Thursday, April 28, 2011


Crows, those ugly, pedestrian- looking, croak-voiced ignominious birds have been the last subject to spark a writer's imagination . But they recently did mine as they generally do, for I believe in an old Chinese proverb that 'Love for a person must extend to the crows on his roof '.

As I lay on my bed today, looking outside my casement, my eyes wavered to a thicket of very tall trees. I do not know what trees they are, just this that they are lush and tall - tall enough to reach a six-storied building. These trees , which so much resembled the redwood trees, were around 150 yards away from my house. The weather outside was hot with approximately 37 degree celsius. But the trees appeared quite cheerful as they merrily swayed their branches from left to right.

The noise from the outside world was blocked by the French-glasses and I was cozily nestled inside the sheets with my a.c. on to 24 degrees, trying to catch 40 winks after my lunch. I tried.
I tried, with my eyes fixed on those trees. Then I had the sight.

A murder of crows suddenly flew out of the tree in such dense clusters that I sat up on the bed. They circumnavigated around the tree three times before they again lodged themselves on its branches. It was like a ritual. It was like a sacrament performed for some practice. They circled so for 10- 12 times after which they would again perch on its myriad branches.

It was such an amusing act that I was quite lost in their animated enterprise . Coincidentally, I wondered too that in all my bird-watching in their aerial flight I had never encountered a clash of two birds.... But what were these crows actually up to? Why did they rise up like a sudden eddy of leaves in the Fall ? Did the leader crow make some kind of a rude comment to which all the rest revolted, or was there some sort of a coup in the crow-haven?

Maybe no. But I did move out of my bedroom, out of my living room, out of my house and in no time found myself standing beneath the tree. The crows were making an ear-splitting , cacaphonic sound. I craned my neck and strained my eyes as far as they could. The tree was really sky-high. I endeavored to scan through the dense foliage and the leaves-clusters.Nothing was visible at all. Then as I decided to give up my effort and had turned my back, a drop of glutinous, slimy red blob fell on my hand. I shuddered. I wiped my hand behind and again turned my face atop. And then I saw it.

There between the twin shaggy branches of the tree there lay a gilded adder. It was big. It was long. It was dead. But what was alarming was that it was ripped and half- mauled. The ravenous crows were feeding on it. And therefore the wild orgy !

They were behaving like the fanatic tribals of some semetic origin and I thought it were only us, human beings who performed rituals and ceremonies ! I was quite jolted with the sudden turn of events. What seemed to be an apparently harmless, playful afternoon game of these birds was not so sporting after all.

I returned home with a heavy heart.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It Feels Good

If you are not one of those whom God always challenges with dollops of woes ........., it feels good.

If you have never felt the urge to question God about life and death..........., it feels good.

If you never went through anguish loneliness and heartbreak............, it feels good.

If you have never seen the ugly, the decrepit, the impoverished, the insane and the morbid............, it feels good.

If you never have had dark circles under your eyes, pain in your belly or freckles on your skin..........., it feels good.

If you never had to see your loved ones suffering..........., it feels good.

But the question is, if there is no winter will the spring be as welcoming?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


You don't need to look beautiful to be beautiful.
So much has been said about beauty that any other opinion about it is redundant: beauty within, results in beauty without, and that this inward beauty makes us more pretty and so on... Yet say must I why I feel this way .
The above mentioned thought about beauty came to me while talking of John Keats' famous rumination- "Beauty is truth, truth beauty...". It was like opening a can of brewing thoughts when I announced this topic to my class for chewing the fat. Some said, Truth is beautiful, citing the hindu ideology of 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram'. Truth is God and God is beautiful, so truth is beautiful. Plain logic. Those who rebutted this idea opined that in today's world, truth is bitter. It is so stark and naked that we have to sugar-coat it with artificial and insincere words. So how was truth beautiful ...?
I discreetly stood aside, savouring the spate of such ebullient and buoyant ideas and got lost in my own world of beautiful contemplation.
I could not help but think of Hirbaiben Ibrahimbhai Lobi, the winner of Real Heroes of India 2010, under the Social Welfare catagory. A true grassroot entrepreneur, she comes from a tribal clan of siddi community in Jambur village, at Junagarh (Gujrat) . She changed the fate of the women of her village by starting an organic compost farm. Besides giving employment to the very downtrodden women of her clan she furnished them with tips for scientific farming which she got from the radio. The radio is still her constant friend. She set up a kindergarten school and presently looks forward to open high school and college. And this is not her first award. In 2006 she was awarded the Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar for rural entrepreneurship. She works closely with the Aga Khan Development Network. All this is really amazing given that Hirbaiben herself is uneducated. She was orphaned at 14 and nurtured by her grandmother.
When Hirbaiben got up on stage to collect the citation and honour for Real Heroes, she smiled .
I smiled too. It was infectious.
I can assure you she had not gone to any parlour to have her facial done for this special occasion, nor was her teeth scaled or polished by an expert cosmetic dentist . Even her hair was not shampooed ! Her dark, freckled cheeks with eyebags, the dark brown patches and her yellowed teeth were all too prominent to ignore. Her super plain salwar kameez was far too modest ! And yet when she spoke in her incomprehensible siddi language with her face lit up with an incandescent smile, her voice unquivered with emotion, I knew I had heard the most dulcet and harmonious voice. She broke into a song so guileless that even the cuckoo might wish to sing with her. The pain of her life did not get obliterated in her eyes, though. They had so much to say......
With great effort I returned from my reverie to my class. I was a bit lost. I remarked as if in a trance :"You don't need to look beautiful to be beautiful".
Perhaps this was the kind of beauty that Keats meant, when he equated beauty with truth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gucci's Mysterious Parcel

Things when searched are never found.On the other hand, other things that were lost earlier, show up.This is one recurring problem in my life that defers many urgent jobs.

I am sure this problem is equally plaguing others.

Talking to Devi on this, I said I was not able to find my pan-card, although I had very carefully kept it inside my locker.I had frantically searched my semi-organised safe. I took out all that was there, the files , the packets, the envelopes (inside-out!) and even those documents where pan-cards are not supposed to stay. But I did bump into the KISAN VIKAS PATRA that I had lost some time back.Devi agreed to my predicament and said she had faced the same music more too often. Her case was different though, she said and narrated her woe.

Nikhil, her husband , had to go to New Jersey for his official business. He called Devi from his office to ready his passport, which he said he had kept in the first drawer of the fifth cupboard of his master bedroom.He had to leave that night and was desperately jammed with office work. So if Devi could pull it up ready for him...she would really be an angel. Devi,the ever dutiful wife, drove back home from the middle of her AIWCC meeting of which she is the convener. She immediately got to work on reaching home beginning with the first drawer of the fifth cupboard of his master bedroom ! She didn't find the passport but she found the long lost manuscript of the valedictory speech that she had prepared for Mrs. Mehta's farewell, last month. She had searched and searched then. She had dived into all possible racks and shelves - small and big of her master bedroom for her selfwritten declamation of the ten- year - tenure of Mrs. Mehta at AIWCC. This was done with much effort and more pain, for it was like salvaging the performances of Mrs. Mehta's contribution to the social services which were close to nothing! She had spent the lion's portion of her office in either getting straight with Mrs.Raghavan or confiding her bedroom secrets with Mrs.Chandra. Not finding any historic or histrionic bravado, Devi had created some contributions on her own to make her last day at the Association, a memorable one. And more importantly to remind her what she could have done. This important note Devi had lost at that precise moment.Very reluctantly she had delivered an impromptu speech, which, though widely appreciated, did not pacify her.

Now for fifteen whole minutes she looked at this four and a half-page manuscript wistfully, teary-eyed. What use was it to her now! Yet she could not throw it away.

But her target today was the passport.She resumed her search. She looked inside the other chests. It was not there too. Time had come for Devi to gear up for a massive haul, she thought. Pulling up the strings of her boots, taking some deep breaths, she did a C.I.D - type search of the room. Needless to say, the passport did'nt show up. But Devi definitely did find her School-leaving-Certificate, a pair of wedding pendants, the bank's lost passbook( lost three years back and a new passbook issued) and Wow! a packet of Gucci's lingerie, stashed inside Nikhil's wardrobe. Passport issue became ad interim . Lingerie took the centre-stage.

Should she open the packet? Her heart flirted like a butterfly and said "yes", but her mind stood like a fortress and said "no". It could well be her birthday surprise that Nikhil had planned. WOW!

Devi called up nikhil at his office and informed him that she did not find his passport. Nikhil said he was busy and could'nt remember either.He disconnected the phone. In less than five minutes Nikhil called back . He said, "Listen honey, just look for a packet of Gucci's lingerie."

"Should I look inside it NOW? I mean, it's not even my birthday?"

"Nonsense, passport has nothing to do with birthdays." Nikhil's humour had become very pressure... and all that,Devi thought. Yet following Nikhil's instructions she did open the packet and lo! her eyes widened. There lay the...

Devi now asked me to guess what she had found that day inside Gucci's packet. I guessed right. Can You?

Sunday, January 31, 2010


It was a Monday morning, yet Nidhi woke up with a palpable sense of excitement. The sun-rays that streamed through her slightly open window appeared brighter and warmer. Even the birds seemed to chirp in harmony to her exuberance. Nidhi felt proud of herself. She was nominated for the Godfrey Phillips National Award (championed by none other than Preity Zinta) under the Mind of Steel category!
When her memory flashed back she thought, was it a fluke?
No, it wasn’t. She had acted upon directions from her heart and mind. She couldn't accord it to chance or serendipity. It happened naturally. Although, considering her encumbrances, what she did was unnatural, almost impossible....

That day was a Monday morning too, but a Monday sans the blues. Her husband Sushil was abroad for his official tour and Ayush, her nine-year-old son, had a holiday from school as their Principal had kicked the bucket. This meant she was free to laze around for some leisure.

Jamshedpur was hosting its 7th annual Canvas Fair at the sprawling grounds of the Gopal Maidan. She decided to visit it with Ayush. It was the right day as there would be no maddening crowd on a Monday morning, no rush no panic. So it was that mother and son drove to the fair.

They ambled at the stalls lingering here pausing there looking at the vast display of an array of items. Ayush was looking for a stall with Ben Ten toys, while Nidhi was not particularly looking for anything. She paused at one which displayed ceramic items, terracotta, bone-china and other curios. Picking up an idol of Lord Ganesha in a Vinayak posture reclined on pillows in a stately grandeur, Nidhi was struck by the majesty of its simplicity. She marveled at this artifact with veneration-filled-eyes. But her intuition immediately informed her that Ayush’s tug at her sari was missing. After carefully replacing Ganesha, she spun around. For the moment she would forget Ganesha.

People had begun to pour at the fair much to her consternation. She had forgotten it was the 1st of May, a bank holiday, which gave opportunity for visitors galore!

Goodness Nidhi!!

Her roving eyes stopped at every stall specially the ones selling toys. Then she did spot Ayush. He was standing in front of a stall, wondrously gazing at a Ben Ten toy. No sooner did he see his mother than he rushed towards her imploring her to buy it for him. It was a fancy watch which was supposed to transform Ben Tennyson into an alien to fight monsters. Nidhi did buy it for him after haggling with the pricey item, for nothing in the world is more gratifying to a mother than her son’s guileless smile.
But the fair, by now, had become fairly crowded. A surging fear began to grip her. How could she dare to visit such a public place swarming with people ALONE, when she never did so even when Sushil was there to protect her? She never visited any crowded places, NEVER. There fore she had chosen this day.
Nor did she ever use fire except lighting incense sticks or candles, that too with much effort and after more cajoling from Sushil . For cooking she used her heater, a microwave and the cooking- range, not the gas cylinder.

Without wasting any more seconds, she held Ayush tightly and jostled her way out of the fair, almost frantically. Suddenly a scream tore through the air. It was a child’s voice. It was not Ayush’s though it had the same tonality. There was a cry of pain. The scream came from one of the stalls, a persistent hairsplitting scream of despair.
Nidhi gave one lingering look at her son and turned back. Again shoving aside the rabble, fixing her mind at that voice that could so easily have been her son’s, she briskly headed towards the crisis, Ayush's hand clutched in hers. Finally she reached him. His body was on fire. He too was standing before the same toy stall from where she had bought the toy-watch for Ayush. The electrical wires of the stall had burst into flames and engulfed the child who had sauntered there, away from his parents. The people were behaving hysterically and dumbly. Nidhi closed her eyes for the fraction of a second, remembered the Ganesha that she had held in her hands, and with great effort leapt inside the flames. She dropped the child on the ground, covered his eyes and rolled over and over the terrain, clasping the helpless child in her enclosed arms.

Ayush stood powerless in the crowd whimpering at the sight of his mother and the strange child. But what shocked him was his mother’s behavior which was stranger. For who on earth knew better than Ayush and Sushil that Nidhi had a dual handicap. She was pyrophobic and agoraphobic. Rare but true. Emboldened by her pluck, someone in the crowd managed to find a thick cloth and wrapped both of them till the flames were doused off. A few even got buckets of water splashed on them….

Not too long back did these incidents take place. Nidhi smiled. She particularly remembered her journey to the hospital with a good Samaritan at the wheels of her car, Ayush giving her all comfort and solace that was apt for a nine-year old, clutching his toy while the image of the Ganesha flitted in her mind. She had desolated Him but He hadn't. And what more? He had cured her disability once and for all !

Looking back on that propitious Monday Nidhi thought to herself, "You have definitely arrived".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A stone thrown away at the right time is better than gold given in the wrong time !


Yippeee reason 1 : I am back home from my month-long sojourn at the hospital. Yippeee reason 2 : I finally bought my pair of LSS jeans. Yippeee reason 3 : I am blogging again ( after aeons!) .

Life lands you in the most unpredictable places and predicaments when you expect them the least. No one knows it better than me now. So while I was busy shopping like crazy for the pujas, I had severe bouts of pain, forcing me to take refuge in the most dreaded and cheerless place - the hospital. I was diagnosed with a solitary calculus (stone) in my gall bladder with acute pancreatitis.

Need I mention how upset I was with the stone, for jeopardising my plans, with the pujas just round the corner? I remembered how stones of various forms and shapes (real and metaphorical ), had been upsetting me since bygone days. But thankfully those were external ones . This time it had dared to cross the Rubicon and penetrate inside my body !

When I was five, I was hit by a stone at the temple which was the first attack from a stone. It had caused profuse bleeding, pain and had left me with a long time companion - scar. My whole family was almost up in arms against the miscreant. ( Yet curiously enough, my aversion and awe towards the stone-thrower has , in recent years, shifted from the perpetrator of the action to the object itself ! )

Then at the age of fifteen , my friend Menal, who lived at a stone's throw distance from my house, hit me the second stone. This time figuratively. She lured my best pal, Rohit into her confidence . He slowly moved away from me. In the event I lost two things : Rohit , and his ever- so - happenning help of Julius Caesar' s notes . You see , how Menal killed two birds with one stone !

By the time I was twenty I was hit by the 'Rolling Stones', whose band was founded by Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Most of their albums became my treasure trove. I also became a fan of Buddy Holly whose 1957 song 'Early in the morning' contained the lyrics, " Well you know a rolling stone, don't gather no moss, and you crossed your bridge and it's time to cross". It was only after Holly's death that Rolling Stones got it's name.

The next ominous stone that gave me jitters during my graduation years, was a biblical expression, ' Like one who binds a stone in a sling , so is he who gives honour to a fool' . I had a hard time to figure out which of the two was referred to the fool - the stone or the sling !

All these years I have been plagued by stones. Never did I fathom that I would carry one within me, literally ! My forsaken sweethearts may have commented at some point of time that I had a heart of stone . This is not true. But now I won't mind them saying , "The stone from the heart slipped into the bladder !"

Retracing my steps to that doomed, cheerless place , Let me assure my small band of readers that the worst is over. I finally underwent a lapchole (Laparoscopy Cholecystectomy ), after the pancreas was brought to normal functioning. The gall bladder is now a thing of the past . They even removed the organ along with the blighted stone. I don't host it in my body anymore! And for the first - never -imagined- time , I feel a strange pride to show my sympathisers the stone, which I intend to preserve for some more time.

My present fears are somewhat different. Some extremely nosey and detracting so - called - well wishers of mine have cautioned me that now that I no longer have the gall bladder, I might , in future, weigh 21 stones !!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"This puja I'm planning to buy a pair of jeans." I mused to Devi.

This came to her as a shock as I had never in my life invested in a Levi Strauss' and Jacob Davis' creation . Although, no sooner were they launched they had caught the fancy of the young and the old and had become a rage all over the world , I never actually did contemplate wearing one . Perhaps I never found a conducive break.

"Old age hath yet her folly !" Devi counter- mused in an admonishing tone. Then bracing herself for a more graceful reprimand she said,"Yet what makes you to host this out- of- the -box desire, sweetheart?"

"Well, nothing phenomenal. Just that I do not want to kick the bucket with the feeling that I did not taste the delicious feeling of slipping into a pair of jeans and in the process also lost the scope of assessing my own physical symmetry. You know Devi, I finally realised that a pair of jeans actually has many merits, quite contrary to my primeval sententious sentiments!

Devi was reprovingly all ears, as if to say ,"Let's hear it , baby, let's hear it."

"Did you ever think that a pair of jeans can be worn for as many as ten days at a stretch without having to be washed or ironed? Look at our saris. They always wait to be pressed after every use. Our salwars and churidars need a dupatta for extra coverage ! Not so for a pair of jeans and kurti. In the monsoon this scores better than our good old saris. In a sari we juggle to lift them up very cautiously to negotiate puddles of water, which is always so complicated. In jeans just fold the ankle-end as required and your job is done.

"And Devi dear ", I was now quite infused with all it's goodness and felt a strange surge of bravura overpowering me, "Have'nt you noticed the span of time needed to don a sari ? You have to be ever so careful to wrap yourself up with this 9 yard long unstitched dress material. The pleats and the dangler must have a uniformity which is so time consuming. While just slip into your jeans and 'Presto', you are ready for the occasion...."

At this point Devi cut me short . She was too confused at the vicissitude of my loyalty which had so suddenly shifted to a less nobler more avant garde apparel. She took out her right hand, poked out her index finger and said, "Had your say? Now hear mine."

I seemed to have opened the sluice-gates of her fiesty declamation.

"Sari is our national attire. Stalwarts like Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu vouched for it. Women of substance today like Sonia Gandhi , Sushma Swaraj , Renuka Choudhary wear nothing but saris. Saris exhume a dignity which nothing else can. Never can a sari offend the propriety of an occasion- formal or informal. It's comeliness is versatile ingenium. There is even a rare decorum in the diplomatic exposures, which assuage the beauty and sensuousness of its wearer. They range from Rs.200 to Rs.2,00,000 or more, meaning it caters to the poor and the rich suitably. There is no danger of looking crass in a sari. Have'nt you ever noticed the distinctive ways of wearing a sari? Each region in our country has a discreet way of wearing it. Is'nt it unique ? It is always so easy for me to pack a suitcase with my saris. Just fold them , stack them strategically and 'Voila' (!) my saris far outnumber Nikhil's , even while he struggles to keep the right crease of his shirts and pants !

Now my o' my ! That was some silencer !

There invariably was veracity in everything that Devi had said. I could not but endorse with her opinions. And I remembered my maid too.

For my maid has all the good reasons for wearing a sari.Each nook of her sari has special value for her.With the alacrity of purpose and celerity of her nimble fingers , her sari serves the refuge for all the disappearing items from my shelves and racks. They are so tactfully placed that whenever I point my suspicious finger here or at a projection there, she draws out a harmless miniscule tin and says nonchalantly-"Khaini hai bhabi" !!!

[ Yet I must state that I am sticking to my initial decision. I am buying a pair of jeans. Only time will tell whether it will be any other Denim or a Levi's ].

Happy independence day to me and to all.