Brotherhood Blogger Award

Thank you Neerja! 

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Neerja is like a mirror image of myself – her thoughts, expressions….And she is a terrific writer! Her latest memoir piece is just too brilliant!! BTW, Neerja, your Rakshabandhan piece was a perfect icing ……especially with the pics!!

She nominated me for the award. Thank you Neerja!

Here are the rules:
*
Thank and link back to the person who nominated you for the award.
*
List the Rules and Display the Brotherhood of the world Award logo to your post and/or blog.
* Answer the questions set to you.
*
Nominate around ten bloggers.(I am bending the rule by nominating only 5 😛 )
*
Create your set of questions for your nominees.

My Questions:

Q1: Are you romantic person? If yes, how do you express your love for your loved ones? I was supposed to be a romantic person but over years, I guess, I ‘ve taken my romanticism for granted! So the degree is lesser now! My transparency is a way to express my love. I am honest and transparent with people I love. That is my way of expression. There was a time I used to write loads and loads of letters but now I don’t need to… 🙂

Q2: Are you a foodie? If yes, what kind of food do you love most? Foodie…yes! Terribly foodie, pathetically foodie….Anything that spells F-O-O-D is welcome to my plate!

Q3: Do you apologies for your mistake with your closed ones? This I guess is a flaw in my character….My apology depends on my mood! I may be genuinely sorry for a silly thing and quite stubbornly unapologetic for something serious!!

Q4: Are you a good critic or bad critic? Though my emotions do get in way of my criticism, when it involves someone I am close to, I think overall I am a good critic. I critically analyze only when I feel it is worth. Otherwise, normally I keep quiet. I hate to hurt people or to dismiss completely.

Q5: How do you react to people who shower love on you despite of

not being close to you? I normally do not have words to react. I feel overwhelmed.Most of the people who have showered love on me unconditionally are the ones I’ve never met so I can relate very well with the question. I think that I distance and non-physicality of the entire process makes the love more precious. Once you see a person physically, the little physical flaws and defects take away the power of love!

Okay, so here are my nominees: 1) Mahua Banerjee   2) Hema Gusain

And my questions are:

  1. Which is one situation that makes you really angry?
  2. Given a choice, what would you be want to be reborn as?
  3. In your life’s journey who is the one who changed the course of your life?
  4. If you were asked to co-author a book with a famous writer, who would that be?
  5. Which is one movie you would love to recreate it your way?
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Mornings

drop-of-water-518191_1280I am not ashamed to admit that I am a lazy person! Especially when it comes to waking up in the mornings, I hate it as much as a bat would hate a morning stroll. But not everything in life comes as we want it, so it is by the trick of fate or a game of destiny I have a maid who comes at 5:30 am. Worse, my daughter’s school bus would insist on a 6:15 am arrival. The result? A groggy eyed me fiercely pressing my husband’s sleepy eyes at 4:45 am in the morning, mistaking it to be the alarm button. He would wake up murderously thinking a Taliban gauging out his eye balls and I would end up apologizing profusely.

But as time passed by I got used to the mornings. Infact I began to enjoy those moments. The quietness of the yet-to-be dawn mystically put to hold by the early morning Azaan. A lone cyclist pedaling his way to work for a morning shift, insisting on ringing his bell constantly. The night watchman winding up his duty for the day.

The just-crack of dawn – a small, single twit of a bird followed by another and then another and another….till it would be a cacophony of a thousand twitters.

In that profound quietness little ‘perfumes’ of morning would tickle past – the smell of fresh toast, fresh dew, blossomed flowers, wet doors….

When we were small, for many years we used to stay in Bangalore. But come holidays and we used to pack off our bags for Calcutta. The train would arrive at the wee morning hours. And then it was a long ride from station to home. As the yellow Taxi used to serpent along the roads of Calcutta, my brother and I used to pop our heads out to savour the mornings of Calcutta. And what an eclectic collage that would be! Serpentine grey smoke emanating from coal-ovens of the tea-stall owners; horses getting their morning practice run near the race-course; would-be Maradonas balancing their footballs in the lush green Maidan;  small disputes at the water-tap; smell of freshly fried Kachoris ; crow conferences on electric wires….. We used to particularly enjoy the plight of the reluctant school-goers – reveling in the fact that we did not have to suffer the same fate. And then there was a ‘pink-man’ at every nook and corner : a bathing man laden with pink lather from head to toe . Courtesy: A fiercely red ‘Lifebuoy’ soap!

As our Taxi would enter our neighbourhood our hearts would pound faster….smiling faces waving at us, old friends running behind our Taxi, containers of tamarind sweets beckoning at us from familiar shop counters….

And then my grandmother, just mid-way to our home…adjusting her specs to be double sure if it was really us! She would finally be convinced when our Taxi would screech to a halt next to her.

“ Here they come, here they come”, she would scream in delight; prompting my grandfather to rush to the big picture of Jesus in the front room. “Praise the Lord”, he would whisper quietly.

By then cousins, neighbours, other grand-parents would huddle around, welcoming us home. Aroma of fresh smell of home-made tea would tell us we are finally back home!

My mornings now are so very different. Only a few moments of solitude and after that it is rush hour!  I have no where to go, no where to return from. No grandma would be waiting near the gate.

“Good Morning baby!”, I whisper as I try to wake up my sleeping child.

The clock winks back. Ready, steady……

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

The God of Sunshine

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1

“ Is THIS what I have to undergo in the name of vacation ? ”, Anu almost let out a scream.

“ But it was you who wanted a different kind of holiday…..hitchhiking and all that”, I chuckled.

“ Yes, I did…but to take the most difficult of all routes and traveling through God forsaken places like this is just too much…”.

She just wouldn’t be pacified. And there was no reason why she shouldn’t be angry. It was hardly a few seconds of stoppage at this hardly-visible-in-the–map station and there were more than twenty people trying to squeeze out through one single rickety door of our train coach. We didn’t have to ‘get down,’ we were forcefully vomited out of the train by the ‘force of the masses’. And as if to prove that mishaps were a part of our baggage, the first step that Anu placed was on a banana peel – carefully patterned like a wild-flower-in-bloom on the platform floor. And it was with sheer luck that her anti-gravity motion was arrested midway by many rustic hands, which were only too eager to help a ‘memsahib from the city’! She had no option other than to mutter a small, “Thanks, I am okay” , to avoid being the center-piece in this dingy but hardly-there rural railway station.

“ And now where ? “, my wife demanded to know.

“ There should be a bus-stand somewhere near…if we get a bus to the nearby city…”, I trailed off, trying to look for the way to the bus-stand. But all my eyes could see were women with their oily hair and coarse silver ornaments, men with black pigs and ill-fed goats, women selling corn-cobs and a lonely tea-stall.

As I tried to look further away, trying to discover the bus-stand or atleast an auto-stand I realized it had suddenly become too dark for a summer-evening. I chanced to look up into the sky – it was hazy-grey in colour and the sun was already hiding behind a thick veil of a dark clouds. My instinct told me that an unruly storm and rain was on its way. The tall trees lacing the station premises were already swaying quite violently. I turned to look at Anu. She looked pale.

“ Storm ?” she barely managed to whisper her question.

I knew she was anxious. There seemed a sudden increase in movement around us. Women sellers were winding up their wares, men were taking hurried steps to the nearby shelter – almost dragging their unwilling pets along and unruly children were being pushed to a secure place by their mothers. By then blobs of water had begun to fall from above – in slow rhythmic pattern. I searched desperately for that one nook which can shelter us for the time being. It was then that I discovered him. He was making his way out of the station, holding the hand of a boy of around thirteen-fourteen.

In all the mad frenzy that was happening around us he would have gone unnoticed- had it not been for his strange looks – his copper coloured hair and pale brown eyes. Amidst the browns and muted blacks he was definitely an odd one!

“Nalo?”, I questioned myself, bewildered…He was a few feet away from me and I could now see him quite clearly. Yes, ofcourse he WAS Nalo.

“ Nalo”, I screamed out loud. “Naaaloooooo”, I screamed out again – this time louder.

He heard my voice – at least I thought so – for he turned around to look at me. He looked straight into my eyes. I waved at him. He stared blankly at me and then turned back and walked away. As the rain drops entrapped me with their incessant fall I felt dejected, hurt and angry. Just how could he ignore me like that ? Just because…….

2

The first time we saw Nalo was amidst a shrub in the garden of our ancestral home. It was the first time and the last time we were visiting our ancestral house. Father was getting a transfer to Sri Lanka and in a sudden surge of ‘high-voltage’ emotion for his ‘own people’ and ‘country men’ he decided that we must pay a visit to his village.

“Not more than five days”, my mother told us – me and my brother Rohit.

It was more like convincing herself than us, for we were looking forward to see the ‘land-lordish mansion’ and ‘weapons belonging to the pre-British era’ – things that were often repeated by father. It was only when we landed there did we discover that the ancestral house more resembled an ill-assembled cake, broken and damaged at every corner, than a mansion and that the weapons included a rusted knife with a silver handle and a rifle whose only remains was a longish metal pipe.

So within an hour of reaching there and after a sumptuous meal when Rohit and I were already feeling the pangs of boredom set in, one of our uncles decided to take us on a guided tour of the family garden which looked more like an abandoned battle-field than a garden. It was there that we discovered Nalo. His pale brown eyes staring from behind the bush almost threw us off. In the fading light his copper hair looked frightening.

“Don’t worry. That’s Nalo”, our uncle introduced us.

He turned to look at father and whispered, “Remember Rani ? Batuk’s sister ? That girl who ran away with a guy from Uttar Pradesh? He is Rani’s son. Rani and her husband both died –leaving Nalo alone. He now stays with Batuk….”.

Father nodded his head and said, “Ah, so he is Rani’s son? But how come he has such a strange look?”.

“ One of his forefathers must have been some lonely visitor from Spain – may be…”, our uncle replied in a hushed tone and a mischievous grin. Father looked embarrassed.

But that was how we came to know about Nalo. And for the next few days he became an integral part of our lives. He was timid, would hardly speak but had strange tricks and games up his sleeve. He would take a small stick and retrieve a struggling insect from the spider’s web with utmost care so as to save the insect and not damage the spider’s web at the same time. He took us to his secret chamber – a dilapidated room of an abandoned school building. There he introduced us to his strange pets. There was a glass-jar with a piece of cloth tied to its mouth.- a roving, fat, green caterpillar devoured lime leaves within it.

“Another two days and then she will stop eating leaves and then turn into a brown pupa. And a few days after that a beautiful butterfly will come out – black with white and yellow spots”, he explained.

There was an old squirrel whose hind legs were badly damaged and had no option other than to stay in a broken cage built by Nalo and nibble on the fruits and nuts that he would bring along. There was also a hole in a corner of the room– a deep hole that he claimed to be his pet rat’s den! We did not believe that part of the story and neither got a proof of it for the next few days.

He was the one who got for us everything that was forbidden and warned against – berry pickles, tamarind paste with salt and chilly powder, rejected, worm-infested potatoes roasted in open fire…He would tuck the items under his loose shirt and keep the supply line on. His innocent face hardly gave away the secret of our reluctance to eat during the lunch time!

On the third day we decided to go to a fair in the adjoining village. Three of us had barely crossed the limits of our village when dark clouds hovered precariously over us. Within seconds it began to rain mercilessly. Three of us huddled under an old Banyan tree, watching the wrath of nature unleash.

“Uh, this looks horrible….What if it keeps pouring like this for many hours and we are stranded here?”, I was afraid.

“No problem….our uncle will come by a boat and rescue us”, Rohit chuckled. He was always the more daring among the two of us.

Nalo looked up to the sky and said, “ Don’t worry…this rain will stop in another two minutes…I can see the God of Sunshine take out his bow and arrow…he will destroy the black clouds…”.

God of Sunshine ? Rohit and I were bewildered….Nowhere in the near vicinity was any mortal soul, leave alone a God with his bow and arrow!

“ Ah,there, there he is…” , Nalo pointed out to a series of white clouds, playing hide-n-seek with the black rain clouds. Young that we were, we too tried to visualize the outlines of an imaginary God in the restless mass of clouds.

“Do you see him?”, he asked. “Uh..well…yes..why not….I can see him…strong arms, broad shoulders..”, I let my imagination run wild.

“Me too”, Rohit joined me. “ I can see his crown too”, my brother added more fuel to my imagination.

“ And now, within a few minutes, there would be sunlight”, Nalo said, almost in a trance.

I am still not sure how it happened but it did. Within minutes the rain stopped and a reluctant sun began to peep from behind the clouds. Rohit and I clapped in joy.

“And there you see his bow”, Nalo’s finger pointed to the horizon. The visual that appeared has been the most lasting picture of my hometown ever. In the distant horizon appeared a rainbow – a bright seven-colored one. The tall palm trees, the thatched houses faraway stood as a dark silhouette against the brightness of the rainbow. It was a visual treat I couldn’t forget in a long time!

The five days of fun and Nalo would have remained etched in our memory forever had it not been for the penultimate day when the disaster happened. We were sitting near the pond. Nalo was sitting with a can of wriggling worms, of which he was trying to hook one to the fishing rod. I was almost half-dead at the sight while he was doing his duty with alarming calmness. Just near the edges was an almost-uprooted palm tree which had bent towards the pond – so much so that it resembled a wooden pole.

Rohit was trying to walk atop the horizontal trunk, maintaining his balance at the same time. I was about to warn him about a probable accident when he actually slipped and fell into the deep waters below. Ploop! It was just a small sound but to me it sounded like a death knell. He didn’t know how to swim, neither did I! Both Nalo and I took a few seconds to realize what had happened; then panic took over me.

“ Nalo, jump…jump Nalo…save him”, I screamed my lungs out. Nalo simply stared wide-eyed at the pond. I had seen him swim earlier and I knew he was a good swimmer so I kept on coaxing him to jump into the pond but he just wouldn’t budge. As he stood there, dazed, I frantically tried to locate my brother in the pond. At one point I saw him struggling and at the other moment everything went silent – there was no sign of him.

I ran, ran and ran with all my energy and came back with my uncle, father and many more known and unknown faces. Nalo was still standing there – immobile. As my uncles and others retrieved the senseless body of Rohit I turned to look at Nalo. Holding him by his collars I slapped him hard.

“ Why didn’t you ? Why, why, why ?” . I shook him violently but he wouldn’t answer.

“Coward mouse! If something happens to my brother I will kill you”, I screamed at him. He remained silent. He simply stared at the waters.

We had to cut short our visit. Rohit was taken to the city hospital where he recovered in two days. But we never returned, nor talked about our ancestral village. We never met Nalo again!

3

“Imagine, he has kept the fire of revenge burning for so long!”, I nursed my ego.

“May be he was not Nalo afterall”, Anu tried to reason.

“Ofcourse he was”.

“ Perhaps he didn’t recognize you…that is more possible you see. You were hardly fourteen then…you are twenty nine now”, she laughed out loud.

“He did. I am sure he did. I even called out his name. I waved at him. He looked at me but simply did not acknowledge my presence”. I was in no mood to buy her argument.

“Are you by any chance talking about Nalini Master?”, a voice croaked from behind. I looked around, trying to discover the owner of the voice. Rain had almost stopped and there were two or three more people, apart from both of us, taking refuge in the tea-stall. A face with stained teeth smiling at us convinced me that he was indeed the speaker. The tea stall owner!

“ Nalini Master…is he the one you are talking about ? That man with copper hair? Someone long back had told me that his pet name was Nalo”, he repeated his question.

Obviously he was overhearing us all this while! Nalini ? I tried to rummage through my box of memories. Oh yes, indeed, Nalo’s good name was definitely Nalini ..…Nalini Kumar something…..a surname I just could not recall. Infact we had made fun of his girlish name!

I ordered two glasses of tea. The tea stall owner passed our glasses from his seat. With a blackish tinge and with droplets of leftover raindrops falling in it, it hardly looked inviting but I knew that that was the only way by which I could extract more information from the tea stall owner. He understood my cue.

“He is very popular here…people worship him like God”, he smiled.

“Why?” , Anu too became curious by now.

With an added member to the audience he was definitely delighted. He left his seat and came and stood near us.

“ Nalini Master came to our village as a teacher in the high school about five years back. Those days no master coming from outside the village would stay beyond a month or so”. He took a pause, looked around and then added in a lower tone, “You must be wondering why….I am sure you would be able to recall that these areas were once strongly under the influence of terrorists. They would just drop in at the school and take away young boys for training – to be terrorists. No one could object. If any one dared to protest…..”, he trailed off, leaving the unsaid words to our imagination.

“Yes, yes…all the masters from outside used to wind up within a month. No boys or girls could ever pass the secondary exams those days..”, an unknown voice spoke. One among the customers had already helped himself into our group discussion. The tea stall owner gave an annoyed look to his customer and continued with the rest of his story.

“ But little did anyone know that the timid-looking, soft-spoken Nalini Master had so much fire in his belly. As he taught the boys, he also told them about the need to be strong and resist all that is wrong. Like every other time the terrorists went to the school again. All the other masters ran away but it was our brave Nalini Master who locked all the bigger children inside a class-room and stood rock-solid near the main door. Don’t know the exact details but the terrorists went away empty handed….That was not all….he took the matter up to the highest level in the government. Security forces were deployed in the area….many arrangements were made…Young boys began resisting the lure and fear of joining the terrorists…Lot of development has happened in the last few years and everything has happened because of Nalini Master”.

“ But all this came with a cost”, the unwanted customer spoke yet again. “ The terrorists exploded a powerful bomb outside the school gate before leaving….poor Nalini Master bore the brunt. The impact so powerful that he nearly lost his vision and hearing. He can barely see or hear now…only when you are very, very close he can see or hear you…that is why he always goes around with the support of his students.”, he concluded.

“ But that has not stopped him from carrying on with his good work…Don’t know about his parents…someone told me that long ago, when Master was very young, they both had died…It seems they were all traveling by a boat to some temple when the boat capsized and his parents drowned in front of his eyes…thankfully some one managed to save him…Today if they had been alive they would have been so proud of their son!…He is such a brave man! ”, the tea-stall owner finished his saga. His eyes had already welled up. Then, as if on an afterthought he added, “ Sir, Iam sure he didn’t see you…or even hear you either….you really need to be very, very close to him….He must have looked at you just as an instinct…”.

I didn’t want to hear any further, I didn’t want to meet his eyes either. I didn’t want him or Anu to see my tears. I looked farther away – where the vast fields met the sky. Rain had stopped altogether and white clouds were over-powering the black ones….the sun was peeping from behind the clouds. Amidst the tufts of white clouds I could clearly figure out the outlines of a God with his bow and arrow – the God of Sunshine. Only this time he resembled very much like Nalo!

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

A Girl named Disaster

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Interlude

“ Many, many happy returns of the day Ma!”, Meera squeaked in delight.

“ Yes, from me too!”, Manish echoed his sister.

“ Look Ma, this one is specially for you”. Meera pointed to the three-layered chocolate cake that she was delicately holding in her hands. It was a rich, dark chocolate cake. A pink candle, placed atop the cake effused a light orange glow. A faint perfume of lavender floated about the room. A scented candle perhaps!

“ I too contributed “, shouted Manish. I laughed. This was one habit he wouldn’t give up! He just would never let his elder sibling take away the crown of glory!

“Yes, they both contributed equally”. Their father tried to settle for a truce.

“Aah….just too divine”, I couldn’t help remarking. The cake was certainly beautiful. The number ‘40’ highlighted with white butter-cream frosting was standing out against the rich, brown background – bittersweet reminder of the number of springs I had seen! I didn’t let my sigh overpower their enthusiasm. Instead I reached out for the cake. Meera slided the cake gently into my hand. The tri-layered beauty wobbled a bit. I readjusted my fingers. Then there was a soft sound – plunk! And plunk it was…..Four pairs of wide eyes stared in disbelief at the mass of brown chunks strewn all over the floor!

Prelude: Act 1

Chini was my pet name. My better name or the one that was used in school was very thoughtfully given by my grandmother – Rajnandini. My friends shortened it to Raju. But there was yet another name which no one called me by but everyone knew. That name was ‘Disaster’.

My tryst with disaster perhaps began even much before I was hurled like a hot potato to this earth by an unlucky angel. I am sure, infact I am quite confident that while announcing my departure from the paradise to this earth the poor one might have surely broken a string or two of his melodious harp, if not ended up with torn wings!

I don’t exactly know about the sufferings of the celestial souls but the mortal beings certainly did. And the first victim of my disastrous arrival was Dr. Gautam. He was the one who delivered me. Being my father’s friend, he was certainly excited beyond his professional limits at my arrival.

“Congratulations buddy! It is a beautiful niece for me!”, he had excitedly told my anxious father. My father had jumped in joy, for he always wanted a daughter.

“ Then you deserve not just a box full of sweets but a good treat from me”, my father had assured him.

“I would have certainly indulged but there is an urgent need from the Head Office”.

“Head Office ?”

“ Yes Sir…your Bhabhi wants me home right now. Her sister’s marriage is going to be held tomorrow. A doctor husband is always a troublesome deal. So I have to make-up for my absence on all these days of preparation”. It seems he had barely finished winking at my dad and wiping his hands and had just placed his foot on the staircase when he had -THE FALL! The staircase was absolutely dry and his blood pressure was absolutely normal but yet there was that fall.

A hip-joint operation and four months later he could finally report back to his Head Office!

As a child I was never aware of the incident but I did sense that something was wrong because Dr.Gautam’s wife used to avoid me like burning coal whenever she happened to cross paths with me!

But this was just the beginning. As I began to grow up ,disaster and myself became like Siamese twins – inseparable! Small incidents, little happenings ended with disastrous results whenever I was the protagonist.

My aunt from village, the local shopkeeper, my tution teacher, my neighbor’s maid-servant had all been victims of my disastrous company. But the saddest event perhaps was the one associated with my teenage cousin from France. She had come visiting us during the summer holidays that year. That day all of us had gone to attend the science fair. There, one by one, we perched on the Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel had barely made a semi-circle and we had glided smoothly to the top when there was a sudden jerk and a stop! The Ferris Wheel just wouldn’t budge….And obviously at the top-most cubicle was seated, who else but I, with my panic-stricken cousin. “Oh puhlease….puth me dhown…”, she howled at the top of her voice. No amount of coaxing from me or onlookers could calm her down. From threatening to jump from there to biting my fingers red, she did everything she could in those fifteen minutes. Finally when we were brought down she had turned from tomato red to pale pink and had fainted. They never came back to India again!

Prelude: Act 2

My game of chess with disaster continued to my college days too. Don’t know why but I was never allowed to go for excursions by my family. But the stories and experiences my classmates shared after-on were so exciting that during my second year I had made up my mind to go for the excursion. Lot of cajoling and coaxing later I was finally allowed to travel.

The excursion began with a near-miss train accident, followed by a total-miss of the last bus to our destination and finally a night halt at a road-side hotel that had a single toilet for forty-five of us. The only food that the hotel could offer was a piece of bread each with a boiled egg. Almost all of us discovered the tinge of blue, velvet-like texture at the edge of our breads but were too hungry to protest. And as an obvious after-math, the excursion ended with a series of food poisoning cases.

The next year I opted not to go. My classmates were visibly relieved !

Prelude: Act 3

I was of the impression that my free-fall would continue only till my adolescence and then Mother Destiny would be kind enough to lift me up. But that was not to be! I got the first proof of it when I began dating a young man who had as dissimilar background to mine as possibly could be. One of the prime one being the issue of vegetarianism – while we were voracious fish and meat eaters, his mother would not even hear of anything remotely non-vegetarian.

So to impress my would-be mother-in-law I decided on a day-out with her. Just as my luck would have it there was a last minute call from my lover.

“Sweetheart, I might just be a teeny-weeny bit late….Mom will be waiting near the staircase of the Silk House. Just pick her up and I’ll join you soon…very soon, I promise”. So with my heart going audibly lub-dub I made my way to the Silk House, though I really couldn’t fathom why she would stand right in front of the shop when there was no plan to buy sarees. Or was there one ? I didn’t know…

I met her, hailed an auto and headed straight to an eatery I had known. “Narayana Eating House” was a well-known vegetarian joint, serving authentic vegetarian items like Dhokla, Masala Dosa, Uttapams. I knew she was fond of Masala Dosas and this was the only way I could think of, to put myself in her good books.

“Aunty, they make such yummy food..you will just love eating those!”, I tried to break the ice during my trip but she wouldn’t smile.

At the destination I volunteered to pay for the auto while I asked her to get inside the joint as the crowd would normally grow bigger in the evenings.

I paid the driver and turned my head – only to look her face – pale and ashen. I couldn’t understand what was wrong till my eyes fell on the sign-board outside the eatery. Instead of “Narayana Eating House” the board read “Chicken Chomp Chomp”. “ The only restaurant in town that serves authentic chicken dishes”, it proudly proclaimed with the picture of a hen with a chef’s hat beckoning the customers (To eat it!) !!

Just ten days ago “Narayana Eating House” was doing a roaring business. How was I to know……

I was embarrassed like never before and tried to mumble my apologies but she gave me a ‘curse-you’ look and took a return auto back home -all alone!

Prelude: Act 4

That I still got to marry the man I loved must have been a blessing for any good deed that I may have done in my last birth. But it was a fact that I was getting married to him. But it was, of course ,not free of riders.

“Early morning at 7:00 am sharp is the muhurtham”, my to-be father-in-law had announced to the utter horror of my elderly relatives who could only think of a monkey-cap donned morning walk at those wee hours.

“But Mr.Shubhramanyam, most of our relatives are aged….would they be able to make it ?”, my grand-uncle had dared to wonder aloud.

“Not all people need to come for the muhurtham….you all take your time….the bride, her father, her brother, her mama, a few ladies and some friends or cousins would be enough. You all can report for the breakfast at 8:30 am”, my father-in-law suggested helpfully.

This seemed an acceptable proposal, though my youngish grand-uncle didn’t take kindly to the fact that he was being bracketed with the ‘breakfast -only’ relatives!

So early morning it was when I reported for my wedding. To add to the serenity of the event my father-in-law had even organised a terrace ceremony for the muhurtham atop the fifth floor, followed by a roof-top breakfast arrangement.

Contrary to my fear, my ceremony was a smooth-sailing one except that my husband had to readjust his dhoti now and then to avoid appearing like a superman with a sarong! I was almost beginning to thank God when a commotion confirmed my worst fears. A handful of elderly relatives from my side arrived huffing and puffing , with most of them barely able to stand up straight. My mother’s aunt from Ahmedabad was in near tears. “Five floors up the stairs with two legs that are ready for knee-replacement….God, why did I give in to the breakfast plan!”, she sobbed.

“By the stairs ? Why , they do have a lift…..”, my father sounded perplexed.

“Do you think we are morons or are we doing a stress-test that we would climb up the stairs leaving the lift aside ?”, my father’s elder brother thundered.

“ The lift is not working anymore…the lift has gone out of order since your daughter came up”, my uncle added mockingly.

“And the rest ?”, my father queried.

“Look down”.

We all looked down from above only to see scores of silk-saree and dhoti-clad entities standing on the road and looking at us – as if staring heavenwards for their share of manna!

The final sign-off for the morning was done by my father’s uncle who had managed to crawl up the stairs by then. Unaware of the earlier treaty, he looked straight into the eyes of my father-in-law and thundered, “Which r**cal had planned this roof-top wedding? Let me catch hold of him….I would simply squeeze his neck!”.

Thankfully the reception was organised in the ground-floor and to my surprise the evening glided smoothly into the gala night. The dress fitted like a dream, the rings for exchange did not go missing, all the guests arrived on time and even the music system played on perfectly. I finally heaved a sigh of relief when at last the first batch of invitees had finished their sampling and molecular dissection of the wedding feast and were finally leaving. Their good-byes and farewell good-luck wishes confirmed to me that the omen was finally coming to an end.

As a mark of celebration I was about to sip a glass of cola when there was a sudden buzz – as if a swarm of bees were let lose. To our utter bewilderment , the big gang of guests who had just bid farewell were rushing in through the entrance, their eyes reflecting utter horror. And not just them – a mother with a wailing child, a vegetable-vendor, two shoppers with their hand full of shopping-bags, a lame beggar – all parceled in along with them. A mad frenzy ensued and all of them were too keen to close the main entrance to the hall. Only after their panic had subsided were they able to give the reason for their re-arrival – a mad dog on a biting spree was creating havoc in the area. It had already successfully sent four people to the nearby hospital and was on the lookout for more victims. Night had already dawned and inspite of informing the municipality ,there was no sight of the dog-catchers as yet. Gone was the excitement of the night; the music had stopped playing; trays of food lay without being touched. The guests and servers alike were all glued to the windows -watching the ‘ adventure of the mad dog’. The only sound emanating from the hall every now and then was a cry in unison-‘There, there…there it goes” or “Aah….missed it again” – almost as if a football match was being played outside.

When the dog-catchers had finally managed to bundle it away, it was late in the night – too late for many of the guests to leave for far away destination. They were very helpfully led by my father to the few rooms we had booked, including the one where we were to have our first night , to catch up with a wink or two. They were only too glad to enjoy the extended hospitality while my husband and I had to sit in the hall along with hordes of cousins, friends and other close relatives. The rest of the night was spent in the company of forced entertainment in the form of out-of-tune songs, outrageously vulgar jokes and ill-digested burps.

Amidst all this I noticed the stony silence of my mother-in-law- she looked grim and cold. But with my extra-sensory vision I could actually detect the fumes emitting from her nostrils and I could almost read her mind. I knew she was already cursing her fate having invited disaster to her door step!

But what she didn’t say was finally voiced by my aunt from Singapore. She gave a thunderous pat on my father’s back and said, “You still have to thank God Ajayda – that it was afterall a mad dog and not a mad bull. With Chini being the bride we couldn’t have possibly settled for anything lesser! I was infact anticipating a Tsunami or an earthquake!”.

Grand-Finale

I stared at the brownish mass which Meera had helpfully scooped up and rearranged for me. Instead of a chocolate cake it now looked like an over-cooked Tirunelveli Halwa! I couldn’t help myself and began to sob like a child.

“I am always a mess Vishnu….I am a born disaster”. I placed my head on my husband’s shoulder and wept bitterly. He wiped my tears, hugged me tight and said, “ Why don’t you see it the other way round Chini ? Why don’t you look at your life to be blessed with so many happenings – not all very happy but colorfully eventful nevertheless”.

My daughter popped in a piece of the once-upon-a-time cake in my mouth and gave me a beautiful kiss. “It is a fact Ma – that inspite of everything, you are still loved and adored by all”.

Not willing to be left behind, Manish too embraced me and said, “ And just think of it Ma, when you grow old you don’t have to spin imaginary stories for your grand-children, you can tell them events from your own life and make them laugh”.

I smiled at them and kissed them in return. Really, in all these forty years, in my eagerness to find out the disasters of my life I had overlooked the little joys that were also bundled along. I only saw the incessant rains but missed the rainbow after that.

But finally at that moment I felt a sense of contentment – contentment of having at last shed the guilt of being the one named disaster!

__END__

Originally published at: yourstoryclub.com

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Aakhiri Note-1

One of the best Hindi Short Stories I’ve read in a long, long time….by my darling sis’…please do read!

Anonymous me

कहने को तो वो जुलाई की भरी दोपहरी थी पर अंधेरा इतना था की हाथ को हाथ न सूझे। ४८ घंटे से हो रही मूसलाधार बारिश ने चारों ओर स्याह रंग की परत चढ़ा रखी थी। बादलो की गरज और बिजली की चमक ,वर्षा के “टैप-डाँस ” से ताल से ताल मिला के अद्भुत समां बांध रही थी, शायद तीनों की कोई प्रतियोगिता प्रवर्तमान थी । तीनो में से कोई भी पराजय स्वीकार करने को तैयार नही था। जगह-जगह सड़कों पे पानी से भर आये गढ्ढों ने छोटे -छोटे तालाबो को जन्म दे दिया था।

बबलू के बाबूजी आज तीसरे दिन भी काम पे न जा पाये थे। घर पे अन्न का दाना भी न था। बबलू की माँ ने अपनी छोटी कोठरी का कोना कोना छान मारा ,आखिर में कपड़ों की तह के नीचे पड़ा मिला ये आखिरी दस का नोट।

“एक डबल रोटी ले आ और देख, पाणी…

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Aakhiri Note -2

If you like Hindi short stories that pull your heart-string, please do read this….one of the best ones I’ve read in a long time!

Anonymous me

“एक ,दो,तीन.…………सात,आठ। ” मन ही मन बबलू ने टेबल की गिनती की।

बारिश थम चुकी थी किन्तु गीली मिट्टी की सौंधी सुगंध अभी भी हवा में रची बसी थी। बबलू और सरजू मेंगाराम के रेस्त्रां के एक कोने में अपनी उपस्थिति लगाये खड़े थे। तय हुआ की चार टेबल बबलू साफ करेगा और चार सरजू।

“दो रुपये के हिसाब से हुए सोलह रुपये, ” बबलू ने मन ही मन हिसाब लगाया , “……………माने की आठ सरजू के और आठ मेरे। दो रुपये फिर भी कम हैं। ”

चिंता की लकीरो ने नन्हे माथे पे डेरा डाल दिया। बाकी के दो रुपये कहा से लायेगा। जब ईश्वर मुसीबत देता है तो हल निकालने के लिए  बुद्धी भी दे देता है। मन ही मन समाधान निकाला की दो रुपये सरजू से उधार ले लेगा।  क्या दो रुपये भी न दे सकेगा , आख़िर दोस्त है मेरा। शायद ही आज से पहले सरजू को देख कर…

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The Liebster Award

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Wow! Thanks Neerja https://ametalk.wordpress.com .This Award is so special because it comes from you! Neerja is my first stranger-buddy and there are too many things common between us! And I am sure we’ll discover more….She is a superb human being and a powerful blogger as well!!

So here are my answers buddy:

  1. What is your favorite read so far and why? Very Girlie choices but I choose these books ‘coz these were the ones which helped me grow from a girl to a woman: Little Women and Pride and Prejudice
  2. What kind off a person you are sweet or sour or mix up of both? I am that sauce that can change the variant according to the dish being added to 😉 So I can be fiercely source or teeth-jittery sweet: the choice is yours.
  3. What is your favorite food?FOOD is my favourite food…I mean anything, everything and whatever…My tongue is ever ready to experiment and my soul is forever ready to accept. But held at a gun-point and asked, I would choose a bowl of ice-cream – make that large please!
  4. Are you a night owl or an early cuckoo? I am a night-owl forced to be an early cuckoo….Late night glue-in to the TV set and yet I have to respond to the alarm to let in an irritated maid at 5:20 am every morning. Result: Panda Eyes!!
  5. Which genre you like to read most and why? Any genre that tickles my humour genes!! I hate sob stories!
  6. What’s according to you is your prized possession? My mother!
  7. Do you believe in love at first sight? If yes then why and if no, then why? I have no option but to believe! I am a victim of one such strange circumstance, married to that same stranger and yet to decode the factor that binds two hopelessly opposite poles! (yeah, yeah..I know…the magnet theory!!)
  8. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Extrovert with those whom I am close with. Introvert to the rest of the world.
  9. Have you ever cried in public? If yes can you state the incident?(if its personal and you don’t want to share then its ok). Every movie-goer who have had the misfortune of sharing the same hall-timing with me have definitely witnessed my red nose and spongy eyes!
  10. When was the last time you laughed so hard that you rolled on the floor? And why? Considering my pretty big self, rolling on the floor is tough but my kids are blessed with a good sense of humour that makes me laugh so hard quite often. And they use this trick pretty often as a cushion against anything naughty that they do!
  11. Have you ever been made fool? When and by whom? Yes! By God himself. He has given me a bunch of keys and a wrong lock….so that my trial and error game continues forever!!

Okay, here are my nominees (too less as I only know that many!):

  1. Srinath TK https://srinathkrishnamoorthy.wordpress.com
  2. Sindhuja https://picturesquereflections.wordpress.com
  3. Upen Reddy https://voiceurmind.wordpress.com
  4. PSV 411 https://openunated.wordpress.com
  5. Mahua https://mahuabanerjee.wordpress.com

Guys, if you’ve already been nominated earlier by some one else, just ignore this nomination!

The rules are simple:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator.
  3. Create eleven questions to the nominees.

And my questions are:

  1. What is one outstanding quality that sets you apart from others?
  2. Which is that one achievement of yours that you would like to remember forever?
  3. Which has been the happiest moment of your life?
  4. One person with whom you would love to share a Vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce (drooling!)…okay, obsession apart, can also be a hot cup of coffee?
  5. One thing you wish didn’t exist in this world?
  6. Which is that one mad scientist with whom you would go on a cruise? And why?
  7. Which quality of yours you wouldn’t want to change for a dime?
  8. One wrong notion that people around you, have about you.
  9. Given a choice to carry just two things in the Noah’s ark, which two things would you choose? (Remember, it is THINGS….not people…your entire family with grand pappas and aunts and neighbours are already inside the ark!)
  10. Which is one ice-cream (not again!) flavour that your would love to invent?
  11. Which is one perfume that you would love to invent?

Beyond…..

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1

“Quiet children! Please, please walk in twos….”. Mrs.Nair tried to discipline the group of middle school students that she was leading.
“Excursions are a big pain in the….”. Mrs.Dev whispered into her ears, careful not to let the words reach the rabbit-eared among the lot of children.
Mrs.Nair couldn’t agree more but as a senior teacher she had no other option but to pretend deaf.
The road was rough, stony and wore a dusty look. No palace or even a hut was visible in the vicinity. Is the tour-guide taking the right way? Mrs. Nair began to wonder. She was about to speak up when the tour guide stopped in front of a tree – a banyan tree that didn’t look too old enough to be of historical importance or even a scientific marvel.
“ And this is a place where no tour guide of Muzaffargarh would ever bring you to!” The aged guide gave a seasoned pause. His modulation held such a promise that the noisy bunch of children were hushed into silence that very moment.
“Do you see this ?” He pointed to a near-obsecure, corner not very far away from the tree.
Spheres of various heads huddled to look down at the ‘precious spot’.
Amidst the dusty, red soil and a small heap of neatly arranged stones was a trident and crescent – both crudely welded in iron rods. With their base covered with dried remains of marigold and tube roses they offered a strange visual that could hardly be of any importance to school children on a study tour.
Mrs.Nair adjusted her specs and bent forward for a close inspection.
“And what is this supposed to be Mr.Ali?”
Ullu Banaoing!”. Someone giggled near her ears. She chose not to look that way.
The guide cleared his throat. “ This, my dear children , is a symbol of eternal friendship – of Haider and Kanu. No history book, no story book on our independence will ever have their names written in them but even today in the alleys of Muzaffargarh you will hear the saga of their friendship. And today I will tell you their story”.

2

“Haider….Haider are you here ?” . Kanu called out as loud as possible. He could hear his own heartbeat. Given a choice he would avoid the mango orchard of the Chaubeys anyday. The eerie play of light and shadow amidst the dense mango leaves were too frightening for him to overpower his lust for ripe mangoes. But Haider was different – he was fearless and physically strong at the same time.
“Haider yaar…please come out na !” , he pleaded, his eyes hovering from branch to branch, from tree to tree.
“Did you bring?”, a voice spoke from amidst the foliage. Kanu smiled to himself. Thank God !He held out his open palm. There, within the soft cup of his pink flesh a flattened milk sweet waited to be eaten. The sweat of the palm had already made it soggy and sticky. A loud thud and a quick swipe later it was gone with the speed of lightning into the mouth where it should be.
“ As soon as Babuji finished offering bhog to Kanhaiyaji I brought it for you Haider”, Kanu announced proudly.
“Hmm”
“And he did not even suspect that the sweet was gone”.
“Hmm”.
Kanu grew impatient. He had expected at least a pat from his best friend.
The sweet having traveled down his throat, Haider bent down and clutched the edge of Kanu’s dhoti.
“Nooooo yaar….this is a fresh one….mother had just washed it yesterday”, Kanu protested.
Nevertheless Haider nonchalantly used the edge of the dhoti to wipe his fingers and face. Then as if on an after-thought of compassion he took out a half-eaten mango from his pocket and placed it on Kanu’s palm. This gave immense satisfaction to Kanu. Like a true devotee of his hero he clutched his prized possession and smiled from ear to ear.
Then suddenly he remembered the real purpose of his visit.
“ Haider yaar, they are having a big meeting in your house – the entire mohalla is there!”
“ And Nanujaan ?”
“ He is the one who has called the meeting….they are planning some celebration!”
“Celebration?”. Haider’s eyes twinkled at the thought of celebration. He clutched Kanu’s arm and made his way amidst the wild array of mango trees without bothering to collect his booty that he had hidden in one of the tree holes.

3

There at the courtyard there were a lot of them – many people and many emotions – Badri Chacha, Osman Chacha, Manikram – the postman, Salauddin- the shopkeeper who soldmeetha golis, Poorna Chachi….
Haider revolved his gaze from face to face, trying to gauge the reason for the occasion. Eid was long gone and Diwali was still far away! But all he could hear were discussions.

“Do you really think it will happen tonight ?”
“ Yes, tonight it is. They even consulted the astrologers – either midnight or not. The rest of the days are not auspicious at all”.
“ Is the situation auspicious anyway? Tension is hovering everywhere….”
“ You all can never think positively! Atleast, at last we are getting what we deserve”.

Haider grew impatient. When will they talk about celebration? He ran down to his grandfather seated on the grand-chair, Kanu in tow.
“ Nanujaan, what is it they are talking about ? What will happen at midnight? Will there be a celebration of some sort tomorrow?”
Ahmed Ali pulled his grandson to himself and made him sit on his lap. He was immensely fond of the orphan lad and often over pampered him.
“ So many questions you have my love! Yes, tomorrow is a special day for us – for all of us! It will be a new morning, a new sunrise”.
“ And what will happen to the old sun ?”
Ahmed Ali laughed out loudly, so did the crowd. This did not amuse Haider one bit.
He looked angrily at his grandfather. His grandfather smiled at him in return.
“Well, the English will take back the old sun with them!”
“And who will put up the new sun then? Bapuji ?”
“ Well, not just Bapuji but all those who have fought hard to build the new sun”.
“ And when the English go will they take away Father Gordon with them ?”
Heart in heart how much he wished the answer to be yes! Father Gordon’s English classes were always a nightmare for him.
Ahmed Ali smiled just a bit; he dared not to laugh out loud again.
“Ahem…well….that is not possible right now I guess. Father Gordon will have to wait till my grandson completes his grammar lessons”. He tried too hard to suppress his laughter.
Disappointed, Haider sunk his face into the snow white mass of his grandfather’s beard.
“Lets now talk about the celebration then! This moment will never come again and we all need to celebrate!”, someone from the crowd remarked.
This was cue enough for Haider to sit up and take notice. Kanu exchanged a “see-I-told-you” smile with him!

4

Gandhiji stood smiling at him. He was careful enough not to let the golden disc slip off his hands. “Careful Haider…one step at a time”, Gandhiji warned him yet again. The blue sky was still so far away. The ladder wobbled a bit but he carefully placed his next step. “Don’t worryBapuji, I can do this in no time”, he assured. The white horse standing next to Gandhiji smiled at him. Suddenly it called out loudly, “Haiiiiiiderrrrrr Betaaaa”.
Haider opened his eyes in a jiffy. A face stared at him. The horizontal stripes of light and shadow from the bamboo curtains created a strange look. He sat up shocked.
“Nani? “
“Yes, your own Nanibi! Why are you so shocked”, the old lady pulled his head to her bosom.
It took a few more seconds for him to understand where he was. Then a familiar smell made way to his nostrils.
Sewain!”, he remarked. How could he fail to identify the smell of ghee, milk, cardamom and fresh vapour emanating from the pot of hot vermicelli!
“Yes! Get up my lad….It is a special day for all of us today.”, his Nanibi remarked. Her eyes were moist already.
He sprung up to his feet at that very instance. He rushed to the courtyard, hardly bothering to wash himself.
The courtyard was teeming with people- those who were there yesterday and many more. Each were having a bowl of fresh sewain in their hand.
He rushed to his grandfather seated at the same place.
“ Did they put up the new sun as yet!”
His grandfather looked up. He smiled but looked tired somehow.
“ They did, my love! But they broke the sun into two. Now we have only half a sun!”
“ And what about the other half?”
“They put it up elsewhere!”.
His grandfather’s words sounded like a riddle to him. Placing his palms above his eyebrows like a shade he tried to look beyond the dazzling brightness of the morning sun.
Why, it did look round, didn’t it ?

5

“ Don’t go close….it is still wet”, Haider warned his friend before he could even approach the highly creased piece of cloth hanging like a festoon between two parallel tree branches. Uneven, indigo coloured message in a horrific handwriting stared from the banner. Kanu squinted his eyes and tried to decipher the message.
“How will you read it, silly? It is in English!”, Haider proudly warned his friend, stressing on the word ‘English’.
“But I know a bit of it, na?”
“Huh! That is because I had taught you! This is not a simple English; it is only for big people”, Haider remarked, trying to fix up a botched letter.
“Still….atleast you can read it out!”, Kanu was adamant.
“Hmm well then…I will read out the alphabets one by one so that you learn the spelling too. Look here: I -N -D-I- P-E-N-D-I-N and then D-A-Y”. Together you pronounce it as ‘Indipendin Day’ “. He took a breather, having read out such a mammoth word.
“And what means Indipendin Day, Haider?”, Kanu asked eagerly.
“Indipendin means to be free. This day onwards we are free from the gora angrez – no English police, no English officer….Nanujaan has permitted only Father Gordon to stay back. The rest will all take their horses and go”.
“Won’t the horses become tired ? English land is far away, isn’t it ?”, Kanu was puzzled.
“That is not for you and me to worry about. We will only celebrate. Tomorrow morning the entire mohalla will take out the big rally starting from our house. We will sing songs and you and I will hold this banner right in front”.
“ Wow! Then I will ask mother to take out a fresh dhoti”.
Haider placed his hand over his shoulder and smiled.
“Stupid! We have to wear Khadi dress tomorrow !”
“Khadi?”
“Yes, Bapuji has made sooooo much thread with his own hands. We will wear dresses made from that thread!”
Kanu was disappointed, “But who will buy me the Bapuji dress?”
“ Silly! Who else but Nanujaan! Today evening I will go to Munafgarh with Osman Chacha and get cloth for both of us! Nanibi will make dresses for us!”
Kanu’s eyes lit up at the thought of new dress.
“ Then, when they light up the gas lamps in the evening I will wait for you yaar – right near the kite shop”.
“ Yes, wait for me – I should be back by then. And when you come, bring this festoon with you. It should have dried by then!”
All of a sudden Kanu hugged Haider. Not that his tiny hands could encircle his friend fully but he knew he had to do it.

6

It was only orange and red everywhere. Flames danced from every corner of the neighbourhood. Human shrieks and cries tore the serenity of the nascent night. Pools of human blood masked every bit of the dusty road. Haider stood staring at the macabre death of humanity. He could not believe his eyes. Was he really standing in Muzaffargarh?
The people at the railway station did warn them. “Muzaffargarh ? Are you crazy ? It is a boiling pot of human blood now – Muslims are killing Hindus and Hindus are chopping Muslims in return! “, the tongawallah had warned them. Could things have gone wrong within three hours? They did not believe him. But the sight that they visualized right at the entrance of Muzaffargarh took their breath away.
“ Run Haider, run! We cannot enter the area now. Let us go to Munafgarh. We can stay at Mehmood bhai’s place till……”, Osman didn’t have a word to complete the speech but all he knew was that they had to escape.
“But I cannot”, Haider spoke, as if in a trance.
“Don’t be crazy Haider. Your Nanujaan, Nanibi are big enough to take care of themselves but how will we escape?”. He tried to drag Haider by his hands.
“But I have to reach the kite shop chacha”, he began to sob all of a sudden.
“Kite shop ? Have you gone crazy ?”.
“ Kanu…Kanu would surely be waiting for me”
Osman could not believe his ears but he softened his tone nevertheless. “ No my son, there can possibly be no one there. Who knows if they are….”
Haider couldn’t care less. He looked straight into his uncle’s eyes and spoke firmly, “I know he will wait. And I have to go – at any cost”.

7

“ Open your eyes Kanu…open!”, Haider shook his friend once again. Kanu tried to look at his friend, surpassing the steady stream of blood flowing from his forehead but he just couldn’t. Every attempt of his would be marred by a fresh trickle of raw blood covering his eye-lids. The charred kite shop smelt of burnt flesh. Haider pulled up his friend’s head close to himself once again. “ Get up Kanu….Look I have brought Bapuji’s cloth. We will make dresses- same to same. We will walk in the rally holding the banner”. Haider broke down, sobbing incessantly.
Kanu’s lips broke into a faint smile, his eyes shut tight. “ I have kept the banner safe yaar”, he whispered haltingly. He managed to lift up his hand. Therein clutched between his fingers was the banner – the indigo blue of the words ‘INDIPENDIN DAY’ now merged with the fresh red of the blood.
All of a sudden, Haider stood up – placing the frail body of his friend on his strong shoulders.
“What are you trying to do now Haider?”, Osman shrieked. So long he had been a mute witness to the conversation but now he knew he had to intervene. They just couldn’t afford to stand there any longer. But before he could do anything Haider began to run – his friend firmly on his shoulder. He didn’t seem to hear anyone, nor had any explanation to offer. All he knew was that he had to run – away from this mad frenzy, away from this vortex of hatred.

8

Silence was the only sound at that moment, broken at times by the chirp of the homeward birds. The purplish-orange of the setting sun offered a perfect setting for the narrative.
“Then?”, a small voice quipped from amidst the unusually quiet students. “ Did they survive – Haider and Kanu?”, the soft voice spoke again.
The guide smiled sadly, “If only one knew what happened to them! No one could ever trace them again, nor did they appear in Muzaffargarh ever. Like lakhs and lakhs of riot victims after independence, Haider and Kanu too remained lost forever. But people of Muzaffargarh have not forgotten them. This tiny structure was erected as a memory to their ever-lasting friendship – a friendship beyond every hatred. People place flowers here and remember them till date”. He pointed to the trident and the crescent structure.
“Ahem…”, Mrs.Nair cleared her throat. But the trace of moisture in her voice was evident. “Well then children….we will now have to go towards the main road. Our bus would arrive any moment now”.
The children made a perfect line this time, in twos – holding each other’s hands more tightly and firmly than usual.
Mrs.Nair turned towards the guide, “ Thank you so much…This was the best part of our trip. How much should we pay you?”
The guide smiled, “You don’t have to pay Madam. I do it for my happiness. I volunteer for this”.
“Well then…thank you once again. Mr…. ?”
“Ali”, the guide smiled again, “My name is Ali”.
Some of the children looked back and waved at him. He waved back.

9

The last trace of human figure had just melted into the horizon. The guide stared at the vanishing act for some time. Then he turned around and let out a sharp whistle. A short, aged man with cropped hair and a knee-length dhoti appeared from behind the Banyan tree.
Chalo, get on with your work. My part is over.” .The guide seated himself on a boulder and instructed his friend. His friend grinned from ear to ear. Seating himself beside the Trident and Crescent structure he began to remove the small stones and boulders, clearing the mass of dried flowers along. Then with deft fingers and a soft nudge he dismantled the Trident and Crescent structure, cleared the dust and soil from the base and wrapped it neatly with a piece of cloth and put it inside a side bag. Having completed his task he turned to look at the guide.
Yaar, why do you do this? Year after year, whenever you see kids…..”
The guide looked at him and smiled. “ Did you see their eyes ? I notice their eyes every time ….This time too I did not forget to see their eyes – they speak volumes. Those children may have been friends of each other but they would now onwards look beyond the limits of friendship. They would know that beyond every difference, every religious boundary there is the power of human bonding that can surpass hatred.”
“You speak so well yaar”. His friend laughed.
“ Hmm… forget about me. Look at the sky, it is getting dark.”
The two men took their belongings and began to walk towards the main road, still chatting with each other, pulling each other’s legs.
Yaar Haider, say what you may but no one makes Sewain like your Nanibi.”
“ And no one milk sweet tastes as good as Uma Chachi’s”.

10

Epilogue: The children had all just got inside the guest house with the respective teachers. Mrs. Nair took out her purse to pay the bus-driver. Just then a figure appeared at the gate of the guesthouse. With three-fourth of his paan stained tongue hanging from between the clutch of his teeth, Mr.Mishra looked every bit a symbolism of embarrassment.
Arrey re re re….I am so verrrrrrry sorry Mrs. Nair. I had promised you the best of arrangement but could not keep my word.”, he apologised profusely.
Mrs.Nair looked bewildered. “But why, Mr.Mishra ? Everything was perfect. The bus came on time and the guide….”
“Yes, exactly- the guide….”, Mr.Mishra was too eager to carry on with his apology.
“ What about the guide ? Mr.Ali was just perfect for the children”.
Now it was Mr.Mishra’s turn to be surprised.
“Ali ? Who is this Ali ? That is what I wanted to tell you Mrs. Nair. The guide, Shyam Singh, ditched us at the last moment….Some family emergency….All excuses….I will not leave him alive. And he knows pretty well that he is the only guide in the region…trying to act too important….My name is also Patitpawan Mishra…I will ensure that the rascal…….”.

(Originally published at: yourstoryclub.com)

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine

I thank Tejas for nominating me for Sunshine Blogger Award. Well, he is that sunshine in my life that brings brightness every day of my life….If I am writing a blog today, it is because of his motivation. He is a soul that emits sunshine and hence is my soul buddy!

Thank you for the nomination and for many, many more moments…..

My questions were:

  1. What makes you smile for nothing? Smell of baby powder and yawn of a baby.
  2. What makes your cry for nothing? Other than onions, any silly gift given by the kids – ranging from eerie pictures of Doraemon, to paper boats to used crayons (that too gift wrapped carefully!). That becomes a silly emotional moment that just can’t say ‘no’ to tears.And though I would hate to admit this, but emotional movie scenes make me shed buckets of tears 😛

Now, my nominations:

  1. Nimz      2. Neerja   3. Kavya

And my question is:

  1. What was that one sunshine moment in your life that you would like to recall again and again ?

The Rules for this award are:
1) Thank the person who nominated you.
2) Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you.
3) Nominate some other bloggers for this award.
4) Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated.
5) Notify the bloggers you have nominated.