The Glass Window

The setting:

It was raining and the sky was grey, the ground wet, the foliage was beaming. The estate had 20 villas all lined up one above the other. The Villas were made of wood and each had a glass window. Each window opened with a view to the sea. The sea was getting rough and each tide was getting bigger than the other.

At the reception counter.

Three Families checked into the premium villas which were nearest to the sea.

Chalet No. 100:

The  Sharmas were celebrating 20 years of holy matrimony and their children had gifted them this surprise holiday. Although about 50 years in age, Vikram looked in his late 40s and Priya looked possibly in her early 40s. After 10 years of courtship and 20 years of marriage, the flame was still burning bright. It was very easy to say that they were a couple in deep love. As the boy ushered them though the wet pathways, Vikram & Priya had closed the umbrellas and were enjoying the rain on them. As they got in, the Chalet was quite warm. As both of them settled in, the rain intensified and Priya gave up the thought of opening the window. While Vikram went to freshen up, Priya kept looking through the Glass window. In the midst of the swelling sea, there was a small skiff and a fisherman was sitting on it. The sight kept repeating itself, with each tide it appeared that the sea had swallowed the fisherman and then he appeared. Neither the sound of the relentless onslaught of rain on the wooden roof nor  the whistling sound made by the coconut trees mattered as Priya stood as if she heard nothing. The sight of the man on the skiff in a rough sea had Priya transfixed. Her zen like silence was broken when she felt the warm breath of Vikram on her neck and his hands around her waist. The body twitched longingly and Priya sank into Vikram’s arms… But the eyes where still stuck on the vision. “Did you see that Vikram?” Priya asked. “What?” Vikram queried and looked up. “That fisherman..?” “Yes, what do you make of him” responded Priya. “Let me see…he is still, absolutely no movement in his posture, the sea is tossing him up, wonder what he is doing? How long has he been in that posture?” Asked Vikram. “Since we came, might be even before that, there is something mesmerising about him, he is so calm, absolutely unperturbed, the sea has no power over him”. “Hmmm..could be waiting for a big Salmon to take his bait”. ” Vikram just look at the situation. On the outside the sea is wild, tossing everything up in the air and on the inside so calm n serene almost as if it were two different worlds and look at the man on the boat, the boat is jumping up and down but he is sitting as if none of this exists. He is as calm as the ocean bed. Now imagine the fish that he would hook. It might be there somewhere deep swimming with all its fellow companions and then it sees the bait. It slowly moves away from its shoal, and would be swimming around the bait observing it for some time. It would be tapping into the collective knowledge of its brethren and ancestors on whether to yeild to the temptation or whether to observe. Now look at all these visuals together. About 80 to 100 feet under the ocean floor the big fish is encircling the bait, the bait is looking back and is still. About 100 feet higher, the fisher man is sitting holding the chord with zen like stillness inspite of the sea trying its best to rattle him. This action in inaction will continue till the weakest gives in, I mean the fisherman, the sea and the fish. The first to blink loses that’s the law.” “Hmmm….. , no Priya I see it this way, all of us have our destinies intertwined with one another and each will connect with another at a prefixed time. The fish will take the bait at a predesignated time, for her fate is connected with the bait, the chord and the fisherman, that’s how nature intended it to be”. There was some movement on the skiff,  the fisherman was moving. He kept pulling and finally it looked like, he had landed his catch. Vikram and Priya looked at each other and smiled, Vikram pulled the curtains.

Chalet No.101

The Agarwals checked into Chalet no.101. Vinay, Anita and their 6 year old son Arush. Arush was totally unlike any kid his age. Arush always looked lost in his thoughts. The doctor had said that he was absolutely fine, just a touch sensitive. Vinay and Anita had learnt to accept this as normal behavior. So when they checked into the hotel on a stormy day, they were hardly amazed to see Arush stare through the glass window looking at the sea. Vinay and Anita soon got lost in their discussions, the TV was turned on, food was called for, calls were being made. “Arush, what are you staring at? Come freshen up and then do whatever staring you want to do.” Anita told. “Let him be Anita, he is grown up and will do without being told.” Arush looked outside and saw the sea go up and down like a seasaw. It had the power to gulp the hotel in which he was staying, yet chose to keep a safe distance. It moved everything. A small insignificant boat was dancing to the tune of the sea and a man was sitting still and composed as if he was levitating and Arush looked at the man with amazement. After a while, he was lost in the sight with all his sensory perceptions tuned into the solitary spectacle. What was the man doing? Why was he not afraid? Did the sea not scare him? What if the man is communicating to the sea…Asking it to give him what  he deserves. The sea was not agreeing and was expressing its displeasure at this request. The mighty sea was trying to trip the man from his state. There was a conversation going on. At the deep end the ocean was communicating this request to the fish who swam in its belly. The man looked resolute. He wasn’t going to budge until the ocean heeded to his request. Slowly the tide calmed, the man moved and pulled out a big fish, possibly nature had answered his call, the ocean had summoned the fish and one fish had made the decision. There was a smile on Arush’s face. “What are you smiling for Arush” asked Anita. “Nothing, I am hungry said Arush”.

Chalet no.102

Chalet no.102 was occupied by the newly wed Ragini and Ruchir Khurana. Ragini was about 22 and Ruchir 35. This was not exactly a marriage made in heaven. Ragini’s parents had found out about her relationship with Iqbal the neighbourhood AC mechanic. The Bhatias panicked as they couldn’t digest the thought of their daughter marrying someone from another religion, that too a poor ac mechanic. Ruchir’s family was known to the Bhatias for long. The marriage was a a hush hush affair. Ragini had been told of all consequences that Iqbal and she  would have to face given the contacts of her IPS father. Ragini gave in. From that moment on she was like walking corpse, just a figure of flesh n bones, the last ounce of life was plucked out. Ruchir was a son of a wealthy politician and was known for his misadventures in Lucknow. His bar scuffles were folklore. There was a news which the media gave a lot of air when he had slapped an on duty police officer for stopping him for a breath analyser test. As always Ruchir got away.

Today as they had checked into the hotel by the sea, Ragini was as silent as she was and Ruchir as contemptuous as he was known to be. Ragini’s state of disconnect was broken when the first drop of rain fell on her during the walk to the Chalet. There was a hint of a smile on her face, a hint that’s it. Inside the Chalet, it was warm and cosy. As they stepped in and closed the doors. Ruchir grabbed her by the hand. Tore her shirt, the buttons dropped on the floor without any resistance. This had become routine since the day of the marriage, so much so that the feeble resistance that Ragini put up had also faded. The violent act which left her bruised each day was repeated. The feeling of being raped on a daily basis had numbed her deep down. After a while Ruchir turned on the other side. The sound of his snoring filled the room and over powered the sound of the drops on the wooden roof and the whistling sound made by the swaying coconut trees. Ragini got herself together and started looking outside the glass window. There was a different world outside. There was symphony in the air, the rain was falling rhythmically, the wind was whistling, and as if on cue the sea was dancing to a heavenly tune. There sat a man on a boat in the middle of the sea. His sense of calm gave her an impression that he was conducting the orchestra and all the elements were yielding to his instructions. Then a thought hit her. What was he doing there sitting on the boat in the rough sea? Of course he had laid a a bait and was waiting for an unsuspecting fish to bite. Inside the ocean there would somewhere be a fish who was playing around in the world of her own. She must be the most beautiful fish in her shoal. There would be many a fish who would want her attention. Her eyes would be beaming with the pride that her parents would have for her. Then today just another day in her beautiful life, she will come across a bait, a moment of indecision and all her dreams will come crashing down. The fisherman moved and pulled up a big fish. A tear flowed down Raginis’s cheeks. She got up quietly opened the door and stood outside the chalet. The rain drenched her and her tears. As she shut the door, the sound of the rain was the only thing she could hear. The snoring sound faded.

In the evening all the three families were seated next to each other at the inhouse restaurant. The Sharmas of 100 were looking as youthful as ever lost in each other. The Agarwals of 101 were discussing what to eat with Arush staring outside looking at the rain. Ruchir was on the phone talking to someone and Ragini was fixated with fork. The steward arrived and gave the menu to all of them. He said ” Sir would you like to try the Salmon? we have caught one of the biggest salmons found in this part of the world. It was caught today morning from the coast right outside.”

A rainy Conference

It was about 11 am, the weather outside was something else. The clouds were coming together and sticking up a dark blanket blocking the last possible ray of sunlight. The Hill resort atop India’s most famous monsoon hill station was shining in its element. The clouds had descended on it. The white haveli in the black background was just like a shining pearl in the abyss. The clouds had swelled up and the heavenly dance could happen any moment, the wind was picking up speed.

The Conference hall was full. It was the venue of the National meet of one of India’s largest dotcom companies. The atmosphere inside was a clear contrast from the weather outside. The windows were covered with curtains and the conference hall disconnected the people inside from the last sensory perception of Nature’s dance that was about to begin. 

On the mike was Vikram Singh the 35 year old head of the famous Indian online shopping company “ShopIndia”. A pioneer in the online shopping space, “ShopIndia”was facing some real tough competition from two major online Giants, One from US, the world’s largest Online market place and another from China, Asia’s largest market place. Shop India was holding up till now, however in the last few quarters some major sellers had veered off. The Competition had deep pockets and the Investors in ShopIndia were worried. Some tough decisions were to be taken. Some segments had a really tough time, Vikram these days was known to be really temperamental. A bad review with him could mean the end of someone’s career.The tension in the air was palpable, an absolute far cry from the weather outside where the dance had begun, the drops had turned into bucket loads, the heavens were pouring down. Vikram began speaking, he laid out the vision to a crowd that was listening in rapt attention, efficiency was the goal, the company would be ruthless to bottom performers, some people at the back were looking down. 

Suddenly the door of the conference room was flung open and two kids barged in… They started running around in circles, it was like a stone thrown at placid  water, there were ripples every where. The entire conference room burst into laughter. The hotel boy was called, he went looking for their parents. Vikram could only  manage a wry smile. The kids were not listening. They went and opened the door outside . the water came in and they just jumped and played in the rain with absolute disregard for etiquette & conformity. After about 5 minutes the parents arrived, they could just about manage a sorry. The younger of the two kids while being pulled back said, “Mama kitne boring log hai ye Sab. Aisi baarish me pata Nahi kya kar rahe hai?? Koi aaya hi nahi khelne.. “The mother could could only give an embarrassed look.

The entire conference room burst out laughing. The setting had changed. The door outside was flung open, the floor was dirty. The sound of thunder filled the room. The mood in the room had become more lively, as the smell of monsoon mud entered the room there was a lightness in the air. Everybody was far more relaxed. 

As everybody tried to settle in, Vikram asked, What is it that you guys want to do right now? “Off with the Blazer n Tie” came a voice from the back. “Tathastu” he said. The formality was off. “Now what?” “Let’s play in the rain” who said that? Before people could look back, Vikram said “Tathastu,let’s play football.” There it was every body in their leather shoes jumped out, quickly two teams were made and the lawn of the hotel lawn had become a football ground. People fell on their backs, clothes were torn. After 90 minutes there was a winning team. The whole hotel looked at the spectacle where corporate professionals broke into the most keenly contested mud football match ever seen. The entire hotel applauded the winning team. As the game was over, Vikram signalled everyone to the conference hall. They begged him to allow them to change. Vikram didn’t budge, he said pls come as you are.

“What did we learn today?” Vikram asked.

Many hands went up. 

Rahul stood up and said “Vikram the kids taught me that it is important to play your game irrespective of what others do” 
“They taught us to enjoy our game deeply and rest will be taken care off” said Sunita, the head of Customer service.

“They taught us to get drenched in the rain when it demanded and not be coy” said Mr. gupta.

“OK so are we ready to play our game?”Vikram thundered, 

“Yes”  “Yes”  “Yes” came the reply.

The kids were still playing outside oblivious to the effect they had on one of India’s largest companies.

The Actress and the Bai

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“Chup chap apna kaam karo, mujhe kisiki nasihat Nahi chahiye… ”

That stung, Ruksana bi was stunned into silence

It was only her 3rd day in the posh Yari road flat of the 20 year old Vedika Singh who in a period of 6 months had become an overnight sensation. Her serial Mere Apne where she depicted the journey of young girl with dreams to an abusive marriage had struck a chord.

The journey from Bombay Central station an year back with Rs.25000 in her bag and the no of one friend who happened to be a production assistant in the industry was no less ordinary. Vedika’s dreams couldn’t be contained in the small house in a nondescript village of Kapurthala. Education was not her calling. Rebellion was in her blood, complying would mean marriage. She took the leap, boarded the train and in an year here she was living her dream.

While it all seemed like a dream from a distance, things were not as simple as they seemed. Yes there was money in the bank, a posh house on rent at Yari road, a swanky car, but her family had practically disowned her. Mom used to pickup the call and listen, that’s what she had in the name of family at the moment.

Things changed at a personal level as well. Her boyfriend Sidharth had moved in with her in her flat. Sidharth was her co-star in the serial and their relationship was talk of the town.They hooked up at the set, She had no friends in Mumbai and she was spending about 16 hours at the set with him. This relationship was only a natural progression. Almost the same age and similar backgrounds both of them hit it off. Off late the relationship had become very violent. The neighbours could here screams, things breaking from their flat.

It was Rukshana bi’s 3rd day in the house. She was going about her chores, picking up bottles and glasses. She saw Vedika had a cut on her elbow and a mark on her cheek, “Kya hua baby? Kuch problem hai kya?” That’s when she was shut up. Rukhsana bi put her head down and went about her business. She had worked in many such homes and knew what to do. Vedika sat on the couch and started crying.

At home, her daughter was hooked on to Mere Apne and asked her, “Ammi ye Vedika kitni khoobsurat hai na, dekho bechari ke  armaan kuchal diye uske gharwalo ne.. Mujhe milaaoge kya vedika se??? Mai uski bahut badi fan hu…” Rukhsana bi didn’t utter a word. She went and fed Iqbal. Iqbal had been paralysed for about 10 years now. And depended on Rukhsana for everything except breathing. Everytime she fed him, Iqbal’s eyes would turn moist, and then would stay fixed at the fan.

This ritual continued for many days… Here was Rukhsana who was witness to two daily soaps, one reel and one real played out by the same characters. In one serial Vedika and Sidharth were trying to find love among all d hostility in Sidharth’s house. There was an innocence in their story which connected the masses. At home in the real story here were two people who fed off each other’s abuse, as if each fed of the other’s weakness venting out their deepest insecurities and misplaced this emotion as love. All Rukhsana bi could do was to put her head down and clear the glasses.

Today was Iqbal’s birthday and Rukhsana bi had made his favourite sevai and fed him, the moment she fed him, she paused for the now usual single eye drop, instead she saw a hint of a smile on his face. It took 10 years for this to happen and Rukhsana bi couldn’t control her tears. As the tears dried, she felt very light. She started laughing uncontrollably, Iqbal’s eyes were responding. There was a shayari in the air, a shayari composed by the eyes. The 50 year old Rukhsana bi had a spring in her step. She gave a peck on Iqbal’s cheek and left for work.

Rukhsana bi just hugged Vedika as she opened the door. “Kya hua Rukhsana bi?” Vedika asked. To which she replied “Aaj meri zindagi muqammal ho gayi baby, aaj Iqbal ki saalgirah hai aur aaj Allah ne mujhe mera aajtak ka sabse pyaara tohfa diya. Aaj Iqbal hasse…” Saying this Rukhsana bi started crying uncontrollably, then started laughing.

Vedika:  “Bass sirf itna…?”
Rukhsana: “Ha baby”

There was silence in the room.

After a pause Vedika asked “Rukhsana bi pyaar Kya hai ?”  To which Rukhsana replied “Pata Nahi baby, Shayad woh Jo tumhe muqammal banata hai” 

“Kya hua baby? chup kyu ho gayi?” Rukhsana bi asked in a harried tone.

Vedika stood there silent..

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.