from going into the complex. Her children giggled seeing her expression. She turned the key. Nothing. She looked at him and shook her head.

"Did you turn it on?" he asked, irritating her.

"Of course!" she replied.

He dived into the bonnet again - figuratively, of course. She quietly got out and gestured to her children to follow her. He looked up, hearing the car door shut. "Hey, where are you going?"

"To look for help," she lied smoothly. But now she was more excited about stumbling on skeletons and some exciting secret.

"Don't stray off," he cautioned. Manya snorted in an attempt to control her laugh. Sulekha pretend-glared at her.

(Clicke here for Chapter 2)

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Stream of Thoughts

Where does it begin?
Where does it end?
All I see is
It flowing forever
Sometimes winding
Sometimes straight
Sometimes mingling
With other thoughts that might
Start in parallel,
Later or before
Jumbled or lucid
Taking new shapes and forms
Pools of memory
Fossilised foam
Clouds precipitating
Storms that roar
Some vanishing
Some merging
Demanding or subtle
They all flow
In an unending stream
Stopping not even when in dream.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chapak, Chapak Goes the Demon

He was an old man, with crinkled eyes, wrinkled skin and a slight stoop.

He was a young man. He was still fascinated and keen to learn.

Having lived in the village all his life, working in the fields till his back broke. Watching the sun, watching the rain and watching his land were the only things he knew and understood. He heard about the city lights, which made a day out of the night. He heard of the vehicles that moved without horses or bulls. Sometimes he saw them in village too, raking up dust in its trail. He heard of tall buildings that one had to lean far back to see the tops of.

A small, teeny weeny desire to see this place that sounded right out of a fairy tale sprouted in his heart. But he had work and he kept postponing the trip. One day, he could bear it no longer. The fascinating tales filled his ears, flowed into his brain and like a bee, buzzed only one message in his head, Visit a City.

Finally, on a day when his work was light, he went to his neighbour - an old man of the world. "Sir, I have dreamed of seeing the city for long and wish to visit it today. How should I go about it?" he asked humbly.

The old man, remembering his own younger days when he had visited the city often, tried to prepare the younger man for the surprises in store there. This further fed the younger man's eagerness to visit the city. But the old man added, "Beware, don't get lured in by the attractions of the city. Not everything is as it seems. There are many demons there that will lead you astray."

When the young old man reached the city, he found that the old man had not exaggerated at all. There was so much to see that one day seemed too little. He saw people going by vehicles without bullocks and now realised what the old man had said about demons. He was careful to avoid them. He saw people coming out from a temple and put something on their feet and start walking faster.

This was really the last straw. Having resisted all temptations of the city till now, he couldn't control his urge and slipped his feet also into these contraptions. It seemed so simple and involved no devilry.

His heart shook just a bit when it caught his feet snugly. He looked around at the others shiftily. No one seemed perturbed and he was reassured. It was not comfortable though - the feet were, but his heart wasn't. Would he have to pay a heavy price for giving in?

Soon, he became aware that he was not alone. Every time he walked, he thought he could hear the sound "chapak, chapak" near him. He stopped, looking around to see who was making that noise. The sound stopped too. No one minded him, no one seemed to take note of him or pay him the slightest attention. He started walking, and he thought he could hear the chapak chapak sound around him faintly. He looked around sharply but could detect no one around him. The sound, though, continued unabated.

He felt nervous and lost interest in his surroundings. There was something following him, and something that refused to come out in the open. He said a prayer and started walking again. The sound followed him. Oh god, the demon had caught him, he thought nervously, speeding up. As he walked through grassland, he was relieved to note the demon had left him. But the moment his feet touched the muddy track leading to his village, he heard the sound again. If he ran, the demon ran too. If he slowed down, the demon slowed down too. Fear nearly paralysed him. By now it was dusk and the oncoming night would see him standing ripe for plucking in the middle of nowhere. He decided to run for his life, but by now he was hungry and tired and the demon seemed neither tired nor hungry. Or maybe, just hungry.

He was relieved to see another villager come by in a bullock cart. He hailed the cart and was relieved to be given a ride. Seeing him limp and flustered, the cart driver asked him the reason. Shamefully he told him of being chased by a demon. "I think it doesn't like company," he said looking around him. "The noise has stopped," he added with evident relief.

The cart driver laughed sceptically. But when he dropped the villager at the corner temple and heard the demon every time the villager walked, their eyes met in fear. The villager took a step towards the cart, but the cart driver wanted none of it. He drove away fast.

It was night now and the villager stood shivering in the new contraption. He wondered if that were the reason for the demon to follow him. It had trapped him and he was now unable to shake it off. Crying, he ran through the lonely paths towards the old man's hut, wondering if he could guide him on how to be rid of this chapak chapak demon, which was also running with him. What did it want? It hadn't eaten him up yet. What was it waiting for? Its friends to join in the killing?

Tearfully and fearfully he banged on the old man's door. When the old man opened the door, the young old villager fell at the older man's feet. "Save me from the demon," he cried out pitifully.

The old man, perplexed, raised the younger man and asked him what happened.

"Wherever I go, the chapak chapak demon chases me," he said looking around him as if fearing the demon would spring on him from nowhere. "I promise you, just as you said, I kept away from every city allure. And yet it has trapped me. It follows me everywhere," he said, now bawling more openly.

The old man looked at uncomprehendingly. "Chapak chapak demon? What is that???"

"Every time I walk, it walks with me. If I stop, it stops too."

The old man shook his head puzzled. He had heard of several novelties of the city, but never of a chapak chapak demon. "I do not know what it is. But you say it follows you when you walk? Can you walk for me?"

The villager trembled. 'Do I really have to?' he seemed to ask. But with great difficulty, he brought his feet frozen with fear to move. First, the old man could hear nothing. Then, when the young man walked a bit faster, he could hear it distinctly. "What did you do in the city?" the old man asked, his eyes twinkling. "Surely you were up to some mischief?"

"Not at all!" the villager sat on his haunches, his hands together in supplication.

"What is that on your feet then? Surely not your own. Did you steal someone's slippers?"

The villager looked at the old man perplexed, then he looked at his feet. "These are slippers? I didn't steal them. People came out of a temple and wore them as they left. I did the same." Then, as if he realised something, he said slowly, "Only I didn't go into the temple. Do you think that is why...?"

The old man laughed and patted the villager on the back. "No, that is not why. It is not a demon." And when he explained what the sound was all about, the villager looked sheepish - it was the contraption, the slippers, that had been making that sound? The younger man felt foolish, laughing at himself for believing in demons.

He was cured of his fear, and he was cured of his desire to visit the city too.

Finding Her Way - Children's Short Story

Ammu lived with her two young sons in the fringes of the forest. The elder son, Somaiya, was all of 10 and acted all of 20 - responsible and helpful.

Rangaiya, though, was a brat and at age 5, needed to feel the stick on his back before he quietened down. For a while. Then his mischief would begin - climbing trees, hiding behind pots and pans, toppling them in a hurry to escape his mother's wrath.

Ammu tried hard to remember that Rangaiya was just a child. But at the end of a hard day, it was difficult. Though their needs were minimal, even to meet them, she needed to work in other people's homes when they needed her help in exchange for food or old clothes they gave her as payment. The days there was no work, she would venture into the forest nearby to collect wood, fruits and trap small animals.

At least one good thing was that Rangaiya also went to school, giving her respite. But taking the boy through the forest to reach the nearby village for the school was a nightmare in itself. He fearlessly tripped ahead of her, sometimes hiding behind trees and jumping from branch to branch to boo her from behind. Even Somaiya seemed tempted to follow his younger brother's lead, sometimes running away with him.

One afternoon, when the boy continued being high spirited despite a supposedly grueling day at school, she stopped half way. Glaring at her younger son, she said, "Will you stop it?"

The boy didn't even seem to hear her as he ran ahead and turned left suddenly. Something snapped inside Ammu. She retraced her steps silently, dragging her elder son and warning him to be silent. She took a circuitous route back home, sure that her son will find his way back home.

But all through the way, she started imagining the worst. Leaving Somaiya behind at home, she walked through the regular trail and panicked when she found no signs of Rangaiya. She paused at the point she thought Rangaiya had turned, but did not find him there. She wove her way back and turned into the clearing she had taken. She was relieved to see her son lying under a tree, and then she panicked, wondering if...

She ran to him, crying out his name. The boy got up with surprising agility, though it took him a minute to realise who was calling his name. Running to her with a laugh, he said in his baby voice, "Oh, I am so glad to find you. Did you get lost? Were you scared?"

Stunned, Ammu paused in the process of lifting her son up and stared at him in disbelief. Then she laughed, pure joyous laugh and hugged him tight. "I am very hungry now," he declared. "Do you know the way to the house?" he asked like a grown up, drawing a bigger smile.

"You guide me and I will follow," Ammu replied gamely as she carried the little bundle in her arms.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pet Peeve

"Did you see that lady's tweet? Really a slap on these anti-beef protesters, don't you think?" Sanju asked her friend Renu, fondly petting her Labrador. "As if vegetarians don't kill life when they eat!"

"I shared a recent study on that, you remember?" Renu asked, not to be outdone. "Your vegetables scream when you cut them! That should shut them up!"

Sanju laughed. "Crazy how they want to fight for the right of the cow, but how about milk? Don't they deprive a calf to have that milk and dairy products?" she asked as she served her friend finger chips and cola. "It is none of anyone's business what one eats! I think this holier than thou, holy cow business is a bit too much mumbo jumbo. Cow, the mother, huh! Bull-shit?" The two laughed at the pun. "And who said India was a vegetarian nations? It was only with Buddha that some of the ancestors of these very protesters became vegetarians! And, even today, I know so many who eat meat on the sly? Hypocrites!" she said with righteous anger.

Renu shook her head to indicate she couldn't believe the heights of hypocrisy one could stoop to. Just then the lab got up and shook himself. "Oh! Isn't he cute!!!" She patted the lab's head who blinked and looked up at Renu with melting eyes. "I just love dogs! But my parents were quite against keeping a pet. Now I am alone, but I still can't because my house owners are against it!" she pouted.

"Oh that's the other thing I find funny! Vegetarians not giving their homes to non-vegetarians! This is discrimination!" Sanju picked up the thread again.

"Isn't it!" Renu exclaimed. I had a hard time finding a decent place! What am I going to do? Splash blood all over the house?"

"There should be a law against it!" Sanju argued. "This is a free society! People should be allowed to eat what they like!"

"I agree!" Renu replied, glad to have found a supporter. "And this recent killing for suspected eating of beef!"

"Too much! Our country is becoming unsafe thanks to these extremists!"

"We should start a petition or something, like there was one for stopping the dog meat festival! So sad that it happened despite that! How insensitive can one get!"

"That was so shocking! Can you imagine someone chopping up and eating these cutie-pies!" Sanju said, hugging the lab, as if fearing he was going to end up as meat somewhere. "Come on, they are man's best friends! So loyal, so loving! I signed and spread the word so that more like me can sign! I really wish it had driven some sense into the heads of these dog eaters!" she said with vehemence.

"As if they don't have anything else to eat!" Renu, the yes-woman nodded. "They can try chicken or beef, or pork! Why dog meat!" she protested, also petting the Lab for good measure.

The Labrador wagged its tail, its tongue hanging.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Earth: Just One More Tree

One Earth: Just One More Tree: He stood under the tree, taking in a deep breath and feeling refreshed. The sun burned just beyond the canopy. He felt safe...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Other Way

"Hey! We have to invite Ms Namrata Pandey as the chief guest!" Vidya insisted when the topic came up.

"Namrata Pandey! She is so hard to get!" someone whined.

"I will figure out a way if all of you are okay with it," Vidya assured them, excited about the challenge and the hope of achieving success. She idolised Namrata for her confidence, clarity of thought and speech and professionalism. Vidya had attended some of her sessions in conferences.

The self-employed women's group was organising an annual event and was planning to inviting an icon of entrepreneurial success as the chief guest. There were several names that they could think of, but Namrata Pandey topped them all. She was on the cover of all business magazines, in TV channels and was invited as a speaker to business conferences across the country. Her education venture had started small, but had suddenly grown exponentially. Investors were lining up to fund her venture, but she seemed in no hurry to take money.

In the galaxy she ruled, with her time taken up by important agenda, what value would this insignificant organisation have? But she had also started small. Maybe they could persuade her to share her wisdom on how to scale up quickly. It was worth a try, Vidya suggested.

"You have to let us know in two days," the president of the association said firmly. Vidya nodded, glad of having got at least an excuse to approach that great lady.

"Can you drop me?" Subha asked as Vidya stepped out. "Had to send my car to pick up my daughter," she added apologetically.

"Of course! Come on," Vidya said and got into the driver's seat. Subha sat beside her in the front.

"Do you know Namrata?" Subha asked as Vidya drove out of the driveway. Vidya shook her head. "She is my friend's cousin..." Subha added.

"Oh! Wow! That is lovely. Do you think your friend can help us get an appointment?"

"Mmm... I will ask. But I don't think they are in touch anymore."

"Oh!" Vidya asked, slightly deflated.

"My friend Bindiya said Namrata had ruffled many feathers in the family... I don't like gossiping, but you may want to know that her growth story is not such an inspiration as people make it out to be."

Vidya pursed her lips, irritated at the obvious jealousy that must have been at the root of this rumour. "Really?" she asked.

"It was a small venture, if you remember?" Subha asked. Vidya nodded. "She started it with her classmate, and over time, the two fell in love with each other. But her family did not approve for the obvious reasons and he moved out. They continued to see each other on the sly..."

Vidya did not react, disgusted at the personal story being aired so easily, but curious enough to want to hear more.

"She has not married... They are a couple, but not officially... He suddenly came into some money and invested in her company. They got themselves a big house - sad that it is lying locked. Cannot even enjoy the wealth openly," Subha said shaking her head slowly. "Then trouble started. Initially the family was upset that she still continued to see him. But when they got to the bottom of it, they discovered that the money was not clean... The family is an old one in the city and has a reputation to protect. They found out that he was a conduit for the education minister. It helped Namrata both ways - she got the money as well as approvals needed to reach her solution to schools."

Vidya stared at Subha incredulously. "Surely the business magazines would have found out!" she asked, interested despite reservations.

Subha laughed. "Oh she is smart. Many of the centres she opened in other cities are languishing. But she manages to show profits."

"How do you know that?" Vidya asked suspiciously.

"Bindiya told me. But I also run a business, Vidya. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can make out... Namrata is a smart, intelligent woman. I can tell you, she would have got to where she is now if she had taken the slow and steady route. What she says at the conferences are possibilities, not her own experience, I can vouch for that. The speed at which she has grown is unbelievable...!"

Vidya digested this silently, still sceptical and disbelieving.

"In any case, I will ask Bindiya if she can help us get an appointment."

"Thanks," Vidya replied, suspicious of Subha's intentions.

She heard from Subha in a couple of days, but for a different reason. "Check the news," Subha said cryptically and waited as Vidya switched the TV on. "Oh my god!" she exclaimed in shock and disbelief.

"Business tycoon Namrata Pandey's body found. Suspected suicide" scrolled across the screen.

"Did you read today's paper?" Subha asked.


"Did you see the news about Arvind Sahni?"

"The man who was jailed for embezzlement?" Vidya asked.

"Yes, framed, most probably. But he is the man I was telling you about, Namrata's partner. Maybe the minister has no more use of him. Maybe they crossed some line with their extravagance."

Vidya watched silently as other people from the industry, her employees and family spoke of Namrata's brilliance and business acumen. Many expressed shock at her sudden death, some suspected foul play. "Nothing will come out, take it from me. The police will close the case as suicide," Subha asserted. "I wish she had taken the traditional path instead of this ambitious growth. She really was brilliant," she added her eulogy.

Vidya felt sorry for the woman whose photos and video footage flashed. Confidence oozed from every pore of this woman who took the mike knowing what she was about to speak. She wished Namrata had had the same confidence in her business and her skills and not take the short cut to success.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

These Young People

"Did you hear?" Mini, short for Mrinalini, asked her friend Lakshmi. "Nandu's niece has left her husband..."

"Really!" Lakshmi perked up. "Why? Hadn't she run away with that man?"

"Yes, a different community too! I remember her parents were upset. Nandu had to intervene," Mini smirked and Lakshmi winked. "All that for nothing!"

"Today's youth... they don't want to spare a thought. Just jump in and jump out!" Lakshmi complained. "Even my neighbour's daughter divorced her husband because he was moving cities too often, disrupting her career." She shrugged. "Really, I don't know... I remember my mother packing bags and following my father through big and small cities when he was in government service..."

"Ya!" Mini replied eagerly. "See my own daughter-in-law! She is upset with my son because he refuses to go abroad. He thinks he is doing fine here... But she wants them to be abroad. They are seeing a counselor..." she grimaced. "When we elders try to intervene, they don't like it..."

"So what's Nandu's niece's story? Her name is Mala, right?"

Mini nodded. "I don't know. But I know he is unwell..."

"Oh! She left him because he is unwell?"

"Nandu didn't say much... Just that he has some debilitating condition. I thought it was very unfair. To marry when he was healthy and handsome and to leave him the moment he fell sick. I didn't tell Nandu anything, she seemed to think her niece had escaped in time... I was surprised, you  know..." Mini gave vent to her feelings.

"Really!" Lakshmi's eyes widened in surprise. "Hmmm... That's really sad. What happened to 'through joys and sorrows'? My husband has been so difficult of late. The lower back pain has been killing him and he snaps at everyone. Even I feel like walking out sometimes. But we have had such good times together, how can I just leave him?"

"Exactly Lakshmi! You know how my husband would shout because of stomach pain. When we discovered he had cancer, he just crumbled. He was in so much pain, I would run away! My son only took him for the treatment. I couldn't stand it, you know!"

"Ya Mini, I don't know how you went through it. You even stopped coming for kitty parties initially I remember!"

Mini nodded, her face puckered as she remember those days. "But look at girls these days... Leaving the moment they sense trouble..."

Lakshmi sighed. "Who told you about Mala?"

"Nandu only. She was in Mala's parents' home at that time. Said she was talk later."

"Did she?" Lakshmi asked, jealous that Mini should know the latest before she did.


"Let me call her. It has been a while since I spoke to her. In case she needs any help..." Lakshmi dialed. Mini pulled her chair closer. She became impatient as the conversation seemed to drift away to their next kitty party. Finally Lakshmi asked, "So how is family. All well?"

Lakshmi made faces at Mini as Nandu spoke about her immediate family and the usual woes. Finally, unable to stop herself, Lakshmi said, "Hey, is your niece Mala still in Madurai?"


"Oh, not Madurai...? ,,, Oh, what happened? ... Really?" Lakshmi made appropriate noises. When she cut the call finally, her eyes expressed horror.

"That man... he started beating Mala," she blurted out. "As the disease progressed, some muscular disability that affected his lower part, he started suspecting Mala and would abuse her mentall and hit her if he could get his hands on her. When she ran away from him once, he flung a knife that lay next to him...! Oh the poor girl! Luckily she took it on her shoulder. Now her parents have forbidden her from returning to that man..." She looked at Mini, feeling guilty about their assumptions.

"Oh these young people," replied the indefatigable Mini. "They cannot handle their illnesses. Not once did a cross word cross my husband's lips when he was unwell," she said.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Hundred Mistakes

Shishupala's mother knew that her son was destined to die at the hands of Krishna. She begged him to please spare her son.

Krishna promised his aunt, "I will forgive a hundred errors..."

The mother was content, thinking she had bought her son redemption with that promise.

At Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, ignoring warnings from others, Shishupala insults Krishna and continues to do so till he reaches his quota of 100. At 101th insult, Krishna lets fly his discus and beheads Shishupala.

Devdutt Pattnaik, in the notes at the end of the chapter on Shishupala in his book 'Jaya' points out that the mother sought Krishna's promise not to harm her son, but did not caution her son not to give Krishna a reason.

So many times I see children running to their mothers with complaints and their mothers immediately taking up arms on their children's behalf. Never are they asked for the complete picture, nor helped to take responsibility for their actions. When they make a mistake, some mothers brush it aside, and expect other children to overlook it... They are not taught to forgive others and forget small oversights. When they feel slighted, they are not taught to rise above the situation.

As a mother, many of us take our role as protectors too seriously. But we are not going to be there all the time. Children will grow up to be adults, out in the world on their own. These very things that seem small and insignificant in childhood will lead to bigger and unpalatable personality traits that will be hard to overlook and forgive. They will not know how to handle being ignored or rejected. They will not know how to be accepted... As parents, we will be unable to help them at that stage.

Or, if that becomes the norm, will that cease to matter?


Friday, August 14, 2015

To Do As You Please

The car jolted through the roads, dipping into potholes and bumping over humps. Kani checked her watch. There was still time to reach the venue.

But as if on cue, the traffic slowed down near a main junction and the car came to a stop at the signal. She looked up at the timer as it ticked in a countdown from 45 to 0. She braced for the car to start, but the traffic didn't budge. Horns blared, to no avail. The traffic flowing from the other side had not stopped, despite it turning green. A third side entered the fray and within minutes, there was chaos, each trying to cut in and effectively. There was no traffic police and like the proverbial mice playing when the cat is away, the people jumped the signal as if they would be stuck on the road forever otherwise.

Kani grimaced, pained at this simple lack of discipline. Her driver switched the official beacon light on and forced her way through, a few people tailgating in her car's wake.

The roads were smooth till they entered the street. She had to close her nose. The sewage water was overflowing and the driver drove cautiously, for fear of getting stuck in a ditch. An SUV with a party flag drove past more confidently, brazenly, splashing slush generously all around. "Ugh!" she exclaimed.

She entered the apartment where the meeting was to be held. She was welcomed warmly, obsequiously by the residents. Her experienced eyes quickly assessed the situation. She could see people standing in loosely formed groups. Some were clearly the residents of the apartment. There were a few who looked like they had come from the nearby slum. They looked uneasy and militant. There should have been a third group, but hardly surprising that it was missing.

The secretary of the apartment association whispered in her ear, "The hospital management team that was supposed to meet got held up in a meeting and were unable to come..."

She pursed her lips and nodded as she walked towards the community hall.

The hall filled up as she took her place facing the crowd. The secretary stood up, welcomed her and introduced the topic - the overflowing sewage that had made living there and walking on the road impossible.

"Madam, after much investigation by your department, it has been found that the hospital's waste is getting into the drains and clogging them..." he submitted humbly.

The people in the audience started murmuring. "Such a large hospital, and they cannot control it?" "How are you going to stop this?" "It is an environment problem..." "How much are they paying in bribe?" demanded the educated.

"Children cannot play on the streets!" "The water enters our homes!" "The water mixes with our drinking water!" the slum people added their voice.

She got up and raised her hand to calm them. She had asked for a projector and connected her laptop. Images came up, of garbage being thrown near the drains by the slum people. One man had stuffed sack full of bricks in the manhole to stop the sewage from entering the slum area. The residents of the apartment looked shocked.

The slum people became quiet.

She silently played another set of slides. Sanitary napkins, used condoms, plastic covers in manholes clearly inside the apartment complex.

The residents fell silent.

"We provide the services. Do you want us to police its use also at all times?" she asked quietly.

She packed her laptop and left the hall, refusing the offer of coffee and snacks. The next day was Independence Day and she had to be early at the office for flag hoisting.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Engagement Ring

She was pretty but poor. He was attracted to her, he knew that. Her calm, efficient and friendly manner were added charms. But what pleased him most was the way she held herself with quiet dignity. Only her sense of dressing betrayed her poverty.

Poornima was a data entry operator in Suresh's office, but showed a willingness to learn and assume greater responsibilities. Her friendliness had won her many admirers in the office, not the least of them being Suresh. She was the only one who teased him despite the layers that separated them. Truth be told, she made him laugh like no one else did.

But he could not ignore the chasm that separated them; and he could not ignore how the more he thought of the chasm, the more he thought of her so that he was losing sleep.

When his mother placed photos of prospective brides, it was her face that stood before him. This was madness! He called her to his room one day on the pretext of some work and slowly extracted her story - he expected it would be abhorrent and it would cure him of this infatuation. It was just as he expected - drunk father, frequent fights between parents, wayward siblings. But she shone through it like gold treated in fire. Her maturity in realising the degradation her situation could bring and her courage in breaking free...

What was the chasm on the face of such vision? He would fill up the gap, he decided. He would make her worthy of his status in life.

When he proposed, he expected her to jump with joy. What he saw was surprise, hesitation, and withdrawal. He wooed her gently, persuaded her to consider the offer and when she accepted, treated her royally. When she resisted being pampered, he laughed, pitying her for having grown up in deprivation. She smiled, and he thought he detected pity there. He brushed it off.

Their engagement date was fixed and he assured her he meant business. He assumed her scepticism was because she did not believe her good luck to last.

"I want to get you a ring for the engagement," she said and took the measurement of his ring finger.

He chuckled. "It's okay darling. You select and send the bill to me," he told her, sure that he would have to change it. She merely smiled and left.

No bill came and he wondered what she was getting him. His friends' surprise at his choice of such a bride, his mother's silent protest, his father's open criticism... he wondered if he was making a mistake. All such doubts vanished when he saw her. But when away from her, he wondered if he should give a long gap before the wedding happened.

The engagement day dawned bright and sunny. He felt elated as he got ready for the event. The event was not as bad as he had expected - her family was uncouth but maybe for her sake, better behaved than he would have hoped for. Still, they were an embarrassment - loud and flashy.

When, after the religious rites, it was time for the rings to be exchanged as per modern diktat, Suresh took the one he had bought for her out. She demurely showed her finger and their colleagues clapped as the golden petal slipped easily on her finger.

He waited apprehensively as she took out his ring. His heart sank. Was it silver or some plain white metal? He covered her hand with his. She was surprised as she looked at him. He leaned towards her and whispered, "Take the ring I got just in case."

She was holding two rings now - a golden one and the white one she had got. She clutched the two in her hand and paused. Then slowly she slipped the golden one on his finger.

She fell silent after that.

When they met alone the next time, she was playing with the white ring. "Why did you not want this?" she asked.

He picked it up and laid it on the table, between them. "I didn't want people laughing at you, Poorni."

"I picked it up with great love, because you mean so much to me..."

"Then it is better that you leave this cheappiece out of the equation!" he snapped, pushing it away. The ring bounced and fell on the floor below the nearby table.

She looked shocked. She got up, picked it up and came back to the table. "This is my lifetime's savings. A platinum ring for the unique man who loved me despite my shortcomings, I thought." His jaw dropped. "Even if it was cheap, as you think it is, if you had treated it with respect, I would have believed you truly love me. But I think you only truly love yourself, the image you have built of yourself - a magnanimous man marrying a poor girl," she said coldly.

She removed the gold ring. "It is not the gold you gave that I care for, but that it was you who gave it."

She turned and walked away, spurning the gold and the riches. They were no price for her dignity and self-respect.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Amoeba Woman

The sun shone down Amoeba Town, Moe Street, Ba Resort.

Moe - not the same Moe as Moe the street, and no descendant of the said Moe either - floated by the water, waiting to take the plunge. She loved the warm soil, but needed to move into the water for her next mission.

She closed her eyes and drifted, and... bang! Her eyes snapped open at the sudden impact and she looked up in shock. "Watch where you are going, lady," said he and floated off, leaving her furious. She was wrong and she couldn't blame him. But his attitude had rubbed her the wrong way and instinct told her he was the upper crust, the ones that invaded the brain.

Suddenly she was surrounded by the amoeba of the third variety, the dumb ones who ate each other and she swiftly moved off to another side.

She enjoyed the time in the sun before she found the next home in some digestive tract. Maybe today was the day, instinct told her, and right enough, felt herself being lifted up and passing the lips into a woman's mouth and down and, "Yippeee!!!" she screamed, elated at sliding down. It never ceased to excite her.

"Shut up!" she heard someone say. It sounded like an echo and she looked around.

"Who are you?"

"Nigel. I am trying to get something done here, and you are disturbing me..."

She frowned. "Do I know you?"

"No. And you are not supposed to be here," he replied angrily.

"Who are you to say that?" she demanded.

There was a pause. "Nigel," he said, as if that was supposed to mean something.


"Ssh..." he shushed her.

She could feel her host's heart beat rise. "Don't shush me!" she snapped.

There was a pause. "Hello!" she called out and suddenly saw a form sliding towards her in high speed. It jettisoned her, pushed her down and she landed on soft tissue, with the form crushing her. Nigel jumped off and glared at her. "When I shush you, you remain shushed, get it?"

"How did you do that?" she asked in wonder, and apprehension.

"I told you, I am Nigel. Haven't you heard of me?" She shook her head. "Well, I can do both brains and stomach if I want to... Helps keep our species alive. And right now, I am on a mission. I don't see why you are here. You are not part of the mission, are you?"

She was trembling as she shook her head. "Well, this host we are living in - she is going to get us to someone who is trying to destroy the planet. That guy is designing a bomb and planting it in Washington DC!"

But Moe wasn't listening. "How can you do both?" she asked.

He frowned. "That's immaterial."

"You are Jel's man..."

"Y-yes. So?"

She turned away. "No wonder."

"No wonder, what?"

"You are just like him! You chew people's brains, and have become just like them - full of yourself, feeling important, indifferent!"

"Hey! What nonsense! You can't speak like that about Jel! How do you even know him?"

Moe flipped over. "I...I...never mind how I know him."

"You are just a stomach bug... How can you know about Jel?" he demanded. When she did not respond, he said, "You are Moe!"

She was shocked. "How do you know?"

"I know. No other stomach bug can know him... You left him!"

She nodded. "He was becoming too human," she whispered.

He was silent for a minute. "And you think I am becoming like him?"

She was silent. Then she glanced at him mischievously and nodded. "All that chewing of human brain - it is bound to rub off."

He chuckled. "It has more spice than other hosts. I love the human brain. And you? How do you deal with being only a stomach bug?"

"Even that is nice and spicy," she laughed.

She felt the blood flow increasing. She nudged Nigel.

"How do we save the planet?" she asked softly.

"If I can get into his system, I can stop his brain from working... I have to leave now." He started climbing up. He paused and looked back. "It was nice knowing you."

"I am not letting you go alone," she said and followed him.

"No! I work best when I am alone."

"I can't let you risk yourself. They send poison down to kill us. I can resist them," she said as she stubbornly climbed up and overtook him. She had been a brain chewer once upon a time, but quit when Jel turned into a slimy jelly. It hurt to remember him, but this mission had given her a purpose, even if it was not hers.

Together, they chewed the villain's brain and gave him dysentery, stopped him from pressing the button to detonate the bomb in Washington and saved the planet.

They returned for recuperation and debriefing. "How did it go?" Nigel asked when he met her on her way out.

She shrugged.


She looked at him, and felt herself splitting in two. Her heart would break if he remained single.

And then it happened. He split and their offspring swam into the pool... Moe and Nigel laughed as they moved towards each other.

(If there can be Ant Man, why not Amoeba Woman?)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Voices from the Past

"Hey! Aren't you Meera?"

How many times since I left Delhi I must have hoped to meet a friend, an acquaintance, a neighbour, a classmate who would say this to me. You can say that was the only one thing I longed for, but over the years, forgot.

Then suddenly, in 2001 or so, I was accosted by this question. The tall man in front of me looked like no one I knew, and yet something deeper connected and I knew he was a dear friend from school whom I last saw when we were 14. It was almost 15 years, and as expected of boys, he had shot up. But there is something about a person that never changes, does it?

Slowly a few more connections got renewed and the social media lived up to its promise.

But just how much, and how empty the pot still was, I realised when I was added to the whatsapp group of my batch. Initially started to connect the different groups from the different streams, it was suddenly merged. It could have stopped there and the group still would have been substantial. But even those who left in between were added, including me.

Yes, the messages flood the phone. Despite all resolutions, you end up getting caught to see who is saying what.

But the best part - they remember. In a group of 60 plus, not some one or two, but many remember and that is when the pot started feeling full. It meant being able to revive memories, of sharing snippets and laughing at nothing. It was like unraveling a thread and watching a knot come loose!

Whatever our age now (you figure it out), I feel like a teenager, nay, a child.

Sharing what a friend from another similar group sent:
Money cannot buy us our childhood. Only friends help to recreate those moments, from time to time, at no cost.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Joy in Small Things

All one needs is a friend, a few stones and a chalk to feel while away time
And if a granddaughter makes a board game, we are not too old to learn a new g

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Meant to be Broken…

The recent tweet by Hema Malini has many of her readers shocked. She blamed the father of the child for his daughter’s death in the accident she was involved in. Seriously guys, you are shocked? Isn’t this par course?  The road is the jungle and your survival depends on your deftness and luck for that day. Why blame somebody, anybody, for the accidents that happen?

After all, might is right and it is the survival of the fittest. It is a jungle raj on every road in India, and blame cannot be lightly placed on one party. It could be one who is speeding, or another, who breaks a rule and pays mercilessly for it.

We see it day in and day out, this mindlessness. A few months ago, I was driving down a fairly free road at a comfortable pace. I saw a car hurtling down the road – from a spec in my rearview mirror, it filled it in no time. It was to my left, I was slightly towards the middle of the left. I kept an eye on my mirror as I switched the left indicator on. The car continued to hurtle unaffected by my indication. The turning neared and yet the car showed no signs of slowing. I paused, startled, for now the man had covered the distance without slowing even once. Only near the turning, the car slowed for the briefest of seconds. It hadn’t stopped and if I turned, we would crash without doubt. No such considerations deterred the man behind the wheel.  He crossed me from left. If he had turned left, I would still have been assuaged. But he took a right, right in front of me! If I had been hit and killed, even then it wouldn’t have made news because both of us – that driver and I – are ordinary people leading ordinary lives driving ordinary cars. Considering I escaped unscathed due to some surprising presence of mind, I can only say as the potential victim, I carried out my responsibility of being cautious. Any harm would have been my responsibility, right?

A friend, for instance, saw green (signal, dumbo, not money) and started crossing when a speeding van jumped signals. Her leg was nearly severed (nearly, not actually, severed) and she was in bed for six months. Sheer madness to think green is meant for crossing the junction. It should always be amber in your head, whatever the signal in the signal post.

Take another evening last week;  a sterling example of my negligent behavior.

I parked my two wheeler – a 2001 Scooty Pep, even more ordinary than my car – to the left of the road; looked to the left (traffic was not moving on the other side of the road), then right to look out for traffic – which was nil; and stepped out on the road. Now, you may say, ‘Wonderful, girl, just the way to cross!’ I stepped on the road, thinking only of what I have to purchase when something heavy banged against my leg. Two men on a bike on my side of the road, coming on the wrong side drove straight into me, the bulk of the metal hitting my left leg. They were slow, what a blessing, or else I would be in the hospital too. But I am no lean, negligible person. Even at night, couldn’t he see me on a well-lit street?

Now, tell me, who is at fault? Me, of course! I should have known that people will come from any side – right side, wrong side, upside, downside (we see it in action movies)…. It is my responsibility to keep my person safe! If I don’t, then how can I blame others if I get hurt?

Having said that, the reverse, unfortunately, is also true. If a Mercedes sees green light and takes off and a bike or an auto or a smaller car decides to ignore the red and cuts perpendicularly, can the Mercedes be blamed for the accident? If a biker chooses to suddenly jump lanes and is knocked down by a bigger vehicle coming in the correct lane, won’t the car get blamed for the accident? If a tempo suddenly shoots out of a side lane on to the main road, and an oncoming lorry crushes it, whose fault is it?

When it is a matter of life, it does not matter who takes the blame. Big or small, vehicles carry people. We seem to value life cheap – even our own. The new rule is – drive like a king and destroy anything that comes on the way; or get destroyed.

I have learnt to use the beautiful alapadma mudra even better than in dance. When in doubt while driving, just use this mudra and have the question, ‘What?’ on your face. It will confuse victims, potential or otherwise. And you can leave convinced you are not to blame.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

One Earth: Don't Mess Around!

One Earth: Don't Mess Around!: Give crow rice, it will eat neatly, not a scattered grain. Koels are fairly clean eaters too. Not much mess around their dish. Mynah, I...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Clouds of Imagination

One, two, three
Chasing each other in glee
Kick one off the list
Two replace it quick

Not a thought in the head
But subheads demanding to be fed
Stories, novels, features, blogs
Family, dance, leisure, phew, no dogs!

Work drills, heat kills
Body cries, mind dries
Like a zombie, on the mill
Up and down, and yet only downhill

Pull the reins of your life
Leave behind the daily strife
Break free from the life of ruination
Adrift on the clouds of imagination.

Floating and dreaming
Mind empty, life filled with meaning
A nice dream, till it lasted
Now let me get back, before I am blasted!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Clasped Hands

Nithya extended her hand. Sampoorna resisted. "I will manage," she said stubbornly.

Nithya pursed her lips angrily and looked at the road. The traffic showed no signs of abating. "We are not going to cross today," she complained. "I have to get back. My children will return from their classes," she complained.

Reluctantly Sampoorna grabbed Nithya's hand. Nithya was shocked at the touch, at how hard the hand had become.

She kept a foot forward and Sampoorna followed hesitantly. Slowly the two walked across, Nithya matching her steps to her mother's pace. A speeding car slowed but blew the horn near them. A startled Sampoorna clutched her daughter's hand in fear.

Nithya glared at the driver and they managed to cross. She needed to steady herself for a second as memories of her agile mother confidently helping young Nithya cross the road, holding the tiny hands in her own soft hands came flooding. Waiting patiently in the park, allowing the child to play to her fill, taking her to the doctor's, taking her to her friend's homes, giving in to every demand - memories of her mother's youth and strength. Her mother was but a shadow now, still patient, still not demanding, unable to do all that she would like to.

But even if she had demanded, who would have heard the old woman? Nithya hadn't been giving her mother time, thanks to work and family. Today had been an emergency and already the piling list of chores made her tense and upset.

Seeing the contentment on her mother's face, she dropped the list from her mind for a few minutes. They walked slowly, chatting about olden days. Even Nithya felt nice, not worrying about mundane routine for a few minutes. She took her mother to the temple and bowed before the deity with a free heart, feeling a connection she hadn't in a long while.

Maybe she would lag by a few minutes in her schedule, but she felt she needed to make time for her mother. If that was part of her schedule, it would not be a lag, would it?

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