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”

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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..