A rainy soliloquy

Honey, it rained today…

Not a deluge, but that beautiful sprinkle of your kind.

It was subtle, and may i say soothing to the mind.

The leaves were shining, the birds were beaming.

A gentle breeze blew in bringing the earth to our house.

Well nothing has changed, neither the earth, not the wind, nor the rain.

It was another rainy day like this…

Sitting here on our porch I think…

Are you in this wind?

Are you looking at me through that shining drop?

Are you the earth that’s filling up this room?

Yes… It’s you…

See nothing has changed.

Everything is the way you left it.

The porch, the almirah, the paintings

Everything, except me.

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That Girl

9 Am, Kings Circle Junction, Mumbai

“What’s wrong???  Tell me…
I can help… Don’t do it…”

He was speaking in a monotone.

“Who are you???” asked her friend

“Smitha do you know him??”

She said nothing.

“Come with me…”He said

She got up and walked along.

“Smitha, wait… wait… wait…” Her friend called out.

They kept walking.

“Arun, buddy whatsup? where are you going?” His friend screamed from the car.

The honking sound from behind was unbearable and Vivek reluctantly got into the driver’s seat and drove off…

Arun and Smitha were walking, oblivious to the world.

There was a rare silence amidst the urban cacophony

After about half an hour, Arun stopped.

“Are you hungry? Will you have something?” 

No word.

Arun said, “This restaurant is famous for its south Indian spread.”

Still no word.

At the restaurant

He ordered for two cups of coffee and asked her, “What will you have?”

No word

“Ok , tell me why do you want to die?”

Arun asked with a straight face.

Tears appeared in her eyes, the first two tears showed a rare symmetry, they came slowly bulged her eyes and flowed down together and then came a slow stream. It just kept flowing, as if a crack had appeared on a reservoir and the first stream of water found its way.

“Sahab aur kya loge? Ae  chal do number pe idly bol, teen number pe masala dosa… Sahab bolo..” The waiter asked as if he was on auto mode.

“Do coffee..” He said.

They both kept looking into each other’s eyes, the stream had become a river and was gushing down, he didnot bother interrupting.

Then again the waiter came. 

“Do cup coffee” he said..

This kept happening some 20 times. Three hours had passed.

This table was now receiving a fair share of attention. What was interesting was the no of fights that took place in the last three hours around the table. A couple had broke up in the next table. A family almost came to blows.

Even more intriguing was Gulshan sir’s behavior.The old professor was a regular to the joint and had his favourite seat. 

As he sat on the table next to Arun and Smitha.He called out..”Arre aaj idhar itna heavy kyu lag raha hai??? Khidki khol, pankha chaalu kar, agarbatti jala” 

It was absolutely unusual for him to say that. That feeling hung for someime and Gulshan sir got up and moved out. He said “Khaate me likh do, baad me aata hu”

“Saahab kuch  aur loge?? ” The waiter queried, in a worried tone.

“Do plate dosa le aa”  said Arun.

 “But madam to kuch  kha nahi rahi hain” said the waiter.

Arun started laughing…  This dialogue had momentarily stopped the tears.

“Tu le aa…” said Arun

“Ok , My name is Arun, I know it is a very deep wound that you are nursing and death looks like a serious option now. But tell me, in the last three hours aren’t you feeling slightly better? 

I once considered this option, planned for it, decided and then that day when I was about to, I stood there at the bus stop pondering. An interesting thing happened. An old woman kept asking me for alms, A destitute who possibly had no shelter and no food, she was a regular at that bus stop, but that day she just stood by me. It took me about an hour to notice that she was standing there. As I picked my wallet to hand her some change, she whispered in my ears,”Jaau de… Jaau de,  Hou de je whaiche aahe te..”(Translated from Marathi) (Let it go, let it happen, whatever it is.) 

I suddenly felt like a stone hung from my back had been lifted. There was a sudden lightness. I realised, All that I was trying to fight was getting stronger and breaking me. I took her advise and stopped fighting it. I let it happen. As my resistance fell, so did the problems, everything that was unsolvable just dissolved. God has been kind, here I am.”

She smiled… The glint in her eye was unmissable. As if the rays of the sun had shone after a long cloudy day, as the rays filtered through, everything that was hidden was sparkling in a new found luster.It was all so clear, the light on her face was like a halo. As if it was someone else. 

The lips pouted hinting she was about to speak, She was about to say something and then for the first time today, She spoke “Well, I drink Tea.”

Hahahahaha…

Both of them started laughing, the waiters listening in joined the laughter and the entire restaurant started laughing.

As the laughter died down, She asked, “How did you know?”

He paused and said, 

“You tell me… It was you who called me”

The Urban Melancholy

A chilly winter night
Delhi, Cannaught Place, 10 PM

There was a nip in the smog filled air. The flag at Cannaught Place was taking a nap when the  wind picked up speed and forced it to sway evoking a faint patriotic fervour to the chilly night. Across the road the scene had changed at “Lord of the Drinks” an upscale lounge bar. A day that started like any other, had changed dramatically.The whole place was radiating a different energy field

About two hours back… The crowd had started settling in. The heaters were powered on. The projectors were beaming a boring test match between Srilanka and Newzealand. By the looks of it even the players were not interested. The tables were just  filling up. 

Earlier that day…

Lajpat Nagar 3 PM

Vicky was woken up by  a loud ring on the mobile. “Hello… Abhi milna hai…kaha??? Yaar graveyard shift karke aaya hu soya nahi hu…theek hai 5 baje milte hai… Guitar laata hu.” Vicky caught the metro and reached Rajiv Chowk Metro station at Cannaught Place. He and his friends jammed at Hari’s place nearby.Hari met him and both of them reached the Jam room. “Saale  kyu bulaya mujhe??? Queried Vicky. ” We have a problem, Freddy has taken ill and we don’t have anyone to play the guitar ” said Hari. “Ok , so then is it my lucky day?”said Vicky. ” Looks like. Don’t worry I will manage the vocals, Arun will be at the drums. Just go through the list of songs, regular stuff. I promise if you do well today you can be a regular with us” said Hari. Vicky had got his lucky break. He was labouring in the call centre only to meet ends, his heart was in music and today seemed to be his day

Defence Colony 6 PM

The Ahluwalias of Defence Colony were beaming. It was the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. Parminder Ahluwalia. The octogenarian couple had seen it all. From starting his life in Delhi from a refugee camp, to joining the Army, fighting three wars, becoming an Ashok Chakra recepient, Col.Ahluwalia epitomised the spirit of Punjabis who grew up in Pakistan, were forced to migrate to India leaving their homes and built this country called India. Off late, age had started catching up with the Colonel. From being the life of every party, he had become a recluse. 

Today was no different, he was showing no excitement for the 50th anniversary. The Ahluwalias called off the lavish party and decided to go for a quite dinner given the old Colonel’s disposition. 

 Lord of the Drinks, CP 9 PM

The evening was slowly lighting up. Most tables were taken. The place looked like a melting pot of cultures. There were people from all walks of life. A heated discussion was going on in one corner about a hostile board room takeover. On another table there were kids who looked like they had walked straight out of school, smoking hukka, drinking everything that flowed, every one on that table the guys and the girls alike looked like they wanted to fit into a club that surely they didn’t look from… They must have been from an international call centre. Those kids sure must be making some money, A pint of Bud cost 350 bucks here. Then there were the couples. The over dressed guys and the under dressed girls. Well for this time of the year with the weather outside at 5 degrees those mini skirts would look inappropriate in any city except Delhi.

At one end sat the Ahluwalias, all 10 of them. The colonel and his wife, their children, their grand children. The Old Colonel seemed lost in his own world oblivious to the hullabaloo around him.

The band arrived. The mike was set up. The bass guitar  was wired. The drums were placed. The whole band was going through their motions. Hari took the mike.

“Mike check…123.. Good everning guys. We are the Bandits. I am Hari I will be singing. This is Vicky on the Guitar and this is Arun on the drums. We are here to play some soulful melodies. I hope you will enjoy…”

 “Hmmm…

Na wo akhiyan ruhani kahi,

Na wo chehra noorani kahi,

Kahi dilwali baatein bhi na,

Na wo sajri jawani kahi

Jag ghumeya thare jaisa na koyi…”
This was followed by some more soulful melodies.Sufi, Ghazal, Indipop even Kishore Kumar was played.

Requests started coming in and the audience started swooning. The winter chill, the smog, the alcohol, the milieu of people, the smoke from the hukkas had all got mixed in the soft sounds emanating from the Bandits. The place was swinging along with the Bandits like they were under the spell of another pied piper.

Vicky gestured to Hari and whispered something in his ears.

He switched place.

Hi guys, My name is Vicky and this is my first live show. I have heard a song recently. It’s written by the great actor and play wright Piyush Mishra. He has sung it in Coke Studio. I havent been able to get the song out of my head from the time I have heard it. It is a song about love, longing and much more… 

Playing Husna …

Vicky strung the guitar…

“Lahore ke uss
Pehle jile ke
Do pargana mein pahunche..

Resham gali ki
Dooje kuche ke
Chauthe makaan mein pahunche..

Aur kehte hai jisko
Dooja mulk uss
Pakistan mein pahunche…”

The whole place stopped. Not a soul moved. Some had heard it before and some didn’t but not one person moved.

Vicky continued…

“Likhta hun khat mein
Hindustan se
Pehlu e Husna mein pahunche
O Husna…

Main to hun baitha
O Husna meri
Yaadon purani mein khoya

Main to hun baitha
O Husna meri
Yaadon purani mein khoya

Pal pal ko ginta
Pal pal ko chunta
Beeti kahani mein khoya
Patte jab jhadte Hindustan mein
Yaadien tumhari ye bolein…


Hota ujala, Hindustan mein, batein tumhari ye bolein
O Husnaa meri yeh to batado
Hota hai aisa kya
Uss gulistan mein
Rehti ho nanhee kabutar see gum tum jahaan
O Husna

Patte kya jhadte hain Pakistan mein
Vaise hi jaise jhadte yahaan
O Husna

Hota ujala kya vaisa hi hai
Jaisa hota Hindustan mein haan
O Husna…”

There was a certain density to the air around. There were many moist eyes around. People from the adjoining disc started making their way to the restaurant. The stewards, the waiters, everybody stood still. As if time stood still.

“Woh heeron ke ranjhe
Ke nagmein mujhko
Ab tak aa aake sataien
Woh Bulley Shah ki
Takriro ki, jheene jheene saaye
Woh Id ki iddi
Lambi namazey
Seyvaiyon ki jhaale
Woh Diwali key diye sang mein
Baisakhi ke badal
Holi ki woh lakdi jinmein
Sang sang aanch lagai
Lohdi ka woh dhuan jis mein
Dhadkhan hai sulgai
O Husna meri ye toh batado
Lohdi ka dhuan kya ab bhi nikalta hai
Jaisa nilkalta tha uss daur mein vahaan
O Husna

Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Dhuan mein gulstan yeh barbaad ho raha hai
Ik rang sya kaala, ejad ho raha hai
Ke heeron ke ranjhon ke
Nagmein kya ab bhi
Sune jaate hai haan vahaan
O Husna

Aur rota hai raaton mein
Pakistan kya vaise hi jaise Hindustan
O Husna…”

Vicky had stopped.

Not one word. Slowly claps started and in a moment the whole place was bursting with claps.

As the claps receded an elderly gentleman at the last table started sobbing uncontrollably. Col. Ahluwalia who had not uttered a word for one entire year cried and cried. He looked like he would not stop.The song seemed to have  ruptured a wall that held an ocean of emotion that was locked away somewhere deep inside the colonel. 

As the attention shifted to the table, the band stopped, the audience recognised the War Hero. The younger Ahluwalia spoke to the colonel and gestured  Vicky to the table. The entire place sat perplexed, The Colonel kissed Vicky and settled down. His son came and took the mike

“Vicky and the Bandits, You sang well. Of course the Original was written, composed and sung by Piyush Mishra in Coke Studio. Vicky, My father Col.Ahluwalia has a a story very similar to the one you sang. He had a Husna in Pakistan whom he left when he migrated to India during partition.Yes he has fought three wars, Yes he is an Ashok Chakra recipient, but till today he longs for his Husna…”

The evening slowly drew to a close.

A few meters away…

The Indian Flag, was again picked up by the wind and it swayed.

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.”

Chhotu

image

“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”

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”