The Movement has just begun…

Yes, we have read about it in history books.  Yes, our grandparents and parents have told us all about it. We have read how “movements” brought about awakenings in the minds of the people of this country, and brought us the independence that we so enjoy now. That was then—1947.

This is now—2011.

That was the momentum initiated by the freedom fighters to overthrow the British rule. This is a fight to curb the cancer-like element called Corruption that has long bitten this country, that is penetrating deeply and spreading like wildfire..

But one more thing that spread like wildfire was the fast unto death that was being called by Shri. Anna Hazare- a bold and confrontational move by a renowned social activist. Shri. Hazare has not emerged out of nowhere. He’s very much a part of this country. He’s the man behind uplifting the village of Ralegaon Siddhi and making it an ideal, independent village. He’s a steadfast Gandhian who rose to the occasion when the country needed the most. And his genuine attempt paid off. After 5 days of relentless fast by him and his volunteers, the Govt seems to have given in to the demands of the protestors and has decided to take up the demanded Jan Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of the parliament. As they say, the rest is history. But as Anna himself puts it, the fight has only just begun. The committee has been formed, with a good representation being given to Anna’s crusade. Now what should really follow is good implementation.

In our country, at the strategic level, things seem pretty smooth. Where roadblocks get really created is when implementation comes to play.

Those 5 days brought the common man out on the streets protesting for a cause. For a long time, we as a country have collectively and each one of us has individually experienced one or other level of corruption at every step in our day to day lives. In a way the common man of this nation has gotten kind of used to live with this cancer of corruption. It had as though become a part and parcel of the lives of the people here.

And then when one fine day, someone just got up to challenge this very cancer, it shook people from their deep sleep. The 5 day fast by Shri. Anna Hazare literally shook people hard. All the insult, all the anger, all the angst and all the emotions related to the word corruption that we the people had stored somewhere deep in our hearts and minds just came out in the form of the mass protests that were staged across the country. With candles in hand, people marched together and as if vowing that they would eradicate the venom of corruption from the roots of this country. They whole heartedly supported Shri. Anna Hazare and his movement.

All in all, the movement became a very big one. Anna himself mentioned after he broke the fast that he hadn’t expected the movement to take such a gigantic face.

The situation was like- Anna did and people listened. They followed him because they felt that what he was doing was indeed a cause that would lead to the ultimate aim of eliminating forces of corruption governing this country. As a movement, it was a complete success. On a macro level, one man and his brigade of followers showed us how civil society if working together in a democratic setting, can make a good difference.  The bill would be tabled in the parliament. Everything will take its own course and time.

But on the micro level, the onus lies on you and me.  We as the citizens of this country have to show utmost intolerance towards any incidents and experiences of bribery and corruption that we might henceforth face in our daily lives. If we knowingly or unknowingly fall victims to it, as we have been, time and again, all the efforts led by Shri. Anna Hazare will diminish and nullify. If we really want something concrete happening in terms of this pressing issue, we have to ourselves act now and act fast. Instead of falling prey to more and more incidents of corruption and bribes, we have to come forward and voice the concerns openly, bravely and unfailingly.

Only when this effort happens on micro level, will the movement really becomes a phenomenon by itself. It will become the turning point in the entire process that is started off so successfully by Shri. Anna Hazare.

So, rise up folks! There’s a lot to be done. The whole thing has just begun. Let’s keep the momentum alive and let’s fulfill the vow we have made to ourselves this week. Let’s weed out this cancer from the society. Let’s do it for ourselves and our future generations. It’s a wakeup call. Let’s not miss the bus now and convert it into a missed call.

Growing up years…

So curious to take one glimpse of that flying airplane,

Not even bothering if it causes any neck strain.

Playing in the basking heat till forehead sweats,

So what if in this bargain even sun sets?

Riding on bicycles all day long,

Pals who join in, taking them along.

Climbing up mango tree like a feat of a monkey,

Nicknamed in the neighborhood as notorious and naughty!

Awaiting for a chance to play some prank,

Never coming home without a good rank.

Taking each new learning experience as a stint,

Always approaching a game with killer instinct.

Bubbling with endless enthusiasm and energy,

Accomplishing group tasks with a synergy.

Unknown of a word in one’s self dictionary—Shy,

Ever overboard with questions—how, where, why?

Getting into petty squabbles in one moment,

Instantly patching up with friends the next moment.

Actively taking part in scout and camp,

Flushing with pride when called as a champ.

Always ready to crack some silly joke,

Hardly any game was played without the arm that broke.

Every little incident was as if meant to share,

Just one punch line defined us—We Dare

Secrets to be talked about in murmurs n whispers,

And although in class we were back benchers; Yet considered fast learners.

This was all we did as bouncing youngsters,

Each day we thus cherish our growing up years…

Bills on your mind!

When it comes to the monthly line up of bills, I keep having these mischievous and fairly notorious thoughts—like what if the electric meter would stop recording our electricity usage;  or what if the telephone exchange would forget to record our telephone usage for few months in a row; what if the gas meter goes for a toss and the service provider charges randomly taking last two month’s average ( though this month’s could have been a greater usage ; what if the milkman forgets to somehow record the monthly milk consumption of our household, or may be the newspaper boy somehow forgets to land every month with the paper bill.

Wow! What racy thoughts are these? How wishful yet how impossible! Like a wheel that goes on and on and on with its rotations, like the sun which goes on and on with its rising and setting, like the seasons which keep relentlessly and adamantly changing now and then, likewise these monthly enlistment of bills keep coming back in a cyclical fashion to the doorstep. Hmmm..No escaping on that one…And no scope for wishful thinking on that one too!

Bills have become an inevitable reality of urban lifestyle. And why not? You and I endlessly use microwaves and DVD players, geysers and computer; we also indulge in making endless calls to friends and dear ones; we dole out our dinners and luncheons every single day on our platters; we expect a crisp newspaper to be at our doorsteps every single morning (on days when it’s been a public holiday and newspapers are not printed, we crib about there being no newspaper delivered on that day)- which means not even one day, or even one moment do we want to part ways with our countless line up of activities and usage wherein we fail to realize that we are indeed making use of hard core utility services that account for a pay cheque every month to ensure their unfaltering continuity and functioning.

So is it that we have failed to understand the importance of these utility services; is it that we’ve learnt to take those for granted; or is it that this kind of a feeling to bring up such mischievous thoughts is just a reason to crib for no particular reason whatsoever? Is it just an impasse to save money? But Alas! Such impasses do not run through the mind when heart goes in full swing unthinkably and shops at departmental stores some things which were practically not needed! So why then such escapist approach only when it comes to paying bills?

Well, on a lighter note, it’s just a thought…a wishful thought as earlier mentioned. So be it. When I expressed this wishful thought to one of my friends, she immediately stated that I should try paying bills online. She thought I was kind of apprehensive about standing in those queues every month. She thought I was bored of the process of bill paying, when in fact that was not my point. I explained to her that it wasn’t my point altogether. My point was hinted at the notion of what if…. and nothing more than that. So truly speaking, it’s not the process that bothers me. In fact, it gives an opportunity to observe people. It’s an opportunity to experience community living, when you actually end up standing in a line to pay your bill, you have a plethora of possibilities of observing people, of overhearing people, of hearing them gossip, of hearing them complain, of hearing them crib, of hearing them comment, of hearing them fume so on and so forth! So in a crux, it’s an opportunity to experience social behavior first handed. And what an opportunity waits almost every time while one is standing in those queues. Someone complains to the authorities of erratically functioning meters, someone complains about their bills being dropped in neighbor’s letter box every time, someone stands in a line with three to four bills in hand (Wonder how many electricity meters such people have, and wonder how they can afford so many meters. Only later does one realize that those weren’t the bills of separate meters, but their last three months bills they are trying to pay up in one go! And then mind scolds self- like how sincere we are, coming in every month and paying up the bills month to month, while some people can be so careless…!).

There is a numerous range of experiences that one comes across. Like on one occasion, every month I ended up paying the telephone bill and every time I went to do the needful, I wrote out a complaint about our erratic working of internet connection, and every time those authorities mindlessly forgot to solve our complaint and again the following month I walked into the telephone office to pay up the bill, again putting up the same complaint. This just went on and on for three months, until finally one day, I lost my cool and decided to take matters in my hands and again I walked into the telephone office to pay bill and again I made a note of the complaint. But this time, my prayers got listened! And the continuous follow up somehow worked in my favor. My friends resented saying I shouldn’t have paid up three months’ bills if the problem wasn’t getting attention on the part of the authorities. But I plainly refused to do any such thing. Instead, I stuck to my follow-up bandwagon and succeeded. So the common denominator in the entire pursuit was the relentless payment of bill every month. If that wouldn’t have been consistently done by me, how on earth would the final problem have got solved? They would have plainly refused to solve the problem until the dues were paid. So from that day onwards, I confirmed my own thinking about bills- whether or not your utility services are being efficiently run, you need to go on and on with your monthly liability of paying the bills. On the sidelines of writing complaints regarding maintenance, functionality etc, your bills should uninterruptedly be paid up. If you rebel and decide to say no to bills, anyways the situation wouldn’t work in your favor.

So, these are just some of the insights that one gets from a very minuscule everyday (or rather every month) event like utility bills.

Whether you like it or not, bills will be dropped in your letterboxes every month and bills will occupy your minds. As they say- if savings are on your mind, or if shopping is unfailingly on your mind, even bills are somewhere always on your mind, when it comes to running a household. So, take a chill-pill! It’s just a matter of a utility bill!

Oh! That Not-So-Italian Pizza…!

Fusion is the word that’s ‘in’ these days. Just the other day, I was flipping through the pages of a pizza joint menu card, and believe me, I was aghast… Completely bowled over by the platter of and variety of pizzas they serve these days in some Indian Pizza joints!

One of the dishes under the category of Veg Pizzas was named Achari Paneer Tikka! Now what on earth would this pizza contain? Unthinkable but true- it contained Achari masala and paneer as the main ingredients apart from the traditional ones like onion, capsicum, tomatoes….etc. I thought it a bit too weird and zany; unnecessarily adding that Indian zing of masalas to a thing like pizza- doling out a totally indianized version of a pizza. I’m sure if hard core Italians eat our Indian flavours and varieties of pizzas, they’ll surely faint!

No hard feelings, but then just look at the indianized touch one gives to a totally westernized dish! Next on the menu card was Paneer Makhan Masala..For a second, I thought I had entered a Punjabi restaurant. I gingerly looked around just to make sure that I was indeed sitting at a pizza parlor. And yes, I indeed was! So I further went on scanning the menu card and voila! There came another bharatiya version of pizza—Soya garam masala! I thought Vow! Soya is definitely considered the in-thing by health fanatics, but then hello! When I am so looking forward to eat a pizza, I’m not considering the possibility of bringing nutrition in mind…after all with all the mozzarella et al that gets added onto it, my thoughts too would be on the lines of thinking cheese! And then from nowhere this soya element made me think twice about whether to really consider going ahead with my pizza dinner! And the suddenly the words garam masala in the dish caught my attention. I just wanted to go meet the chefs who were working hard in that pizza restaurant kitchen, just to try to talk out to them, how on earth did they invent such a fabulous sounding dish…Soya Garam Masala—what a thing to be added into a pizza….Our dadis and nanis will surely love this one…after all, their most favorite garam masala is used by them when they dole out traditional recipe like matar paneer, dal makhni and so on…And here was the precious garam masala, finding its rightful place(?) within a pizza!

With the increasing number of restaurants serving pizzas, alongside the pav bhajis and paneer tikkas, it is hardly surprising that such a fusion would not take place. But then, just think if we try to put something out of the world to our own dishes, how would they turn out?

What if I put Pav bhaji masala in a kadi chawal? What if I were to sprinkle paneer crumbs in a sabudana wada? What if we try and prepare rajma in buttermilk? What if we put mozzarella cheese in sabudana khichdi? And what if a fish curry were to be decorated with mushrooms, basil or jalapenos? What if I were to cook sol-kadi in parmesan cheese instead of coconut milk? I mean, just consider these thoughts and then think about the way our restaurants have gone over the top of offering customers an experience of Indian flavors when they enter their restaurants to enjoy an authentic Italian pizza?

Why try to replicate Indian flavors and varieties in western dishes- that’s my whole point. Can’t it just be kept compartmentalized? Someone might consider my thoughts to be too typical rather than being experimental. Cooking is all about experimenting and totally out of the world dishes thus get born out of this very experimentation. Agreed. I’m not up against for experimenting cooking per se. I’m simply talking about mixing two cuisines altogether and making an unnecessary khichdi…

We are all aware of how much Indian Chinese cuisine has gained popularity and how much people tend to love the indianized version of Chinese food experience. But hey! Try out authentic Chinese food and then you’ll understand the meaning of authenticity.

So all you foodies out there, you love pizza. Great. I do too. But why should I have to go to Italy to relish a true Italian Pizza. What if the natural way of making a true Italian pizza is adopted in our ways of cooking and school of thought?

Let the parmesans and mozzarellas, jalapenos and marinara play the role they are made out to play. Let the authenticity of a dish stay just the way it was intended to stay the first time a dish got discovered. Let the tikkas and kababs be in their place and let the pizza seasonings be in their place.

Hopefully the next time I enter a pizza joint, I don’t get welcomed by the tikkas and matar malais waiting to be tasted in a pizza joint. I would be ecstatic to be welcomed by the mayonnaise, zucchinis, olives and cheddars, rather than the curry leaves, coconuts and Indian spices.

After all, I would want the experience to be as it would be had I been sitting enjoying a pizza in Rome or Venice…I wouldn’t want a ‘oh-not-so-Italian pizza’ experience!

In The Box…

I always passed through that room,

Where was kept your big maple box,

And it made me wonder

What all you might have kept in stock?

May be you’d kept those tinkling bracelets

or your favorite anklets.

May be the box contained ethnic quilts,

Or those decorative white pearls.

Were there in it iron candle stands,

Or had you dearly hidden old letters written by his loving hand?

Perhaps there were in it a few post cards,

Could be those hand-made paper greeting cards…

May be the box had sea shells and corals,

Dried rose petals or feathers of peacock.

Whatever that it had,

The box didn’t bear a lock.

Your box was wide open,

The window near brought on it rays of sun.

And the maple shined,

I approached the box to find.

It had all I’d imagined and more,

It was your persona; your core.

All that you’d preserved, you’d treasured,

The enduring love in these pieces you’d never measured.

What struck me the most was the box being open

From it I learn-

To remain open to things

And take free air under the wings.

A glance at the box tells me for once-

To be open to everything under the sun…

The Empty Nest

Shimmering moonlight peeps through the living room window. Beside, a glass bowl is dearly kept, which contains some rose petals and water, and the bowl holds the reflecting moonbeam so lovingly…as if a mother would hold a child in her arms. The peach colored satin curtains are draped affectionately emitting a sense of warmth.

On the edge of the side table sits a smiling picture frame of the entire family— hand in hand, having fun and frolic on their holiday to Darjeeling which was toured some nine years back. How young everybody appeared then, especially the two of them, sans wrinkles and the lines on their foreheads. The children too appear equally tidy; the younger one just out of college, and the elder one having bagged his first job in an ad agency. In fact the Darjeeling trip itself was accomplished to celebrate his first stint.

The day the picture was taken, it had rained in the hills. The air was crystal clear, and the clarity of this air was visible on the smiling, contented, & refreshing faces of each one in the picture. The younger one had caught hold of a “gorkha” watchman of their bricked cottage in Darjeeling, who had obliged to click for the family what now adorns to be their drawing room family photograph in years to follow.

The silent picture tells the story of the middle class upbringing of the children, and of her and his glittering eyes as they have in them some far reaching dreams they’ve dreamed for their children. The smile of the children too is very genuine. Yet the smile shows that there are some unconquerable frontiers which they still want to attain. Thus both the children had their own set of higher aspirations. The elder one had accepted his advertising assignment as a stop gap arrangement, while the younger one had ambitions to study clinical research. And so they moved up their respective career ladders.  Few years down the line, the elder one earned a scholarship abroad in Media Research; while the younger one got through an acclaimed clinical research college in an international university.

It’s been six years now, since both the children have flown away, leaving both of them with memories. They all meet quite often; they visit the children and the children too visit them. Back home, this spring he decided to build a birdhouse outside in their garden. And once birds flew in, she and he began tending them adoringly. The birds too responded well, and built their nest on the tree where the bird house was placed.

So although their own nests were empty, he and she went ahead and tended another nest.

Every other day, when they remember the children, they closely admire and examine the Darjeeling picture, and some more such pictures which are scattered over the walls leading to their bedroom. Some years back, when they read about the uprising which grappled the valley of Darjeeling, they remembered their children, and missed them more than on any other occasion. Today their nest is empty, but they have no complaints. After all, they themselves had taught the children to dream big, and now that the children were doing so, what was there to complain???

Outside, the moon is still gleaming bright. The water in the glass bowl is ripple free, and still. The radiance of the mystical moon is far reaching. In the course of the day, it will cross the seven seas and enter the slit window of the respective rooms, in the respective houses of both the children, where they’ll be fast asleep. Perhaps it will whisper to them that back home in an empty nest everything is absolutely fine; life is as usual……..

Book Review: Ruskin Bond’s Children Omnibus

A truly magical journey is what you embark upon, when you relish this book from start to finish. The process of reading this book is a one of its kind treat that makes you wonder, where on earth have simplistic writings suddenly vanished and disappeared. As you lay back with this book in hand, every page unfolds like a mystical journey, taking you back in time, somewhere far away where life is an entity of everything that is naïve and simple. Although entitled Children’s Omnibus, it has a magical aura surrounding itself that promises to appeal to the young and the old alike.

With seven short stories packed in the Omnibus, every story is like unraveling life in a country side. With one fact known that Ruskin Bond- a long inhabitant of the rustic Himalayan life, all his stories are a glimpse into the minds and hearts of people residing in these very villages and towns. No wonder then, that each story is filled with doses of simplicity as it mesmerizes readers completely to their heart’s delight.

The opening story is titled as Cricket for the Crocodile– a very uncanny and funny tale that drives home the fact that  cricket is worshiped even in the hinterlands of this vast country. It is bound to bring a wide smile on you, as you turn every page. A docile crocodile is the centre of the storyline and how this reptile too muses itself with this captivating game of bat and ball, as the village lads try their best to drive away the animal from the grounds on where they seem enjoying their weekend game, and how one day a batsman drives a ball straight into the animal’s wide mouth, and how the animal seems to have taken a liking for the ball in general and the game in particular…. It’s an absurd yet a peculiar tale that is worth a read.

Readers who are particularly drawn to good cinema might have watched the movie- The Blue Umbrella. This story penned by Bond finds its place in the Omnibus. The tale of a little girl who’s attracted to a fancy blue umbrella, and how dearly she holds her umbrella, trudging it along everywhere she walks. The local grocer cum tea stall owner desires to have the umbrella and makes an effort to get it from the girl, but in vain..Finally the story unfolds how the girl gifts the umbrella to him.

Each and every story is handpicked from the rural roots of this vast country. It seems children in these rural landscapes are taught to be naïve, innocent and to live fair. They lack the impeding and unruly competitive spirit that the urbane children have in aplenty. They seem completely absorbed in their own petite lives, totally unaware about a different and contrast world broiling in cities.  And yet the child in each story brings a smile to the reader, teaching him a lesson or two in leading a contented life. The children Sita and Krishna in the story Angry River are perfect examples of those who understand what it is to live selflessly. Initially complete strangers, the story reveals how their friendship buds slowly as they both tread along, navigating their way through a mighty flooded river, trying to take the stock of the situation like matured individuals, trying to help each other through the floods and trying to make an effort to survive amidst those fierce waters. A common thread binds them forever, which is the musical flute. The story shows how even today commonplace things in life are cherished and loved by village folk.

The story Ghost Trouble is one big wacky tale, full of bouts of laughter. It is a silly personification of a ghost and how it becomes the part of the life of the people surrounding it. The story goes on to describe the silly pranks being played out by this mysterious ghost. At no point does the story seem childish. It does have a childlike innocence but the way it is narrated by the author, it just successfully leads the reader to laugh out loud.

One of my favorite stories in the Omnibus is the Dust on the Mountain. It is primarily about the psyche behind rural hearts and minds to go and explore town or city life. There is always a temptation to get entangled in the city life turmoil and web. But there’s something which holds these villagers back, and makes them come back to their roots. The story is about a young boy who in order to lead a slightly comfortable life ans to make a better living moves to town side. He earns by doing odd jobs…Later when he becomes a helper on a truck which does the loading and unloading for mining purposes, the boy somehow realizes that the place where the mines are currently located, once upon a time these same places had a thicket of trees and bushes. It just brings him a realization that he doesn’t want to become a part of the concrete jungles, and that he’d be better off, much happier amidst the green belt of his own village, where even though his family earns a bit lesser, but at least they aren’t a party to such reckless urbanization.

The other two stories Grandfather’s Private Zoo and The Road to the Bazaar are a class by themselves. The former one is a description of the amalgamation of funny as well as sad moments, events and situations when a family owned a range of Animals as their pets. So right from hornbill to chameleon, python to crow- it is a complete animal kingdom which is wonderfully brought out by the author.

The Omnibus ends with the Road to the Bazaar- a series of stories like The Tunnel, The Long Day, The Window, The Boy who Broke the Bank, The Great Train Journey etc.. Each story is like a revelation in itself. It gives a visual layout of the contentment called village life. It brings out emphatically how the people by the hills derive joys out of the joys that otherwise seem so mundane to you and me who are habituated to a bloated urban life.

Read it for the little blissful moments and the refreshing moments it will bring to your reading appetite. Somehow it makes the reader feel that each story is interwoven with each other. It is a great read and a highly recommended one too.

The Waiting room

I saw you in the waiting room

Alone in a corner

Subdued; calm

Glancing at the moon….

Still others were around

Doing something or the other

But you were different; uncanny

In looks and in manner

I’d a late night train to catch

I wondered how time could be spent

But you seemed relaxed; unhurried

Were you waiting for the moon to descend???

I picked up my stuff and left

When it was time for me to leave

Thought about you for a while

I had to travel miles

Eight days passed

Heading back home, I alighted on the same station

Behind me was whistling train

Ahead of me was the waiting room

And a question mark

Will I see you there again???

With wandering eyes all over the place

I entered the waiting room

From the same window I saw

The peeping full moon….

Closer to my anticipation

Though far away from me

The moon had showed up; it was predictable

Unlike us; we are unpredictable.

The moves of the moon are known

Our moves so unknown

After all we were mere passengers

Frenzied travelers

Whose eyes meet frenziedly and move away…..

Just as my mind was lost in this thought

The lights inside the waiting room flickered and went off

All the inmates started groping in the dark

My mind though no longer was groping in dark

Piercing through darkness

With a hope to give brightness

Came a glimpse of the moon

And the cool breeze freshened the stuffy waiting room…

In Their Wallets!

Shuttling constantly from here to there, from hand to hand, from pocket to pocket and from purses to wallets and wallets to wallets are the bemusing bunch of never tiring notes (It isn’t the study notes that the reference is made of). It’s the notes of money. The crispy freshly out of printing press- now transforms into a moist, pale and haggard note, only because of its extensive travel—from wallet to wallet. This just happens to be an interesting autobiography of one such note.

I’m a hundred Indian rupee note. From over years, I’ve gone through a lot of experimentation. My look and that of my contemporaries in the earlier years was different than what it stands now. But of course, I belong to this genre; this generation. I was printed in some printing press where they make all of us. And then I was out for circulation in the open markets. In these past couple of years, I’ve been in the hands of many a people. My journey began from the ATM of a bank in some corner of a city of this vast country. And since I’ve fallen into the hands of many distinct persona, I have a tremendous fascination and insight of human behavior, more than anyone in this whole wide world! From misers to spendthrifts, from aristocrats to ordinary men and women, I have closely observed them all.

On a bright sunny morning, ready to fall off the ATM, the first taker who clutched onto me was a smart looking, techno savvy, college going girl. As she counted and tallied the total amount she requested for, she quickly enclosed me and my companions in her light brown colored purse. Out of the ATM centre, she hired a cab and drove away to a swanky joint for a quick round of morning breakfast. Her friends joined her there as they all had an elaborate round of breakfast. Alas! none asked if I too was famished!!

As they all paid up their share of the total amount which was something like Rs 100/- (Phew! Rs 100/- for breakfast?? It surely must be a pricey breakfast joint), she quickly removed me out and placed me on the table, and off she went along with her friends, this new generation, posh dressed, no nonsense young lady of today. From the table, a waiter picked me and the other rupee 100/- notes and laid us all in the drawer of the restaurant manager.

Lying inside that stuffy drawer for hours was a boring act. But finally, I was out! As I was quickly handed over to a mid-forties lady- wearing a bright purple colored saree, walking graciously and talking continuously over her cell phone. She grabbed me tight and shoved me in her big purse, which was otherwise virtually empty, except for her make-up kit and keys. She then made was out of the restaurant and sat in a huge car, which was chauffeur driven, and drove away to some place they called ladies beauty parlor. Thereafter it was time for me to experience the ladies world and some extravagance, as I quietly sat and listened to their conversations, sitting inside the huge purse of this woman. Exactly one hour later, I was out. And along with me also were out two 500/- rupee notes (Phew! Rs 1100/- in a beauty parlor! I merrily exclaimed to myself. This surely must be some great worthy place(!!), where they give makeovers to ladies. A quick look at the transformed lady gave me all the answers. She seemed a changed woman from head to toe! And so, having observed lavish tendencies, I quietly got placed, this time into the cash counter drawers of the well off parlor (the drawer was pretty loaded, you see, and it wasn’t even midday yet!)

It took a couple of hours for me to get out of that drawer, as off I fell into the hands of a middle aged, good looking soft spoken lady, who put me in her decent purse (and I learnt that even good looking ladies also feel the need to visit parlors, much to my earlier knowledge, which was that only not-so-good-looking ones need parlors for their makeovers!)… Anyways, as she walked out the place, she sat in an auto rickshaw and went home. Her home seemed a decent middle class type of a place, and I could hear sounds of children frolicking around the house, merrily playing that morning. Sometime later her husband called for her and asked her if she had any money to lend him. He had to run a few errands and he wanted some money for the same. Vow! I thought. A home where husbands too run errands- this must be an ideal middle class kind of home. She handed over a list of things to be bought along with some 600/- to 700/- rupees and I was one of them. From their conversation, I guessed they had guests for dinner, and the husband was more than happy to help her out with groceries. Within an hour, I was out of her neatly decorated house. But it took quite some time for me to exchange hands this time, because her husband was one miser fellow and a master at negotiating well with the vegetable vendors and grocery chaps! I got handed over almost an hour later to the vegetable vendor, and in no time I joined the working class bandwagon of people, thus getting a brush of their hard working lives.  Within a matter of minutes, the vegetable vendor handed me out to an elderly smart lady in her late fifties, and her psychology represented typically that of an elderly Indian woman who loves to save and spend miserly. As soon as the vendor handed me over to that lady, I was instantaneously put into her little “batwa”- a red colored pouch which she was carrying for her veggies shopping. And then I was totally choked!, because I stayed in her pouch for more than a week!… For more than a week, she did not even bother to open her pouch and spend a single penny. She wasn’t the type of person today’s youngsters typically are—penny wise pound foolish!. She was a judicious spender that was for sure. For to stay inside a small rectangular pouch for 7 long days, without even thinking to spend isn’t an easy seeming task if one thinks through! But this woman demonstrated how easy it was to remain a miser rather than a spendthrift.

After a week, finally, very reluctantly, this elderly woman handed me over to a rice grain vendor, and thus continued my further journey. My journey still continues so, for that is what my role is—to fall into many a hand and to enable people to carry out transactions in this weird wide money centric world.

More than anything else, I’m glad that being a 100 rupee note is giving me an absolute first handed experience of fathoming human behavior and more so of understanding consumer behavior. I know that many people talk about the so-called purchasing power and rising consumerism of modern society. Ask me, for I can give many useful inputs to the reigning economists. After all, I’m the reason and I’m the medium this economy is booming, rising and shining. I’m the 100 rupee note- a thrift amount for some, and at the same time, a valuable amount to the many unprivileged ones in this country which is full of an imbalance called haves and have nots. I’m the one who constantly juggles from wallets to wallets, becuase I’m the one who rules the roost in their wallets!

Papa..Papa—Yes Johnny?..Using Plastic? NO Johnny!

Rewind to this cute nursery rhyme that used to go so well with the then toddlers—“Johnny Johnny Yes Papa…eating sugar- no papa….”. This very rhyme related so much to the innocent bunch of frolicking toddlers who used to be usually all over the place, making mischief, playing games, throwing tantrums and teaching you and I some lessons indirectly (on the importance of telling truth and nothing but truth!!!).

And now, fast forward to today, when children are quick, clever, precise, smart, savvy, brainy and enormously witty. Back then, there used to be a need of a nursery rhyme to bring home the importance of telling truth to children. But kids of today outsmart even their elders. They are smart at catching elders off guard, when elders themselves speak a lie or two, and then they thus question them as to why elders spoke lies…Today’s kids are daredevils and they fear none!

One such smart matter of fact witty and shrewd lad happens to be my nephew. Oh!  He’s an inexplicable source of energy, questions and clarity. Just like today’s generation of younger lot who know what they want with immense clarity, my nephew too falls into the similar category. He knows what’s right and what isn’t, of course of trivial day to day things which happen around daily life. I’m obviously not hinting at larger than life, complicated, philosophical aspects which children need not be aware of. I’m mostly referring to the mundane elements of life, and the limited world of children, and the limited things around which their innocent lives revolve.

So one day, my dear nephew’s class teacher gave the class an awe-inspiring lecture on environmental implications of using plastic. The children all listened with immense attention. On matters other than such practical issues, especially studies where their attention spans usually go for a toss, in this case where she spoke to them about the hazardous aspects of plastic, the kids listened and listened.

It wasn’t just the listening that needs a special mention here, but the assimilation and implementation which are truly noteworthy. That afternoon, when he returned home from school he was a changed boy. Not in terms of his mischievous behavior et al, but in specific terms of his attitude towards plastic.

As soon as he entered the house, he saw their maid servant carrying a plastic bag and going out. He quickly grabbed her bag, ran into the kitchen, and threw it away! Later that day when his mom returned from office with a plastic bag in tow, he reacted in similar fashion. He gave standing instructions to his grandparents that none should be seen around the house with plastic bags in their hands! He asked his grand mom where she carefully keeps all the plastic bags at home, and when she meekly answered him, this fellow quietly disposed off all the bags in one go, the following day. No one in the house could make out anything from his strange attitude of hatred towards the plastic bags. They tried to ask him, but in vain. He didn’t reply one bit. He wanted to be silent observer and analyzer of how all elders at home implement his standing orders.

Three days later after his first brush of hatred with plastic, his mom went shopping, and she came home with loads of plastic bags!

No sooner he saw that, he leaped on his mother and entered into a brawl with her as to why she wasn’t obeying his orders. Now it was all piling over, and hence she decided to probe into his behavior. After much probing she came to know about how their teacher had explained to them a thing or two on plastic and its bad effect on Earth.  Everyone at home tried to convince this little fellow as to how it was an impractical thing, not to use plastic and that the whole world uses it nonetheless. But our anti plastic obsessed hero wasn’t the kind who’d give up on these sweet convincing.

He went a step further in his project- “say- no to plastic”. For the two following Sundays, he actually sat in his room with a pile of newspapers, with all attention, and made paper bags! He took his dad’s help for this joint craft activity and came up with more than three dozen paper bags! The following day was a holiday from school. But he woke up extra early, stood by the door and whosoever he met, he handed them one paper bag—right from the newspaper boy, milkman, maid servant, laundryman, to everyone at home got one bag each. Five paper bags were sanctioned for fruit, vegetable and grocery purchases at home. He didn’t even spare the guests who were expected for dinner at their home that night.

This visionary seven year old boy then stashed some paper bags in his school bag. That afternoon he got down the bus and started walking home from his bus stop. His sight fell upon a fruit vendor selling some guavas and apples round the corner. He immediately walked near him. The fruit vendor thought that he might be interested in buying guavas. But this guy had other plans! He picked up his pile of plastic bags, dumped them all on the ground and handed him the paper bags which he’d carried along in school. He promised to the fruit vendor that he would bring him more such good paper bags tomorrow, if he promises to sell his ware only in paper bags!

Wow! Now this is what I call hard core implementation; and going into the crux of the issue and uprooting the actual problem, even if it means going out of the way. This is a living example of practice what you preach, being exemplified by none other than a child. They say, don’t take people by their literal words. But here’s an example of a seven year old boy who not only took the words of his teacher literally, but went a step further at implementing what was preached to him.

This generation is thus too smart to outwit. They are bold enough to question you and me on our face- Papa..Papa—Yes Johnny?..Using Plastic?….Yes Johnny…And they have an ability to transform our thought process, if only we are ready to let go. This Johnny brigade has the potential to correct the wrong things going on this planet. All that they need is the right avenues to harness their potentials. And our wee bit encouragement is the slice of the pie that they need.

The fishing net

Shantaram knew that his fishing net was his identity. It wasn’t merely his livelihood, but his raison de’etre. He was always focused, and immensely experienced. So be it a high tide or any temporary whirlwind; he knew he had to be there, right in the middle of that aggravating ocean, though he knew the dangers. On few earlier such occasions in past, when warnings were given to fishermen not to venture in the sea for fishing, he had turned a deaf ear.

After all he had responsibilities; a young daughter to be married off, that very year, as far as possible. So this says it all. But Lata, the daughter was not in any way illiterate or a burden; in fact she was in her last year of graduation. She too was an earning member; she taught part time in the neighborhood pre-primary school.  Lata used to convince him not to work any longer, or at least to take it little laid back, because she was planning to start working full time once her graduation results would come out. But Shantaram hardly listened, and used to shrug off his shoulders by replying” I’d never give up my fishing net”.

Saturday evening had proved to be a very important evening for Lata. An old time friend Arvind had proposed to her in marriage. He was a lower middle class young man, financially pretty much settled, self made fellow, much like her father, working since the past two years in a localized bank, and earning modestly. While proposing to Lata, Arvind made a mention to her, that he wouldn’t be accepting any dowry from her, and that he would be shouldering half of the wedding expenditure. The two families knew each other, but such an alliance had never brushed across their minds. So even Lata was taken by surprise when Arvind, suddenly out of the blue asked for her hand in marriage. Lata had no reason to refuse. But like any other girl would do, she didn’t immediately leap, but stalled her reply and promised to get back to him in a week’s time.

A week later, was a Sunday, and usually on Sundays, Shantaram took an off from work. Just a visit or two to the market, and he would be home. So Lata, who had by then made up her mind and had already decided to give a nod to Arvind, had planned to speak to Shantaram that evening. After heading back home from vegetable purchases later that evening, she asked her mother where her father had been, and when he’d return. She was restless, as today she was eager to talk to everyone at home about Arvind.

Her mom’s submissive reply told her that Shantaram had been away since morning. One of his long time associate and old time friend Ganesh told them that Shantaram had headed to the sea, hoping for some extra catch that day. The family learnt from Ganesh that very day itself that Shantaram had a substantial loan to repay, which he’d borrowed from some middlemen in the market. To add to his financial qualms, he was trying to save on regular basis for Lata’s wedding; because he knew that it would be quite a sum. Rightfully it was a tight rope that he was walking on. And so today, despite having got a “Do Not Venture in deep seas” warning, Shantaram had gone against the wish of the wind; his fishing net tucked in his arm.

And the worst finally happened. The thunderous sea took him in its arms….he went there that day, never to return; never to see his daughter becoming a bride.  It was all palpable. His confidence, his risks, his never say die attitude, his daring approach- all washed away in a thud! His earnestness to load up his financial kitty and save for Lata’s wedding did him no good. He would have been a slightly relieved father that evening, had Lata got an opportunity to talk to him about Arvind’s proposal, and his desire to bear half the wedding cost.  But Alas! What a manifest paradox life is! Shantaram and his identity- his robust fishing net, both washed away in the boisterous waves. He didn’t lose his identity till the end though; in fact he carried it with him to the doorstep of death. Till death do us apart, as they say.

All that was left ashore was a succumbed wife; a helpless daughter; but a dependable to be son-in-law….The rest was taken away by the stubborn waves….

Kitty Party

I distinctively recollect, how as I child, I used to fondly accompany mom to her lovely kitty parties. These parties used to be held once a month, and used to happen at the homes of one of the thirteen ladies every month. So, every month, one new home, an array of nice food, lots of playing around, and endless laughter along with just a reason to celebrate.

I remember, the kitty party wasn’t a platform for these ladies to flaunt their sarees or jewellery or new purchases. It wasn’t a stage where they discussed about their respective status symbols. They merely came together to share sheer joy and ‘gupshup’.

Chattering endlessly is anyways the monopolistic domain of the lady folk, and kitty parties are an occasion to do just that! The menu, the dishes, the sweet treats were secondary for the ladies. They used to simply cherish and look forward to the once-a-month get together. And for us children, it was the food and frolic that beckoned. Our games used to vary depending on which house we’ve gathered. Like e.g. if we would have gathered at a large mansion of Krishna Aunty, it used to be most definitively the game of hide and seek that used to get played. Or if it was Kanta Aunty’s apartment, then of course, there wasn’t much room for hide n seek kind of play. In that case the quick smart fun games of carom or ludo used to be enjoyed. And of course, the food part was also largely marveled by us. Not that we were great eaters. All that we were interested in were the fried items and sweet items. And then, if at all some aunty would have prepared a beloved fried item, my expressions used to be like worth noting! That’s what mom reminisces…. The entire trip back home, I used to trouble her and get her to promise me to make some fried dish over the weekend.

Even today, 30 years later, mom and her group of “gupshup” friends come together and mingle over a kitty party. Even today, since the time it all began, they still meet; they still talk and they still laugh their way home. It is such a great feeling to just see them enjoy their years of friendship. Today, most of them are grannies! Yet, they aren’t the types who’d don the hat of a grandmother and sit at home. They’re all out, enjoying every moment of their kitty time. Even today, they organize picnics and short overnight trips. Their enthusiasm is truly contagious….Not for me, but for the daughter-in-laws of these senior ladies! Because it is these junior damsels who’ve taken an initiative now and started off their very own “bahu brigade” kitty party! Of course, the big noticeable difference is that these junior damsels prefer to get together sans their respective kids, whereas with the senior lot, we as kids always used to accompany. It was usually nicknamed a fun Saturday by us.

Wonder what these junior damsels really come together and chat?… Perhaps they might be discussing about their respective mom-in-laws; and perhaps these mom-in-laws might be talking about their bahus!  One day, I cheekily asked my mom and my brother’s wife (both separately), and slightly naughtily! The gist of my question to mom: “Do you’ll discuss daughter-in-laws”? And my question to my bro’s wife: “Do you’ll talk about mom-in-laws?”. Well, needless to mention that I got pretty diplomatic answers from both sides, but hey! who cares? As long as I got to give them both that notorious smile, and they got to give me those too-good-to-be-true(!!) expression! So, well, all thanks to these kitties which go on in full swing, across households of so many cities, that the ladies get a chance to talk and talk, and….well, talk.

So much so for the kitty parties! Good going ladies. Three cheers to kitty party! Hip Hip Hurray!

Sometimes I hate…..

Sometimes I just hate

The noise of that irritating alarm

Reluctantly I wake

I switch it off, stretching the arm.

Sometimes I just hate

When in time approaches my train

I wonder why it’s not late

But all my wonder goes in vain.

Sometimes I simply hate

Seeing the boss daily in place

And I feel like asking

Please….gimmie a break

Don’t you even once go on a leave?!

Sometimes I hate

To listen to some lousy remark

Sometimes things just demotivate

And everything seems dark.

Sometimes I hate

When nothing goes my way

And I just call it a day.

For the next day I then wait

And I hope it is a better day.

With this state of mind I doze

Hoping tomorrow begins on a good note……

Life is beautiful

Life is beautiful for this ten year old dark mahagony colored wooden bench placed in the public park about eight years back. It was brought here after the park opened for public, and since then it’s been around day and night, through scorching summers and chilly winters.

Over time, the bench has had many a buddies, who come and sit on it while visiting the park. But ask the bench to pick five to six of its most favorable buddies and it doesn’t hesitate one bit to describe them.

Dr. and Mrs. Kapoor are the firsts to visit the park for their morning walk at 5.45 am every day. Dr. Kapoor is a renowned physician in town, and after their walk, every single day Mrs. Kapoor inquires to him about his schedule for the day. Every now and then Dr. Kapoor has an operation scheduled. Today he tells Mrs. Kapoor he has a major operation scheduled and that he’s tensed up whether it would go well. He sits on the bench and discusses about his anxiety with her. The bench quietly wishes the doctor ‘all the best’.

Then at 7.30 sharp enters Mrs. Rustomjee and her cousin Sally. They are associated with an NGO and have almost devoted their life to service. Dreaming about a clean city is what Mrs. Rustomjee believes and fights for, day in and day out. For her mission close to her heart, her NGO organizes several rallies and drives to bring home the importance of clean and healthy cities to urbanites at large. Be it schools, hospitals or slums, they organize the awareness drives across the board to seek maximum involvement and people participation. Every day when they perch on the wooden bench in the morning, the bench comes to know how the women’s day would be unfolding, and what all chores they have in store for the day. And thus the bench feels nice and fulfilling from inside, to have such a workaholic person as its buddy.

At 8.00 am walks in Mr. Pujari, a senior citizen, retired judge accompanied by his dear friend Shri Kher. After a brief walk around the park, they settle down on the wooden bench and discuss everything there is to discuss under the sun- whether it is affecting or not affecting their lives directly or indirectly. They talk politics, law and order, about busy lives, about the changing societal patterns, about how these days even to visit a close nephew or niece they need to call up before hand and then visit, they talk about the latest books each one of them has recently read and the conversations just drift on and on till 8.30, when usually it is Mr. Kher who peeks into the watch and remarks it is time for them to get going….Sometimes the bench wonders why it is very fond of these two senior citizens and then it convinces itself that it is because of these two gentlemen that the bench stays up-to-date on the happenings and events around the country/ world at large. So in a way, the two buddies are the bench’s information bank!

As the day advances, the bench sits all alone amid the scorching heat, sulking and waiting for the evening….because it is only in the evenings, that it gets to meet three of its last set of buddies.

Jay enters the park at 6.30 pm. After a brisk round of the meadows, with an i-pod stuck to him constantly, the fellow halts for a while and perches on the bench. To the bench, he seems to be a confused guy. Actually he is well educated and all, and he has also begun work recently. But the bench somehow feels that he isn’t enjoying his job. It isn’t giving him the kind of kick and push he’s perhaps yearning for. Although the bench doesn’t know where the problem lies. And then, every single day, slowly, he dials a number from his mobile handset, only to disconnect the number….until some day he musters some courage and dials the number again. This time he speaks to the person on the other end. He addresses her as Priya, and then slowly but surely the bench comes to know part of Jay’s confused life….girlfriend, less paid & stuck up job, zero job satisfaction, rising parental expectations….But something about the guy tells the bench that he’ll someday come out of his issues and pangs surely. There is one glitter and twinkle in the eyes of Jay, which the bench is very fond of, which tells him, that this boy will surely find his path. And the bench waits for that day curiously….

Exactly one hour after Jay leaves, a lady walks in, completes her daily 10 rounds of brisk walks and silently sits down on the bench. She’s been a visitor of this park for a longer time than the bench has been around. Till as recent as the bench could remember, this lady used to exude a sense of confidence in her walk, in her demeanor, and in general in her attitude. But it’s as recent as the past year, that she’s appearing to be kind of clumsy, irritant, absent minded and angry in general. Nowadays, every once in a while she forgets something or the other on the bench. One day, it’s her purse, some day it’s her vegetable bag. And then the bench wonders how a person can age so fast and how it could affect that person’s daily life….Then one day it is from his information buddy Mr. Pujari that the bench came to know a term dementia, and then it struck the bench that perhaps the lady is precisely suffering from this kind of similar disorder. Like a tree laden with fruit and flowers on one day, and then other day having shed all its flowers and having become dry and worthless, the bench has seen the journey of this lady transform from confidence and charm to the uninviting corridors of memory loss and dementia. And the bench’s heart reaches out to the lady….if only it could help her in her agony…

The last buddy whose story the bench wishes to share is a fifteen year old girl name Meera. She stands outside the park every day in the evening, selling flowers and garlands. As the sun sets and the park becomes a desolate place, she enters the premises, and quietly perches on the bench, opens her tiny yellow colored pouch, which is her money bag and sits to count her day’s earning. The bench doesn’t know about the whereabouts of Meera’s parents, or whether she does even have any family to go home to. Because right after finishing the money count, she heads out of the park to a stall, gets herself some quick bite and continues sitting on the bench for a long time. She just looks up into the star studded sky with eyes wide open. Perhaps there’s no one to tell her any stories about stars, perhaps she wonders about the universe or about her destiny….or perhaps the bench wonders she gathers dreams in her eyes and watches the stars awestruck.  Her earnings are meager, the bench understands. It’s just herself that she’s supporting, the bench guesses. As night falls, her sleepy eyelids grow closer and in a moment she falls to sleep, like a child in the lap of the bench, under the envelope of the night sky to take care of her and to sing her a quiet lullaby. It’s been almost three years that Meera is going on with the same schedule, and then bench is more than her buddy. It’s her care taker.

So for this eight year old mahagony bench, this is life. Those who come and sit on it, all those special ones whose stories it shares heartily are its mirrors to the outside world. With their experiences and stories the bench realizes and comes to know how bad or sometimes good the world can be. Their anguishes and hopes ignite a curiosity in the mind of the bench, as it keeps on sitting where it always has, though quietly praying for each of its buddies; hoping that wherever they are, they stay happy and contented, and hoping that its friendship with all of those continues for years on….

For the wooden bench, this is life and life is beautiful, just like the scented flowers grown on the tree right beside it, the fragrance of which the bench keeps getting as seasons move on. Sometimes the fragrance is maximum, sometimes minimum, but the bliss stays etched in its memory until next year when the blossom would come back in full swing. Until then, it’s just the bench and its six close buddies.

By the Window…

A constant soothing breeze that blows into the bungalow,

The breeze comes in through that corner window…

The window has a décor of curtains and cushions,

Curtains delicately flowing of nylons and chiffon…

On the pelmet of the window

Is potted a scented rose shrub,

One day it bears flowers

Other day a new tiny bud…

Sitting by the window with a hot brew of coffee

Or a book to read by the side

Admiring the old mango tree

Or looking into oblivion; outside…

To come and sit by the window

Combing the open layers of hair

Or glancing at the garden below

For hours just muse and stare…

To stand by the window each morning

Waving till you disappear

Then stand again in evening

Watching you come home; as those footsteps sound familiar…

I’ve a special bonding with this luminous window

Small acts of mine are associated with my window

With each day this bondage grows

In some way it connects us in evenings as you return

For which I thank my luminous window…

‘The Daily’

At 6.30 AM sharp, every single day, beating against all weather odds, one friend used to come and visit a gentleman seventy three years old residing in Gunwant Society. The man was Shri. Pabalkar, whom family used to lovingly call Appa.  And the friend was his daily dose of news- the regional newspaper “The Daily”. It was like his conversation friend.

The crisp smell of “The Daily” used to greet him at the break of the dawn. Whether anyone at home used to remember to wish him or not, one pal who used to relentlessly wish him ‘morning’ was The Daily. For thirty long years, the newspaper had outgrown to be more than a mere dose of news. It had become more than a sheet of paper; it had almost simply become a friend to Appa. And especially since the demise of his wife seven years ago, he had gotten far closer to The Daily.

That way, the Pabalkars had subscribed two to three newspapers; but they all were in English. None pertained to regional news, which would be written in the vernacular language.

The young lady of the house, Mrs. Pabalkar used to get bogged down by her son’s vernacular language studies, and she used to wonder how he’d be able to cope with his vernacular language at school. Then Appa used to give her a dosage; a quick advice of making the little fellow develop the habit of reading the vernacular newspaper which daily fell by their doorstep. But the modern mom that she was, she wasn’t all too keen on her son wasting his time reading the vernacular language newspaper. According to her, even if he musters time to briefly read the English newspaper headlines, it was more than enough. Little did she realize that one’s language skills can really develop quite well by reading text in that language, rather than merely sticking to reading the textbooks prescribed in school.

She herself used to stick to reading only the English newspapers, so also her husband. Then how can one reasonably think that their son would form the habit of even wanting to hold the vernacular language newspaper?

So, thus, day in and day out, the family resorted to reading only English newspaper, with the exception of, of course Appa, whose friend, philosopher and guide nowadays was The Daily. Every single morning, the paper used to be fallen by the doorstep, only for Appa to pick it up and get immersed in it for almost more than half of the day. After retirement, it was his only time killing factor, apart from his morning walks.

Time went by fast as it always does against the tide; until one day ‘The Daily’ became orphan…..

A prolonged illness saw the demise of Appa, and since then “The Daily” lost a true friend. For almost a month after Appa passed away, it didn’t strike the newspaper boy not to place The Daily by the Pabalkar doorstep. It had become more than a habit for even the newspaper boy. Blindly he kept on placing The Daily. The family kept mum for a month. Then one day, Mrs. Pabalkar, while settling previous month’s newspaper bill, specifically mentioned to the newspaper walla, to stop placing The Daily from the subsequent day.

Next day too, the fellow perhaps forgot to remember her instruction and placed the newspaper. Was it his negligence, or was it his carelessness, Mrs. Pabalkar wondered.

The following Sunday her husband himself waited by the door early in the morning, for he wanted to let the newspaper delivery boy know about it, clearly. At 6.30 AM he arrived with three newspapers on his bicycle- the regular two English newspapers along with The Daily. He dropped the papers by the doorstep. Mr. Pabalkar looked up and protested. He swiftly picked it up and shoved it in the fellow’s hands. With a twist in his eyes he remarked “perhaps you haven’t got the message right. We wish to discontinue The Daily. It’s been almost a month since we have communicated this across to your supervisor. I fail to understand why he’s still sending it to us”.

The fellow meekly replied to Mr. Pabalkar, “I’m sorry Mr. Pabalkar, but I cannot let you discontinue The Daily. It’s associated with your household for a long time. It’s more like it reminds me of the old man for whom I used to deliver it. He had once told me; in fact he had given it in writing, that even after I am no more, please do keep delivering it at our house. My son and daughter in law might protest. But still you do not stop. That’s the only way to pursue them to develop a liking for a newspaper of their own vernacular language”

Saying so, the delivery boy quietly handed over a little moist note to Mr. Pabalkar. It was his late father’s handwriting, he immediately guessed. And really, to his complete surprise, he had actually given a note to the newspaper delivery fellow to keep on relentlessly delivering it, even after his demise. After this dialogue, none said a word. There was just an exchange of glances. Tucking the three newspapers by his arm, Mr. Pabalkar quietly walked indoors. He silently closed the door behind him. He didn’t look back to see if the fellow was still standing outside.

Whether it was as a fond memory of his father, or whatever may be the cause, The Daily kept visiting the Pabalkar household. Perhaps it was his father’s persuasive habit to make the family read it, that today, Mr and Mrs. Pabalkar both, and also their eight year old son, make it a point to open it at least once a day and read though it.

Is it the old Mr. Pabalkar’s memories that they read, or is it the news, one is left to wonder…..

Winds of Change

The only thing constant in this fast world is change,

Of truth and fiction, the former one is indeed strange.

Moon phases occur from lunar to full,

Economies vary on the continuum of bear to bull.

Technologies change and advance,

Buds become flowers and start to dance.

Even mankind has gone through evolutions,

Nations have waged wars,

Thus have occurred revolutions.

From summer to spring

Seasons keep changing.

Days keep advancing,

from morning to evening.

Good days change into bad,

Bad into good.

From gloom to bloom,

This is how changes mood.

Attitudes change,

Destinies change.

Times change,

Tides too undergo change.

Call them evolutions; or call them advances,

Or may be sheer change.

They all co-exist in life’s open range.

So the sooner we adapt,

The better we can adopt.

Our practical world talks and walks change,

Is there anything else that bears a higher claim?

It’s change that is the name of the game…

Kudos to Divergent Thinkers!

Who says it’s only the adult creative types who bear an intrinsic talent of imagination? All those visualizers and advertising stalwarts scattered all over, or all those emphatic design engineers- it isn’t just this breed which stretch their minds beyond limits to live in a world full of imaginative frames, trying to give concrete shape and meaning to abstract ideas. The entire “imagination” and ‘abstract thinking’ talent mushrooms and grows over a period of many years. Needless to mention then, that this seed of ‘divergent thinking’ is sown in their mind and hearts as kids.

Children have fantastic imagination. Imagination is as though their buddy and they simply love to float in the mystical cloud of abstract thinking.

The last thing on any parents’ mind should be to clip or curb their imaginative thoughts by unnecessarily fencing their thought with logical reasoning. When it comes to imagination, sky is the limit, and parents need to understand this very element.

Just the other day, my friend’s daughter excitedly went over to her and told her- “mom, you know, what honey bee gives us?” Her mommy replied “Yes, dear, it gives Honey. Now, obviously this wasn’t the actual question that the kid had for her mom. She smiled at the reply, and further continued asking “Do you know what a butterfly gives us?’. Now my friend was quiet. She knew butterflies don’t give anything. But she simply replied to her daughter- “You tell me, my dear, what a butterfly gives us”. Very confidently, with an intonation of “I know it all, the six year old remarked “It gives us butter!”. Now, here’s the catch. My friend knew this wasn’t the right answer from the point of view of logical thinking. In fact, this wasn’t in any way the correct answer. But she consciously reworded her next sentence to something like this- “Your imagination is really vow”. Any other ‘reasoning’ oriented and practical mom in her place might have immediately shunned the child’s reply and said “no, this is wrong. Who fed this wrong information in your head? A butterfly doesn’t give butter at all.” At this very minute, with this point blank reply that mother would put an end to the imaginative thoughts racing in her kid’s mind. And this would pave way for the imaginary doors to become one by one shut for that child.  I later acknowledged my friend whose reply was apt. She applauded her daughter’s imaginative thinking by giving the kind of reply she gave.

My other friend’s five year old child was busy watering their plants on their terrace one lazy Sunday morning, when suddenly out of nowhere a bumble bee raced into their balcony. The child was startled. From one corner, he observed the way the bee was flying around. He then dashed indoors and told his mom “Vow mommy, look at our plants. They are having so many beautiful and pretty flowers on them. That way, even the flowers in the balcony of that aunty living one floor above us, are quite colorful. But you know what? This one bumble bee was sitting on those flowers, and from up above, it saw our flowers. And then as soon as it saw our flowers, it raced downstairs from her balcony to ours, only to sit onto our flowers. It loved our colorful flowers so much”. What a story! I consider it to be a wonderful concoction, and an incredible narration of some vivid imagination that five year old is having in his magnificently wired brain.

When I asked my friend how she reacted to her son’s story, she said ‘I was quietly and attentively listening’. There and there I realized that one more creative and imaginative brain is being nurtured well. One of the most beautiful experiences parents can truly indulge in is to listen well- to listen attentively to the stories and narrations that their kids are unfolding in front of them. And the last thing on any parents’ mind is to cut them short and to ask them to keep quiet or keep it short. It instantly puts a complete full stop to their imaginary ideas, which are only going to take shape if they are being given a good ear.

Imagination in children could be toying along with words like the six year old did when she mentioned about honey bee making honey, and drawing a parallel to a butterfly making butter! She obviously knew that cow gives milk and butter. But that moment while conversing with her mom, she wanted to wander in the clouds of imagination; and her mom let her wander, with the way she replied to her statement. She didn’t pull her down, neither she did she try to correct her directly.

Imagination in children could also be cooking up nice stories and narrating them in their unique styles and tones.

Paying good attention and acknowledging their imaginary attempts is like giving rise to one new creative head on the face of this planet, which is otherwise full of “overtly practical”, no-nonsense, point blank” speaking and thinking beings all around us.

If convergent thinking has its own takers, let even divergent thinking has its own fair share. Let the creative juices flow in children today, so that tomorrow, the world would become a slightly more interesting place to live; with all these creative thinkers dabbling with newer ideas or path breaking innovations.

Hide and Seek

Heard of a game called hide n seek?

Which all children play, when their childhood is at peak.

They bob, they run, they hide,

Then they don’t care even if elders chide.

‘cause all they want to do is jive,

so much fun in it they derive!

They run around corridors,

And around aisles,

Encircling the whole house.

Oh! that reminds me…

Who else plays hide n seek?

Its also a cat and a mouse!

One is out to chase,

The other somehow escapes.

One with a goal—

To catch the tiny rat

that emerges from the hole.

Though right from start,

Mouse was always smart.

By playing some prank,

The mouse sat amused!

Thus in this manner,

Their hide n seek continued……

When cops are out to snatch and catch,

As the thieves have eloped breaking a latch.

When cops are on their toes,

Following thieves’ shadows,

And thieves hide behind those thick dense meadows,

What game is it?

Oh! its hide n seek!

When politicians point out at bureaucrats,

And bureaucrats at politicians,

Which one of two is really meek?

Oh! actually its just hide n seek.

There was once a tenant,

Who never paid his rent.

Though the owner remained patient,

At times he used to lament.

The tenant had ample reasons,

This had been happening since many seasons.

But one day the owner flared,

And he finally declared-

“I am going to dismantle and rebuild,

as each brick on this wall has turned weak.

Leaving no place for the tenant to speak,

Is this not a game of hide n seek?

Who else play hide n seek?

Come on…think…think….

Its day and night.

All day long when there’s lot of light,

Moon takes a flight.

Once night falls,

It’s the moon’s call.

As moon creeps,

Sun falls asleep.

This is nature’s game of hide n seek.

Someday when moon is really bright,

Clouds come out and enter into a fight.

Moon goes behind clouds,

Clouds cover the moon,

All this happens so soon,

Just in a wink,

Making it a fascinating game of hide n seek.

If you think through,

You’ll get a clue—

Success and failure,

Joy and sorrow,

They all raise their furrow.

Interchangeably playing hide n seek all through.

Though neither one sticks like a glue.

When one becomes effusive, the other becomes submissive…..

Finally….

Look at the game of life and death,

Playing hide n seek with each other,

Or for that matter, every other.

When you accept a person’s on the verge to die,

Some miracles happen,

And he comes back from the gates of heaven.

Life dominates, death submits.

When someone’s not of an age,

In his life comes a stage,

When something occurs that’s strange,

And his life passes through the last mileage.

Death dominates, life submits.

If you think deep,

This is also hide n seek.

Difference being one—

In human games of hide n seek,

You can play many a trick.

In nature’s game of hide n seek,

Things naturally happen as you blink,

There you won’t get a second chance to think…….

A chuckling visit!

All those ladies who frequent visits to a tailor to get their salwar kurtas/ dresses/ trousers etc stitched—this one’s for you—

Months back, I landed at a tailor’s shop, to get some kurtaas stitched. I had hoped to quickly hand him over the materials and move out of the shop within 20 minutes maximum. But Alas! I was strangled there to my patience’s end.

To my dismay, there was this smart looking, well dressed lady accompanied by her hubby. They were standing by the tailor’s counter. Now the reader would wonder, ‘so what?’ But hey! That’s not the case. The thing is that the lady was merely standing, like a mannequin, whereas it was her hubby who was going on and on instructing the tailor to stitch the dress in a certain way. All that the lady had to do was to stand and give measurements, because the rest of the instructions were coming from her hubby…! I mused over and thought that the lady would rather herself stand as a mannequin, instead of another actual mannequin that the tailor had installed there!!

I was so amused by this scene. It was indeed weird. The man was even instructing the tailor things like keep this measurement 5 inches, don’t make it 3 inches, and don’t stitch the attire too jazzy, just keep it simple; have some simple patterns on the dress. He was even browsing through the pattern designs booklet which tailors usually have, letting the fellow know which pattern would suit better on his wife!  …..Thus he was going on and on with his petty nosy advices, and the lady for whom the dress was being stitched, was standing by his side, quiet, absolutely noiseless. Wonder where her decision making skills had vanished? And wonder how two different people can have such similar opinions and likings. Didn’t she feel like differing with her husband’s set of instructions? Didn’t she feel like taking a closer look at the pattern booklet herself, just in case she’d end up liking a different pattern than what her dear husband had already zeroed in on?

Looking at that somewhat funny conversation, I chuckled, no doubt. But at the same time, another thought raced through my mind— Who says modern women have become independent minded and have the ability to make decisions on their own, even with trivial matters like suggesting their desirable stitching designs to a tailor?

A day later I asked my friend if there has been any time in her married life, when her husband had accompanied her to a tailor’s and she gave me one look. She remarked that a visit to a tailor would be the last thing on their combined outing agenda. Besides, she said, what’s the need to tuck along your hubby, of all the places on earth, to a tailor’s! She said her husband would get completely dazed, if she were to ever do such a bizarre thing!

Anyways, that way it isn’t a big deal, some would think. But to a practical independent minded woman of today’s times, it’s a strange thought. To accompany your husband to a tailor’s shop, letting him do all the talking, while you stand there mum, passively listening to all the talking going on, between your husband and your tailor!!!; it just isn’t digestible.

And then another thought came over me. What’s the point in ladies merely dressing up and outwardly looking smart, whereas from within, they cannot even open their mouth and voice their own stitching related requirements to the tailor?

Wake up guys! It’s 2010 that we are living in. Not some age old times, when this scene might not have been so uncommon. Months have passed, but even today, when I recall that scene, it makes be bemused to no end. Reminiscing that morning’s tailor visit indeed makes me chuckle till date!