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.