Fading away..

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Warming thoughts and restless nights

Silky bed and fretful voice

Emotions besieged, questions unanswered

Thought of promise, doubts she got

Yearned to fade away in his arms

But she vanished in her thoughts..

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A humble request to shop owners and mall management

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Yesterday, at mall.

In a clothing store, I was trying to have a conversation with this salesperson. After a bunch of “Hello” and “Excuse me” attempts which were not returned, I obviously started to panic. Now “Excuse me” was replaced with “Hello, can you hear me?” “I’m trying to ask something here”… all within a minute or two. But alas, no response from the person who was standing only about three-four feet away. Looking at how irked I was getting, another salesperson came rushing (I guess he heard my high pitched voice first)…He took me aside and told that the person I was talking to was unable to hear or talk… long silence..

This struck me like a punch in the face! How ashamed I felt had no limit. How stupidly I had behaved in those two minutes. Not that I knew it, but still. After saying sorry repeatedly, I started strolling nearby clumsily. Only after few minutes I noticed that another person in the store was trying to speak to the same clerk and getting irritated when he too failed to get any response. Quiet clearly, he was also unaware of the reality. Instinctively, this made me realize that the deaf-mute salesperson was not wearing any special badge or clothes and neither the store had any instructions to the customers informing about their special employees. Frankly, what happened with me or the other customer could have happened to anybody. Yes, we felt embarrassed and sorry for the whole thing but what about the worker who is at the receiving end of this. He/she might have been facing such incidents on daily basis. And that’s even more disheartening. It is something that reminds him/her of his certain ‘inability’ on daily basis by the people who are blessed. Think about it..

It will be really supportive if stores management consider giving them a recognizable clothing/badge; not to separate them from other employees but to save them from daily dishonor which puts more baggage on their hearts than wearing a badge on the shoulder! Please consider…

Valentine’s Day

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He was hurrying down the road passing through the throngs on men who were carrying materials like bamboo bars, party-flags, matkas, hoardings and cloths being used for mandap assembly. They were about 40 of them in front of the party office. Raghu had decided to skip his classes and give a helping hand to his favorite local politician Dayal Kumar.

It had been indeed a busy day for the party members. Like expected, early this morning, their party’s town-office received instructions from the head office informing about tomorrow’s plan. Yes, tomorrow being the Valentine ’s Day, it’s very important for their tiny party in a comparatively small town. It was one of the rare occasions when people in the town talk about their organization. This year also, they will have to make similar impact. As the party is planning on alliance with a big fish in the coming elections; their town leader had decided to leave no stone unturned and hence what could be the best occasion for gathering some in-advance publicity than the Valentine ’s Day.

Many youngsters like Raghu were assisting their goonish-looking political leader for a few days now. Raghu had become an apple of Dayal Kumar’s eyes since last year’s holi incident. He had played a heroic part in the blood-stained scandal where a dozen of party workers were injured, including him. They were all proud of the fact that nobody from the lower caste clan was able to smear color on the upper class people that year. After that, steadily, he was aspiring to be the successor of Kumar.

“Tell the fatass pandit to be ready tomorrow, at 7 in the morning. These stupid love-struck couples never leave the opportunity to hang-out at the hillside temple early in the morning,” Raghu yelled at Chhotu and jumped on his bullet. Riding through the half-developed township, he reached his usual tea-shop and ordered ‘masala chai with a sutta’ like everyday. Raghu was taking his first sip when he heard a soft voice from the adjoining cyber-café. “Reach the backside of the temple at sharp 6 am. Arjun will be there even before that, don’t worry. And remember Sushma, you have to come back by 6 in the evening. We have planned it well. There’s no way you guys could celebrate this day in this town. Those Power Dal party guys will be alert as owls! I’ve seen them talking with panditji and collecting laathis. There’s no way you could escape their eyesight. I will come with you to the hillside. Tell your parents that you’ll be staying with me till evening. Got it? Let’s go home before it gets dark now!”

Raghu saw two girls speeding up in the direction of Bazaar Street. He was no less than glad that he had reached his tea-shop a little late today. “Jo hota hai, acchhe ke liye hota hai,” he smirked and pulled out his mobile phone.

The next day, with two party-workers and a pandit, he was present at the backside of the temple since 6 in the morning. Raghu was someone who hadn’t seen sunrise ever since he had entered the teens but today was a different story. It was his opportunity to shine in front of Dayal Kumar once again. This way, he was going to be the angry young hero of the party. Arjun and Sushma’s affair was too big for their small town. And most importantly, Arjun was the son of his mentor Kumar’s staunch rival Daljeet Rawat. Catching him red-handed and humiliating him in from of the town was enough to become Kumar’s right-hand. Raghu’s plan was set. He will catch the young couple red-handed and force them to get married. After all, this is what their party has been doing for years.

He heard a bike approaching speedily at the front-side of the temple. Arjun had arrived. He was looking tense; uneasily, he lit a cigarette. This is going to be your last smoke for the day lovebird, Raghu grinned. Few minutes later, he saw two girls walking hand in hand towards the temple. The three met, exchanged few lines and Sushma stepped on Arjun’s bike. That’s it. It was Raghu’s moment! Along with the two men, Raghu ran towards the bike and caught Arjun by neck. He tried to resist, but that was futile. Raghu was a huge man and he had two friends to assist him. “Don’t even try to run, you two,” he shouted at the girls. Dragging Arjun towards the temple, Raghu dialed Kumar’s number. “10 minutes,” he said.

Within five minutes, the pandit had set the pooja-thalis and had started murmuring mantras. Arjun and Sushma were sitting in front of the pandit, two of Raghu’s men were standing behind them like docile guards. There was no way the love-struck couple was escaping.

She was looking at her friend and her partner with eyes full of affection. Raghu approached her, “You are going to feel so stupid after all this. I know it was your idea of a romantic valentine’s day for your friends. Now you will see how their part-time love story reaches a life-time of embarrassment,” he said and laughed with a victorious roar of a tiger. She didn’t utter a single word.

Dayal reached the temple and in front the thriving number of audience, the marriage ceremony was completed with all proper customs. Arjun’s father and Sushma’s family members were in a state of shock. After the initial yelling and whispering, everybody went quiet. After a while, people and party-workers started leaving. Nobody could change what had happened. There were only a handful of people remained at the temple when she ran towards her best friend and screamed, “Congratulations, Sushma. It’s finally happened!” Soon after, the newly married couple started giggling and hugging each other. She seemed the happiest. She was dancing, singing and laughing..animatedly. Raghu was extremely confused. What was happening? It was supposed to be an embarrassing and horrific experience for them, wasn’t it? Not a single time he had seen any couple laughing and dancing when their party had tried taking such extreme action against them. They had cried, begged and few even had fled without bothering about their respective partners. This was a first for Raghu.

“What is going on here?” he asked in a voice which came much placid than he had expected. Clearing his throat he spoke again, “Do you guys find it funny? Do you even realize what’s happened here?”

“We realize it very well and we are pretty happy about it!” Now it was her turn to talk. Approaching towards Raghu who was looking as confused and lost as a puppy that has left alone by its mother. “Don’t you understand Raghu, we’ve made it happened!?”

“What?”

“Yes. It was very much planned from the beginning. We knew how extreme your party can go on the Valentine’s Day and we also know how much these two love each other. So, I decided to go with the flow and made a super plan!”

“What pla…,” he exclaimed.

“Of getting them married, without eloping,” she winked. “I will make it simple for you. Listen. Sushma and Arjun love each other truely and cannot live with anyone else. When they talked with their families about this, nobody agreed but warned them to kill the two if they try to elope; of course because Sushma is from a humble lower caste family and Arjun as you know belongs to a former bigshot politician. When Sushma’s parents fixed her marriage with someone else last week, we had to take a quick action. These good souls denied the idea of running away from their homes and then a couple of days before I heard you talking to your friends about ruining the valentine’s day for others when I was sitting at the internet café. We acted quick and tracked you down. I learned that you are a regular at the tea-shop so we decided to convey our plan to you, deliberately accidently! It was simple. Once hearing about their V-day plan and meeting at the temple, I knew you won’t miss a chance to catch them red-handed. And it happened…. Raghu, you’ve had them married in front of their families and the whole town with full-blown rituals! You are their rescuer! Nobody can part them now.”

While laughing she was looking like a golden flower in the background of rising sun. Her eyes sparkled like dew drops on the freshly woken up leaves before she turned around and joined the newly married couple. Raghu was awestruck. His friends ran towards the town to tell this episode to Kumar. But Raghu was standing there like an unmovable rock waiting for someone to kick it.

As the happy trio was ready to leave, Raghu gathered himself after a good couple of minutes and ran towards them. He wanted to ask her name and wanted to ask how she knew his. But he’s never had the experience to talk with a girl like that. All he could do was stare at her dewy eyes which were still sparkling..

“You did the right thing, even though unintentionally. Don’t worry about the town or Kumar. They will talk and forget about it with time. Just remember, love is not a bad thing to happen, depriving someone of it is a sign of stone-hearted. And remember, after all this, you haven’t stopped these two,” she flashed the most beautiful smile Raghu has ever received and left.

He had already made his mind to find out her name.

 

Kite

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I’m a recluse, I’m the sky

I’m everywhere yet I’m so coy,

 I see everything, I see it right

Often makes me think, why there’s no light,

Grey is my color, so is my life

Don’t bother to change it, don’t make it right,

Things might change one day, we will see downright

There will be hope, there will be a kite…

Secret Life

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Often we say that ‘my life is an open book’. Not every time it is true. We say ‘my mom is my friend’, but we do keep secrets from her. We lie to her and sometimes to ourselves too. Keeping secrets is a reactive human phenomenon to show that things are well within their control when they really are not. For example, when we fail in an exam, to make it sound normal, we give instances of seven other friends who have met the same fate as ours. Even though that doesn’t make our parents feel good, at least we find solace in assuming that they will be convinced about the toughness of the exam itself. In a secret world, what we hiding is those late-night long drives in the name of group studies.

This could be one of the most frequent secrets of our lives that we like to keep. But it gets deeper than that as we grow up. When our date doesn’t treat us well, we do not tell the truth to our parents or friends; because they had already warned us against it and now, we do not want them to be proven right. It comes to our pride and self-respect. We can lose that self-respect by repeatedly begging in front of that boyfriend/girlfriend but we won’t let it hammer in front of people who really do care for us. All this in the effort to make us feel right, feel normal. But one thing we forget that whenever our mom or that best friend starts noticing our dark circles and red-eyes resulted by sleepless nights; they don’t need to be told but our secret life stands very much naked in front of them. But it’s their secret world that makes them stop mentioning it to us! It’s a vicious circle. Everybody keeps secrets; but the challenge is which secrets are worth keeping and which needed to be talked about.

I had a friend who kept her violent married life a secret for the longest time and when she decided to come out, very few people believed her. Even her closest ones had their doubts. She struggled to make them believe that she has gone through hell and kept it a secret so that they won’t be hurt. Maybe that was her mistake. To hide the reality from everyone…

We need to speak out and speak put more often. Have conversations with our loved ones, be it a family member or a friend. Keeping your secrets hidden inside you for a long time, not only harms your mental health but it also plays with your confidence, big time! The less vocal you become with people, the less trust you start showing towards them. If nothing else, it only hampers your self-confidence.

Consider, how many of your family members know about your hassled up career life? Do they know you are going through a bad relationship that ain’t going anywhere? Do they know, staying away from home, you have turned into an alcoholic or a chain smoker or worse, a drug addict? It’s our life and we want to keep secrets as we want but only if they are not affecting others. And believe me, in long run, our ‘hidden’ treasures end up hurting ourselves if none else. So, be vocal about your struggles and endeavors. If a well-kept secret is hurting your mental peace, it’s not worth keeping..

A Task Well Finished

That ten rupee note was wandering with me for two months before I decided to hand it over to someone who deserved it. Confused? Let me explain the background..

I had gone for a small outing to Konkan (a remote holiday spot in India) a few days back when along with me, the journey of that 10 rupee note also started. I was on a ferry boat hovering with the peaceful flow of water and bearable warmth of the afternoon sun. As usual, I chose to linger alone and got drifted from my friends. Sitting in a quiet corner I was relishing on my thoughts and just then a small group of boys came all shouting and screaming. Ignoring them didn’t help me when I saw a youngster amongst them getting a pouch of tobacco out and started distributing between them. Having seen such rebellious youngsters who find solace in going against the social etiquettes and health warnings and start consuming these life threatening chemicals as young as at 11-12 years of age didn’t surprise me. But what made me angry was when they were finished, the boys threw the packets into the waters saying, “Yaar chal aaj macchlionko treat dete hai!” An atrocious common laughter followed by.

When the little devils (yes, anybody who intends to harm innocent creatures is a devil in my eyes) were gone, I saw a 10 rupee note lying where the group of three was standing. I picked it up. As our ferry was near to its station I saw the boys just few steps ahead of me in the queue. I so wanted to give that note to its owner but some unknown vigor stopped me from doing so. I quietly inserted that money into my pocket. I kept on thinking to myself after that. Did I have any right to keep that money? Whatever those boys did was wrong but it was my duty to return their money to them, however small was the amount. Isn’t this what is told to us since we were children.? But again, the judgmental section of my mind had already decided to do ‘justice’ with that money.

You will agree, otherwise, we keep on giving small amount of money to beggars and needy people we see on streets (undoubtedly, Pune has no dearth of them); but this time responsibility that came with the money had taken a toll on me. I was so determined to put it into the ‘right’ hands which deserve it the most. May be this way, I was trying to cope with my guilt of ‘robbing’ that boy of the money! So, I had been carrying that 10 rupee note everywhere with me. I came across many beggars who were females, elderly and children (sent by their guardians, of course) to whom I could have given the money like I do sometimes. But this time I was looking for a more worthy ‘candidate’. My search was on…

And last week, to my peace, I found him. I found a man near Camp area who I couldn’t have doubted even with all my inquisitiveness. He was a bearded man, handicapped old fellow, who was having a difficult time dragging himself from one corner of Dorabjee’s to another on his not-so-convenient wooden trolley. He was speaking very impressive Hindi and looked pale to even drag a little distance. Then and there, I got that 10 rupee note out and gave it to the man. His eyes twinkled. My guilt trip was finally over!

Ruins of A Paperback

 

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They say things happen for a reason. And my reason to clean the storeroom today was as simple as finding my favorite pair of boots so that I could use them at least once before the summer starts! But…never had I thought that my part-time endeavor in the room full of futile items would lead me to a treasure of a lifetime. Yes, today I found a rare fortune that belonged to papa and now delightfully inherited by me. A copy of Stephen King’s 1979 World Fantasy Award nominee novel- The Stand! And more interestingly, it is the revised ‘complete and uncut’ 1990 edition of the horror book. For some, it might not be an overwhelming incident but for an old-school book lover like me, it’s a treasure. I am still living in that moment when very curiously I was walking towards this book, lying in the farthest corner of the storeroom, away from the shelf. Getting my hands on that precious antique was as memorable as wearing mom’s wedding saree for the first time!

Tell me, with the arrival of kindle, in future, will there be such days, when your grandkids are arranging their mom/dad’s stuff and they happened to bump into the yellowing pile of ‘something’ that has a weirdly tempting aroma? Precisely a hardcover or paperback book whose few pages are torn and cover is faded with brownish-yellow stains? I don’t thinks so. This ‘something’ will soon be called as primeval treasure that could be only found with people of your and my generation sothat our grandkids could see. Therefore, before completely surrendering to kindle for it being handy, cheaper and fashionable; make an effort to buy at least 2-3 ‘actual’ books every year, I beg.

Incidentally, the BookvsKindle debate will soon be going VegetarianVsNon-vegetarian way; hence let’s not get into that. We crave for history, we crave for proofs. When there are multiple editions been made of all sorts of holy books; then why their original volumes are guided behind safest of the doors? They are our treasures…they are the proofs of our existence and what we really were back in the time…in black and white. One can really tell what kind of a person you are by the type of books you read. So, quite selfishly, I want my grandchildren to find my collection of books and know me by my choice of the books. I want them solving the mystery of their granny with those novels and documents rather than judging her by other people’s opinions. Isn’t it fascinating? Today, going through my dad’s book-shelf I found few books which I had never seen him reading. Political, mystery, history and a bunch of other topics…I knew dad was an avid reader but I didn’t know he loved some serious horror stuff too! Now, I know why he made me see ‘Deep Blue Sea’ when I wasn’t even a teenager. He loved thrillers and now I know why I do too. I have found a new connection with him which I am going to cherish all through my life.

Imagine, if there was kindle in those days and had dad chosen to use one…..I would have remained deprived of my share of priceless family-treasure today.

Thanks, Stephen King. Now, I know why I love you..