Chhotu

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“Hello… Is this Mrs Makhija? I am Sister Carol the Principal of Mount Carmel International School, This is regarding Rahul, Can you come to school tomorrow? It would be great if you could get Mr. Makhija as well. It is better we speak in person”

“Rahul what are you up to? Why has the Principal called? Did you do some masti? Why don’t you answer me? I can’t stand this house. Don’t become like your father.” Not a word from little Rahul.

Things were not OK off late in the Makhija house hold, Akhil and Anushka were going through a troubled marriage, The tiffs started with finances or the lack of it, Debts, Akhil being away most of the time, alcohol, one leading to another.The secretary had sent a notice on behalf of the housing society about the noise in their house. The entire building avoided the Makhijas.

At the school…

“Mrs Makhija where is Mr. Makhija?” Anushka let that pass… “Is everything OK at home Mrs. Makhija? We have seen a sudden change in Rahul’s behavior off late. Last year he was one of the most energetic students in the entire class. In the last 3 months all teachers have noticed that Rahul has suddenly stopped talking. He always seems preoccupied with some thought. How is his behavior at home?” Anushka took a gulp, her face became red, eyes clouded & exactly two droplets rolled down her cheeks, as if they had somehow just sneaked through a big barrier, “Can I have a glass of water? Sister there have been some issues at home, I never realised they have started affecting my child.” The Principal said “Mrs. Makhija, the resident psychologist of the school has told me Rahul is showing signs of clinical depression. I suggest you discuss this at home and meet a counsellor.”

On the way home no one spoke a word.
As usual Akhil came home in an inebriated state, and as was the custom of the house another big fight ensued, the decibel levels went up, crockery broke, the TV was having a tough time with the things hurled at it. The word Divorce came up for the first time in today’s argument. Rahul did what he knew best he turned the volume up, saw his cartoon and pretended everything was fine.

Nothing changed…

One month passed.

“Hello is this Mrs Makhija? I am sister Carol the Principal, Could you please come to the School tomorrow? Let’s discuss in person.”

Sister Carol was beaming, “Pls have a seat Mrs Makhija, What transformation!!! Rahul is back to his energetic best, his class participation has gone up, How did you do this? after our discussion, did you meet a counsellor?” Anushka was stunned.
“No miss I don’t know. We didn’t do…Also I noticed he is coming home late…”

The silence… Palpable.

“Mrs Makhija, I don’t know what Rahul is up to in that case, with my experience it could be two things. A. He has found a way to reconcile with the issues at home. B. This is another symptom of clinical depression, we must meet a psychologist. I suggest you don’t confront Rahul and observe him when he is alone, Does he go home by himself? Yes. OK. Just observe him in that case. Don’t let him know you are watching.”

Anushka stood diagonally opposite the school and observed Rahul as he got out from School. He was running, cracking jokes, an absolute departure from his self at home, like Jekyl n Hyde, two different personalities. He was however not taking the usual route home, He walked and stood by an old woman sitting by the Street selling Vegetables, both of them were talking like they knew each other for long. Rahul was speaking in chaste Marathi. When did he learn Marathi? Then she saw something that could not be explained. Rahul went and cuddled a small puppy, gave it food, caressed it, started talking to it. ” Chotu aaj pata hai kya hua, aaj class me running competition tha, main 1st aaya, teacher boli main class ka best student hu, tera din kaisa gaya? Aaji ko tang nahi kiya na, nahaya kya? Kya khaaya aaj? He went on an on…while saying this he kept rubbing the puppy’s temple. The puppy kept listening and kept stealing glances..

Anushka could not stop herself and went to the woman as Rahul went a little far with the puppy, she bought some vegetables and generally asked “Ye ladka koun hai? Aap pehchante hai use?” The old lady: ” Arre ha Rahul ahe khoop changla porga, tya divshi mi rastyat padli, are vay zhaalena.. Hya porrane mala paani paazhle, tya diwsapasun roz bhetto mala, dev rakhel hyaala(translated: He is Rahul, That day I had a stroke and fell on the ground, I am getting old you see, he came and gave me water, from that say we are friends, may god bless him)

“Aur ye kutta kiska hai ???” Anuskha queried. “Kutra naahi majha porga aahe, Chhotu mhanto aamhi tyaala, Are eka divshi ek gaadichya khaali yenaar hota to, Rahul la sapadla maajhya kade gheun aala, mala bolla aaji Chhotula tu aaplya ghari thevsheel??? Maajhe aai baba aiknar naahit. Mee bolle are mhaateerichya barobar aahe tari kon? Leka sarkha aahe na to. Bas tya divsanantar chalu aahe aamchi rojchi maja. Mhatareeche janu 2 por, 1 Rahul ani 1 Chhotu. Tu kashala vichartes??”.(Translated: He is not a Dog, he is like my son, His name is Chhotu, One day he almost came under a car, Rahul brought him and asked me whether I will keep him? He said his parents won’t keep him? I said fine anyways I have no one. from that day on we are having a blast, I have 2 children Rahul and Chhotu. Why are you asking?) Anushka didn’t say anything and went home before Rahul could look back.

On the way back Anushka called Akhil and narrated the entire episode. There was an eerie silence after she narrated the entire story. Then she asked Akhil.” Akhil where did we go wrong? Are we bad parents? What did Puppy and that old woman give Rahul that we couldn’t. After a pause Akhil replied….             “They listened to him”

22

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A neatly pleated suit, matching trousers and a Laptop bag. The perfect corporate executive, he was standing at the Airoli Bus stop in Navi Mumbai, which was looking uncharacteristically deserted for this time.. He was speaking frantically with some one. “I know darling, things are a little tough these days, believe you me things will sort out.” There was something that was different about him. He was getting more than his share of glances.

” Aarti I am telling you, we will be able to handle it.” “Aarti wait I will call you back some body is….”, he cut the call.
” What…? What are you saying? ” the person came close to him. This person, he looked really sullied, his face and his clothes looked very familiar. He started coming near to Mukesh. “22…22…22… 22…22….22…22….22 hahahaaha!!!!” “Be careful…22…22..” Mukesh ran from there… He took a rickshaw to office. The traffic was heavy. The only thing weighing on his mind was 22… What the hell was 22 and who was this guy? As the traffic eased and his rick started moving bumper to bumper, his eyes got set on the no plate of the car in front, MH02AB5722. 22 there it was, the last 2 digits. The Rick accidentally brushed the car and the person in the car came up, pulled the rick driver out and slapped him. Mukesh went out grabbed the driver and banged him on the wind shield of his car. The entire crowd was stung into silence. Mukesh started running. People in the crowd started shouting but none dared to chase him. There he was all pleated up, the perfect corporate executive, what the hell did he just do? What happened to that driver? Was he alive? Why was he running? What should he do? Where should he go? Should he go to the police or run from them? He just kept running. Who was that person? And what was 22? He had no clue where he was heading and what he was supposed to do next. Thudd!!!! He hit a passerby and lay unconscious…

“Doctor Sahab kya hua hai ise? Isne aaj Airoli signal par ek aadmi ko apne windshield pe de maara. Mar gayo wo, I I got a prescription from you in his pocket dated 3 years back” Sub Inspector Daate was in a fix, he had seen many road rage incidents but this was peculiar. “Unbelievable, i don’t believe this. I treated Mukesh 3 years back, he is suffering from Chronic Schizophrenia and he was accused of killing his entire family. He was admitted to the State Mental Hospital, How did he get out??? Hello… Are you there??”

Being Human

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Monday, 10:00 Am , Mumbai, Goregaon, Oberoi Signal.

This was Michael’s daily routine, A 60 second wait was inevitable, the highway was jammed,Malishka was screaming her lungs out on the radio, Michael however was tuned to another frequency, a frequency from hell, his mind. Michael and Gracy were married for 10 years, it was tough, they were medically fit but unable to conceive a child.

Thak thak thak

The knock distracted him. There was a kid only wearing a big T-shirt and nothing underneath, he must have been about 8. He was looking at Michael and saying something. Michael pulled the glass down, the sound at the signal was deafening. He was about to ask the child and the signal went green, the cars zoomed ahead, the honking sound became unbearable, he had to leave.
His boss noticed him sleep walk the whole day in office, at home Gracy was trying to liven up the place, but Michael was still on his personal frequency.

Tuesday, 10 Am, Oberoi Signal Goregaon

Thak thak thak

The same scene again. Michael pulled down the glass, ” Kya bol raha hai?” He queried. “Uncle mere T-shirt pe kya likha hai?” The child asked. Michael was stunned, he was expecting the child to ask for money. About 4 feet in height. This kid was a real piece of work, absolutely unkempt, it was impossible to have more dirt on his body than there was already. OK so what did the T-shirt say? ” Being Human likha hai.. Kyu tu pad Nahi Sakta kya??”  Michael replied. “Nahi uncle ye log mereko chida rahe hai… Bol rahe hai Salman Khan ka T-shirt hai, Ye mera hai” The signal went green, and the honking started, it looked like the traffic cop was shouting at Michael. Michael left.

Wednesday, 10 am, Goregaon, Oberoi Signal.

Thak thak thak,

“Arre uncle kal chale gaye, matlab to bataya hi Nahi” the kid was there. It was like everyday Michael was noticing something new in this kid. There he was all of about 8 years wearing the “Being Human” T-shirt, there only seemed to be some more kids around, possibly they were the ones who teased him, in all that grime and dirt, the kid had an attitude, a devil may care one, he looked like a born vagabond. ” Tera naam kya hai?” Michael asked, “Are mereko sab Pintya bolte hai” Michael handed him a 10 rupee note, the kid said “Are tu paisa rakh re sahab, apun ko paisa Nahi chahiye terese , apna shift abhi shuru nahi hua, tu bata na matlab” signal went green and Michael drove off.

Thursday, 10 am, Goregaon, Oberoi Signal

Thak thak thak,

“Are matlab batao na sahab?” This kid was not going anywhere.Something clicked. Michael opened the side door and said “Andar aaja” Pintya jumped in.
The signal turned green, Michael drove off, they started talking, Where did Pintya live? Who were his Parents? Why was he begging? They went to the mall, had sumptuous food, and bought clothes from… Yes “Being Human” store. After all of this they went to Michael’s home. Gracy and his mother gave him a perplexed look, Michael said meet my new friend “Pintya” he will be staying with us. Michael’s mother just went off the handle and started shouting. Michael asked Pintya to wait in the drawing room and took Gracy inside. Pintya stood there dumbfounded, he had no clue what was happening. In the meanwhile Michael’s mother called somebody and after sometime the door bell rang, An elderly gentleman came in. As he came in, Michael’s mother called Michael and Gracy outside, She said “Father Francis is here” Gracy had tears in her eyes, She came out and hugged Pintya tight. Pintya was perplexed, he thought “Saala ho kya raha hai? pehle chilla rahe the ab gale laga rahe hai, ye Buddha koun hai?” Then Father Francis said something that was unbelievable, ” I am proud of you my son Michael, this is called Being Human”. Pintya shouted “Saala wapas Being Human??? Are koi to iska matlab batao” the whole house burst into laughter.

The Ocean of Blue: Part 2

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“Ammi samandar kaisa hota hai??? Ammi bataona…???”

“Arre khaana bana nahi abhi tak???

” Javed ko kya bolu??? Roz aata hai… Arre kab tak aisa chalega???

An average day in the life of Naseem, On one hand a very very  inquisitive 5 year old Sahil who would question her on anything and everything that he saw and on another hand a nagging Mother in law. It is not easy being a young widow with a child in a conservative muslim family, especially  when you are just 24 and you need to be running the house. There were all kinds of people, There were the oldies who said she brought bad luck to the Qureshis and blamed her for the untimely death of Imtiaz, Then there were others who despised her for going out to work in a call centre. There was also the neighborhood lech Javed who would pry on her any given opportunity.

But life wasn’t like this always, Naseem was the most beautiful girl in her mohalla, for her mother she was her Pari whose eyes had Noor. Life was beautiful. There was the neighbourhood paramour Imtiaz who had a special corner for her. Naseem liked the way he looked at her, he was earnest, and respected her, yes he was uneducated but believed he could change his destiny with his hands. Naseem’s mother hated Imtiaz, She had big plans for her daughter and Imtiaz was no match. Well…as they say time had other plans, She was 18 and he was 24, they eloped and by the time they reunited with their family, Naseem had a 3 yr old Sahil. It was one helluva ride with Imtiaz, no expectations, each day was a new experience, Imtiaz had a way of surprising life, staring at it, every day was a lifetime, simple pleasures like catching the double decker at Colaba to see the Queens necklace, the best nalli nihari and ran masala at Mohammad Ali road or just sitting by the Ocean, every cell of her body was full of life, it was like they were on a constant high. They lived like there was no tomorrow. Imtiaz was a shayar to the core. He wrote for her only for her, for her eyes, made her feel like a princess. It didn’t matter they stayed in a shanty, with room only enough to keep a double cot. One day Imtiaz didn’t return home, a rogue car came the wrong way and  knocked him over. Naseem mourned for three days, on the fourth day she got up and took charge, there was a family to feed, her life had changed forever. Naseem was the man of the house.

Naseem packed off Sahil to her  neighborhood kindergarten, packed her lunch, kept her mother in law’s food in the plate, pulled over the burkha and ran to catch a rickshaw. The Call centre had punch in, punch out timings and every late mark would knock off half a day’s salary, from her precious Rs.7500 that ran her house. The train pulled over, Naseem’s friend Rehana would keep her place at the door, Naseem jumped in, greeted Rehana, she moved back and the train started, slowly catching momentum, there was a rhythm to the sound of the rakes almost like it was the rhythm of life. The wind touched her like Imtiaz, reminded her of his presence, it wanted her to be free, this was her quite little daily epiphany. Something hindered her thought process today, someone was watching, as she looked across there was a figure of a middle aged man in the distant train, looking at her in the most impervious fashion, the look froze Naseem, those eyes they were seeking something, something that was ethereal. She looked back, straight in them, at first he hesitated then he looked right back, it was a moment when a connection was made, she touched something, the moment seemed like a lifetime without a time or a space dimension. It was endless, like two oceans had met. Suddenly the sight was gone as her train pulled over, the other had passed. The connection was interrupted.

Naseem started to laugh out loud. Rehana was clueless, Naseem told her “Chal aaj bunk maarte hain” Rehana had not heard such a thing ever. Naseem wouldn’t listen. She took Rehana for a movie. Naseem laughed like a 5 yr old during the movie, almost as if she were someone else. After the movie Rehana could not stop herself and said “Naseem aaj kya hua tujhe??? Bataana” Naseem said, “Rehana ek bat bataoon, mujhe ishq hogaya hai” “kissse ???” she queried… “Zindagi se” answered Naseem. Rehana was about to say something when Naseem’s phone rang, it was Sahil, he asked “Ammi batao na  Samandar kaisa hota hai??”
“Neela, Gehra aur Behadd” answered Naseem.

The Ocean of Blue: Part 1

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It was a Monday morning and Arvind was already having a very bad day. His car broke down. The meeting was unavoidable. It had been 3 days and his girl friend hadn’t picked up his call. His mother had a showdown with him in the morning on him being non committal on marriage. It was already 10 and the meeting was to start at 11. The only way out was to turn the clock back and become that 24 year old he was once and jump on to the local train. The only problem, it had been about 8 years since he had seen one. There wasn’t any time to think. The train arrived and was jam packed. Another one, again jam packed. He had no hope. He had a thought but be avoided it. Another train missed and he did it, jumped on the tracks to climb the train from the opposite side. Instincts were at work and after all he was a pro at this in his heyday. Somehow he managed to climb on the foot board, sent his laptop in and managed to get half a foot on d foot board. He couldn’t miss the humor in the situation. Here was a high flying corporate executive managing about 500 people, the youngest VP in his organisation, and here he was clinging on with his life at the Mumbai life line. After all he was a mere mortal and all his qualification wouldn’t help him put two feet in, leave alone getting a seat. He was just one among the crowd, flesh, bones and sweat. The veneer was off, it was as if he had become someone else. The train started chugging along, the sound of d rakes overpowered the sound in his cabin, as d wind became stronger, Arvind felt he was free again.

The train arrived at the next station, it was as if the cabin bulged again, he lost at least half an inch of grounding he had, he adjusted himself and tightened his grip. As he was adjusting his grip, his eyes lay on something he couldn’t possibly comprehend. It was as if time had come to a stand still, there was a kind of stillness in d moment. It was as if a decade had passed in a second. Those eyes, they were like an ocean of blue. He just couldn’t take his eyes off. As the train started again, Arvind was shaken to his senses. There was a lady standing in the coach of the opposite train. She was wearing a burkha and the only thing he could look at were those eyes. Those eyes, they stood out from d crowd. There was something captivating in those eyes. He just couldn’t take his eyes off them. The trains were moving almost at the same speed, there were many distractions, buildings, electric polls, foliage, but somehow for Arvind’s eyes, it was like the world didn’t exist. Then it happened. Those eyes started looking right back. Arvind almost twitched as if he had been caught redhanded, he tried to look somewhere else as if nothing happened. Then he again tried to steal a glance. There they were, those eyes they were not going any where, they were fixated on him. There was something about them. He reciprocated and looked right back. It was as if a connection was made, a cosmic one, neither battled an eyelid, Arvind had lost track of time, space and being. That moment was as if he had transcended his physical being and his environment. Suddenly like a bolt from d blue he lost her, the opposite train had pulled over and his train was still in motion. He almost lost his grip, as he adjusted himself the sounds came back, the elements were back, the heat, the sound, the train. A fellow passenger asked him “Bhai sahab kaha utarna hai??”  With a pause he said “Parel”  The passenger told him that was two stations back. Where was he looking? What happened to him? It was like he was in a time warp and the world just went by. He got down the next station to catch the next train back.

At the office the MD was not too happy as Arvind didn’t show up to a very important meeting. He had expected him to come and apologize. Arvind on the other hand came back and told him something that no one told him. “Sorry sir I didn’t come to the meeting as I didn’t agree with the product idea, here are my views…. ” Nobody had ever spoken to the big Stork like that ever, leave alone Arvind. He was always the yes man. Today it was as if he was on a drug. By the time he finished, all the MD could manage was, “OK you have a point we will think about this again”. That in itself was an achievement, it was nothing less than Arab Spring in Egypt. Hossni Mubarak was shaken. That’s not all Arvind dropped a message to his girlfriend. ” hi thanks for not answering the phone. The last 3 days gave me time to rethink our relationship. While this might have been our 20th fight in the last 1 year. This fight has made me realise that we need different things from life. All the best. Have a blessed life, count me as a friend”. He was not done yet. He also called up his mother and told her, He was in love and hence won’t be getting married any soon. “Who is the girl?” His mother asked. ” I don’t know” he said.
Arvind went back to his desk and typed “Blue Ocean” on google images. He kept staring at the image. His colleague knocked the door of his cabin, “Bhai ye Ecstasy hai ya marijuana, kya kiya tumne budhao ke saath??sab se adab se baat kar raha hai, aur ye kya dekh raha hai??”
Arvind smiled back and said “Chal khaana khate hai”