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 wry...work 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".