enter her heart

(Tales From Paharpur : Story 2, Part 1.  BlogchatterA2Z challenge Day 5) 

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Prakash was my childhood friend. He was afflicted with polio and his limp grew worse with age. We grew up together in Paharpur. The name Paharpur might have come from the fact that the village was surrounded by a number of hillocks.  My house was in the middle of the village, just opposite his.

We were in High School and he was our undisputed leader. Besides Prakash and I, our gang of four consisted of Tirky and Ranka. The school was in another village called Kantakpur, three kilometers  away. The three of us took turns to carry Prakash in our bicycles.  Being village boys, we had all started our education late and we were quite over aged for high school.

The dusty road to Kantakpur started after we crossed the river near thick bushes of kewda  flowers. One day, when we had just crossed the river, Prakash told us to stop. Calling out to Tirky he said, “Do you see the black bird sitting there on the tallest kewda plant?”

We craned our necks and narrowed our eyes to locate the blackbird. “Yes… yes. I see it,” Ranka shouted.

“Tirky, today is your lucky day. We have found what we were searching for.”

While Tirky nodded to show his understanding, Ranka and I demanded an explanation.

Tirky wanted to say something, but, Prakash stopped him. “Let me explain, he said, our friend Tricky has a crush on Jaya, that idiot Vikram’s sister. But he does not know how to approach her. I consulted the ancient manuscript that one of our great great grand fathers has left for us. It is written there that to seduce someone and make him or her do whatever you want you need to get the twig of a black bird’s  nest found in the kewda flower bushes. First, all of you go, search for the nest and get the twig. Then I will tell you what to do.”

The kewda plants were part of thick bushes consisting of various thorny plants and creepers. The possibility of snakes hiding in the thick undergrowth made the prospect of reaching that particular plant scary.

When Prakash saw that we were hesitating he came limping. He shouted and taunted calling us names. “Useless fellows, wait I will show you how to go inside.”  He used his stick to beat the undergrowth to make sure there was no snake. Then he crawled inside. In no time he was near the trunk of the plant that housed the nest. We followed him and were about to reach him when he signaled us to stop and be still.

I could see the tail end of a black snake dangling from the tree. The other portion seemed to be hidden in the nest.

He said, “Don’t be afraid. But be still. I know the snake mantra. It will not do us any harm.”

 He mumbled something and slowly touched the snake. We could see its head  emerging out of the nest. It went up the branch and slowly slid into another tree.

“Now your chances are double, Tirky. The scripture says if the nest is guarded by a snake you will enter her heart without any difficulty.”

When we came out with the twig, Prakash said, “Now we have to crush the twig to make powder out of it. Once the powder is ready I will empower it with a special mantra. You must find a way to mix it with the perfumed powder that she uses. Once she begins applying the powder, you will see the miracle happen.”

 Tirky bribed his sister to do it. His sister and Jaya were close friends.

But even after a week no miracle happened. Jaya continued to ignore Tirky. Rather the whole thing backfired. Someone leaked this conspiracy to Jaya’s elder brother.  One day when we had gone to the village pond for our morning ablutions, Tirky was badly thrashed by him and we, the co-conspirators, were let off after a stern warning to maintain respectable distance from Jaya.

Prakash was adamant. According to him the prescriptions of that rare ancient manuscript never failed. There must have been something wrong with our execution. Did Tirky’s sister really mix the twig powder with the powder that Jaya used?

We ourselves developed doubts about our execution. That prevented us from estimating Prakash no better than one of those village charlatans.

(to be continued)

Damodar Bridge

( #TalesFromPaharpur : 2nd and concluding part of story 1. Day 4 of #BlogchatterA2Z challenge) 

Continued from the previous post..

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“What more can I say. If  I had time I would have told you the details about our training and our meeting with Subhash Chandra Bose. We were somewhere in Manipur. One day we were told to get ready for a great battle that  would be decisive.

But, before we were ready the British surrounded us. Damodar told us that our first task was to save Netaji. The battle lasted for five hours. We were able to repel the British. However, in  the process half of our troupe perished . Damodar was one of them. We did not have time to mourn or do the last rites properly as news arrived that British reinforcement could come at any time. Along with Netaji we escaped and were soon joined by a large number of our supporters.  Then we conducted a prayer meeting for the departed.

I have seen the dead body of Damodar with my own eyes. After coming back we did not know how to break the news to Chandra bhabi. But to our surprise, when the news of her husband’s death reached her, she laughed and said, ‘He cannot die before my death. He promised that he would never allow me to a live a widow’s life. My heart knows he is alive.’

She refused to follow the dictates ordained for a widow like going bangle-less,  wearing only white, or  going for a strict vegetarian diet. Initially we tried to convince her, but seeing her resistance we stopped. We also never brought up the issue of the death after that till this widow pension issue came up.”

Sahib asked my grandfather, “Do you believe that Netaji is dead?”

“No. It is a conspiracy. We got the news that he was killed in a plane crash. But we knew that it was a conspiracy by the British to demoralise us.”

Rain had stopped. Still grandpa ordered us to take our umbrellas and go with sahib till the fair road three miles away after the river. His office jeep waited for him there.

Next day we went to Chandra Dadi’s house. She was as usual at her cheerful best. We asked her if she still had some stock of Adisha. It is a sweet cake specialty which only a few can make properly. She was the best in our village.

She brought three pieces but we were six. We shared it.

We never got bored of teasing her for her patience in waiting for the useless old man or hearing her story about the short period she spent with her husband.

Budhia would be the first to start. “Dadi, once again I am telling you to forget your old man and marry me. He did not do anything to you then. Now also if he comes back, at this old age what pleasure will he give you?”

This much liberty was allowed with our grandparents.

She would respond, “You boys will not understand. When you see a young girl, you immediately think of raping her. But he was not like that.

I got married at ten. He was twenty. At thirteen or fourteen my parents brought me here. I had heard so many stories of first nights. How the men almost raped the young girls who had barely matured.

He used to fight with her mother who used to be adamant that I slept with him.

 ‘She is only a kid mother,’  he would say, ‘let her sleep in your room for some days.’

He would ask me again and again if I was comfortable. Everyday evening he brought sweets and other savories from Bhallapur or from Bittinagar. He said that he was arranging to go to Burma along with others after a month. With the money he earned in Burma, he hoped to get back the land that their family had sold to marry off three of his sisters. His father had died when he was twelve and since then he had been the sole bread earner of the family.

He asked his mother again and again to take care of me properly during his absence. Before going he asked me to tell him what I wanted him to bring when he returned from Burma.

I had heard that many people who went to Burma did not return. Some settled there while some died either during the strenuous journey. Some even got killed by the locals there. I myself had grown up with a lot of widows in my joint family.

I had heard that only the pious and the luckiest ones depart for the other world before their husbands. So it came out from my mouth, ‘I don’t want to die as a widow.’

He shouted, ‘who taught you such things? Don’t believe in such stupid stuff. Anyway, one of the other reasons for my not consummating our marriage is that it will keep me motivated to come back. I also don’t want my children to grow up without seeing their father. This is a common thing in all our villages here. Children see their father for the first time only when they are eight or ten. I don’t want to happen this to our children.  I have asked mother to take care of you. Still, if there is any problem, tell Loka’s mother or go back to your village. You take care of yourself and get all those stupid ideas out of your head.’

He urged her mother with folded hands to take care of me till he returned.

After he lef, his mother took care of me like her own daughter. This was something rare. Even now you see how young brides are treated as slaves. I was lucky.”

She enjoyed telling this story again and again. We also loved hearing it. Her missing husband had become a hero in our minds.

 

The sahib’s next visit to our village was in December. The water level in Kalindi was below knee deep and his jeep could now come right inside our village.

“A jeep in our village. Bhroom… bhroom,” shouted the children as they came and gathered around the jeep. Men too came out of their houses to find out and celebrate the unique event of the presence of a mechanical vehicle in our village. Women peered out of their houses from behind the half open doors.

The Sahib got down from the jeep and asked us to call Chandra Dadi as he was walking to her house. Budhia ran and knocked on the door.

When she opened the door sahib said, “Dadi ji, we have corrected the birth date in your voter Id card. Now you don’t need to be declared a widow to get your pension immediately.”

He asked us to go through the papers and assure her that the papers were in line with what he said. Now she was sixty three and was eligible for the old age pension. She was also eligible to get the arrears for the past three years in one lump sum.

There was jubilation all around. Then and there Dadi announced that when the first pension came there would be grand puja at the temple of our village deity.

The jeep driver took us till the river so that in case the vehicle got stuck in the sand we could be of help. We got down before the jeep entered the river and followed it.  The sahib too got down and walked along with us.

“I enjoy so much walking bare foot on the river sand.” he said. The jeep crossed the river without getting stuck.

When we were turning back, the sahib called us to come close. “I forgot to tell you one thing. I have taken up the matter to construct a bridge across this river and extend the fair road till your village. It may take some time, maybe years. Let us see”

We wanted to jump with joy. Being village boys we did not know how to say thanks formally. Maybe he got it from our looks.

Budhia said, “Sahib. We will name the bridge as Damodar Bridge and put his statue here. He is perhaps the only reckonable hero that our village has produced.”

“No. Don’t do it. Not as long as Dadi is alive. I wish that she live a very very long life. From the way you villagers are taking care of her, I know she will. But after she dies erect statues for both of them. Her heroics too need to be preserved for the posterity.”

We were a little confused and remained silent.

Sahib broke the silence, “I forgot to tell you one more thing. My name too is Damodar.”

(Concluded)

a2zchallenge day 3: Chandrakanta

( #TalesFromPaharpur: Story 1 Part 1. #BlogchatterA2Z series will include a number of stories set in a fictional Indian village of Paharpur. Here is the 1st part of story 1)

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We were waiting near Kalindi river to receive the government official. Budhia was the first to sight him on the other side of the river.

“Look, sahib has arrived,” he exclaimed and stepped into the river to go to the other side and guide him to cross the river. He was not at all concerned that the only garment he was wearing, a half pant, would get wet. Of course he was carrying two towels – a dirty one for his own use and a new one for the sahib. It was July and the river had waist deep water.

We could see that the sahib refused to use our towel. He had got his own. He removed his shoes and changed over to the towel. Budhia offered to carry all his items, but he handed over only his small bag. Carrying his shoes and the  neatly folded pant and shirt in his own hands he stepped into the river following Budhia.

Our village Paharpur was half a kilometer from the river. All our villages in this southern part of Odisha had the same pattern.  The street road was from east to west flanked by row houses. Paharpur was no different.

We let the sahib lead us. He was already familiar with the village and the house of Chandra  dadi.

She was already waiting for us on the verandah of her thatched house. It was a small verandah barely three feet by six. The walls as well as the floor had a coating of cow dung mixed with mud. She had put a mattress on the floor.

Chandra dadi offered a lota of water to sahib to wash his feet. The sahib removed his shoes and washed his feet on the stone steps of the verandah.

He got himself seated on the mattress made of dried date palm leaves. Bhola, another of our companions, volunteered to go to his own house and get tea for sahib.

Budhia said, “Chandra Ma, what is the problem with you? See, how much pain sahib is taking to get you the pension.  It is after such a long time that we have got a kind hearted sahib. Or else, who would come to our village just to see that an old lady like you, whom all relatives have abandoned, gets her widow pension? The thought of walking three miles from the main road and crossing a half flooded river is itself so daunting for the town people.”

‘”God will bless you to sahib ji. All your children will flourish. You will live to be hundred,” she said.

‘”You are like my own mother, Dadi ji. Why are you reluctant to put your finger print? You deserve to get the pension. Nobody has seen your husband for five decades.  I have made all the papers ready. Just allow us to put your finger print and you will start getting your pension soon. It is not much. But you are old. The pension will take care of at least your medicines.”

“I know sahib. You are so kind hearted. But I also know that he is alive. My heart and my soul tell me that he is alive. How will I answer Chitragupta in the other world for receiving something what is not truthfully mine?”

My Grandfather Loknath Misra arrived on the scene. He could not stand straight and used a walking stick. We helped him climb the verandah and sit on the mattress.

He urged, “Chandra bhabi, I have seen with my own eyes what happened to Damodar. Do not hope against hope. Let us for the time being accept that he is alive. Then also, what is the harm in accepting the pension?  Anyway, you would have got it, had the voter card  not shown your age as fifty five instead of your actual age which is now well past sixty. You married fifty years back. What was your age then? Twelve, thirteen, or fourteen? Bhabi, I pray that you consent. Don’t think that after you start getting the pension our village will forsake you. Sixty rupees a month is a big amount, bhabiji, it is a big amount.”

‘It is not about  money, Loka. Who does not need money? Especially, a poor old lady like me who doesn’t have any support from her own relatives. This village has been very good to me. That is why I did not go back to my own village even after all of you told he would never come. But my heart says he is alive. My soul says he is alive.”

Everyone was silent, maybe trying to work out a response to her insistence. She continued, “After five years, anyway my voter card will say I am sixty. I will wait. I am so sorry for the sahib. How kind he is. You are all so kind. But please……”

She begged and started to weep, tears rolling down her wrinkled face to compete with the July rain that had started falling on the muddy village road. She could not talk further and covering her face with the end of her sari she ran inside.

We all fell silent for some time. The rain started to pound. Bhola had come with tea. My grandpa and the sahib were seated on the mattress while we were standing  huddled in one corner of the verandah.

Chandra Dadi’s confidence and belief that her husband was alive had infected us so much so that we also started believing he was alive. We pestered Grandpa to tell a different story.

“Boys, there is no different story. Like a parrot I have been telling this story again and again, maybe for a million times.”

Sahib said, “You tell us the story again, Grandpa. Anyway, it is raining so heavily. I have to wait till the skies clear.”

Grandpa spat the tambakhu out, cleared his throat, and started, “When the tax imposed by the British became too much, most of us  sold the little land that we had and with that money we left for Burma. Damodar  and I stayed in the same camp initially and worked in the rice fields of the same owner.  Then one day I discovered that he had left. I did not know where he had gone. There was no way to confirm. Those day.. no letters…. no phones. Only when someone cam form our village we got the village news. Same way only when one of us went home we could send some gold or news through him.

After one month Damodar reappeared. He had a few friends with him. It was evening and we were going back to our camp after the day’s work. My surprise made me to shout when I saw him, but, he gestured me to keep quiet. I was sharing my camp with two others from our nearby village Kantakpur. He pulled the three of us and said in a low voice, ‘I have joined the Army of Subhash Chandra Bose. We are fighting to free India from the British. It is the same Britsh whose heavy tax made you sell your land and come here to this foreign land to work as labourers. They have made you labourers from owners. If we don’t fight, our children will continue to be slaves.’

We had heard that many of the Indian labourers were joining the Army of a person called Subhash Chandra Bose. His words aroused anger in us against  the British. But it was evening and we were too tired to make a drastic decision that would change our lives. We told him to come and spend the night with us.

He said that he and his companions had put their lives at risk to come there. The British spies were everywhere and if they came to know, the life of all of us would be in danger. If we wanted to join them we had to make a decision then and there and leave immediately.

One of his companions said that Damodar had become very close to Subhash Bose and he was one of those privileged few who travelled with Bose. If we joined we too would be admitted to the close circle of Subhas Chandra Bose.

We wanted to join them. But we were not so sure. We needed time to make a decision. But they did not have time. Finally, we too decided to join them.”

By that time the rain had begun to slow down. Grandpa realised that he did not have time to lengthen his story.

(To be continued)

 

atozchallenge day 2 : bhajiwali’s husband

(The reason for re-sharing this story today is that it starts with alphabet B. It is day #2 of BlogChatter AtoZchallenge. My chosen theme is short story / micro fiction)

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Someone pressed the calling bell- ting, tong.

 “Who might it be?”, asked my guest.

 It was a kind of automated response and he seemed to have forgotten the question the  moment after he had asked it as he turned his gaze towards the wall painting. Maybe, my taciturn guest  thought it was better to say something, or anything rather than remaining silent.

 “It must be the bhajiwali’s husband”, I said gleefully.

Bhajiwali’s husband? But, he must be having a name.”

“He must be. Like many others in this neighbourhood, I too had never bothered to find out.”

Nobody knew  his name. Perhaps there was no need to. He was just a side kick at the Bhajiwali’s shop. But he was a presence, a presence not to be ignored. A presence that had utility. So every one called him the bhajiwali’s husband.

“And how fast he has come. It was hardly ten minutes back that you ordered. Better than the Pizza guys. But, when you said bhajiwali I was a little confused. Usually the word bhajiwali is used for the vendors of vegetables.”

“Yes, I have heard that. But here they use it for the lady who makes excellent fried snacks.  The bhajiwali’s husband does not have a name. He may have one, but nobody seems interested to know it.”

My guest has a name. He is Raj, my lost and found classmate. We used to be classmates in primary school.  Thanks to Facebook, I found him after 24 years and also found that we have been living in the vicinity of ten kilometers for the last five years.

My wife opened the door, settled the payment and after a cursory check of the items inside the packing, shut the door.

After snacks and tea, I suggested to Raj, “ Why not go out for a stroll,  leaving the ladies to spin their gossip and the children to settle their tab war.”

“Yes, why not for the old days’ sake.”

 Raj’s house was five blocks away and after school it was our habit to go out for a walk. I do not remember Raj ever playing those childhood games. Most of the time, he would be absorbed in thoughts. Of course,  I never figured out what he was thinking about. During our walks together, he would hardly talk. It was I who would be doing the talking knowing fully well  that Raj was nodding his head without being interested in what I was saying.

As soon as we landed on to the  street in front my house, we heard loud noises coming from the end of the street.

“That must be from the bhajiwali’s theatre”, I remarked.

Bhajiwali’s theatre?”,  Raj was surprised, But you told she has a shop.

“Don’t  take it so literally. Sometimes, in the evening, it turns into a theatre. Come, we will go there.”

It was a small shop at the end of the street that touched the road surrounding the boundary wall of a temple.  There was a grocery shop to one side and in front, there was a liquor shop. Half of her customers were drunk.  While two drunks were shouting at each other, the bhajiwali  was shouting at them to keep quiet or go away. There were a dozen other customers who were oblivious of the chaos around, maybe being  used to such spectacles on a daily basis.

The bhajiwali continued with her multitasking activities, putting pakoda in hot oil, settling a customer’s bill, making small balls of mashed potato, while all the time shouting at the drunk customers to behave or at the other shop  boy to go and  take order from the the latest customer.  In spite of being  small in stature and very ordinarily dressed in a sari that seemed to have been salvaged from a dump yard, she held centre stage. Surprisingly, she never shouted at her husband who stood at a distance waiting for her next instruction.

She called him near and told him something very softly in a kind of respectful way. He dashed off again, perhaps on another errand.

After sometime the situation improved. The two drunks fighting had become friendlier, most of the customer demands had  been met. She spotted me from behind the boiling oil in the pan and smiled. It was the smile of a young maiden with a tint of a blush. The old stern matron in her was gone.

“How were today’s items, Sir? If you needed anything you could have phoned  me.”

“O! As usual the items were superb. For today, it was enough. We are just out for a walk.”

Slowly we stepped away and took the bend by the temple wall to another street.

Unlike the walk of our old days, this this time Raj started the conversation, “Surprisingly, the bhajiwali too does not have a name and I have a feeling that her husband is not her type. I mean they are not of same social status. Did you observe, even though he wears simple clothes – just a light shaded ill-fitting pant and a shabby shirt, there is something majestic about him, particularly the way he carries himself around. ”

 “I don’t know how far these are true. There are some rumours”.

“Rumours?”

Raj seemed to be interested  to hear word for word of  I what I was going to say, as if suddenly and at one stroke to compensate for his display of lack of interest in my talks during our walks in those childhood days.

“Yes, there are rumours.  Let me tell you what I have heard.  It seems, this lady was a temporary housekeeping staff   in a bank where this gentleman worked in a good position. The gentleman had some soft corner for this lady and used to help her financially to tide over her family’s financial difficulties. Some say, the gentleman embezzled money. Some say, he was innocent but had to pay the price for the wrongdoings of his boss who escaped without harm. This guy was suspended and was imprisoned for some time. After this incident, his family disowned him. Then, it was this lady who came to his rescue. This incident happened in another city. They moved to this city as the lady had some contacts here. Maybe, distant relatives. Together they set up this small shop. Nobody knows if they are actually married. Now nobody bothers to know. Nobody is interested to probe further.  They seem to be quite a nice couple and the snacks she prepares are hot favourites in our neighbourhood.”

“Yes, now nobody is too much interested in their past. That is the beauty of it,” sighed my friend as if relieved of some heavy burden.

 

a sweet illusion

(This time, 31st March was such a deadline, many of the other deadlines went dead.  Added to the last minute confusions was the news that son’s tenth class exam was going to be extended. In midst all these chaos, one of the the things that slipped out of mind was of course the Blogchatter A to Z challenge.  But there is hope. I am just in time to start the challenge from day one.  

The theme I have chosen for the challenge is short story / micro fiction. Fiction is one area I have not given much attention to to till now. But now I am going to do it, at least for the fun of challenging myself. 

After accepting the challenge and starting to write a new story, I realise that I cannot complete it today. Hence I am sharing sharing a short story that I had shared in one of my earlier blogs. Nevertheless, as my readers were very few then,  I am sure most of my present regular readers you must not have come across this story. 

Kind gesture in the form of a ‘cheer’ or a few words of ‘feedback’ will do wonders to keep my morale high to complete the challenge.)

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The phone rang, light went off, and then there was this knock at the door. These happened one after another so fast as if they happened simultaneously. Rita was a little confused as to what to attend to first. Of course she could see the phone blinking. It was her husband.

“Hello Nick, wait a moment. There is someone at the door.”

Supporting her cellphone glued to her left ear with her left hand, she opened the door with the right. Electric connection was restored and the corridor of her apartment  was lit up as she opened the door. It was a boy with a bouquet of flowers.

“It is for you Ma’m”

The boy handed over the bouquet and ran away without waiting to hear Rita shouting at the back

“Wait”

She tried to follow him down the steps of her second floor, but the boy had vanished. Is he from this apartment complex? How come, I have never seen him. She was so much perplexed by the sudden turn of events, after an hour of a boring monotonous evening that she thought it better to talk to her husband later.

“Wait Nick, I will call you after some time.” she told and  cut off  even as he was shouting at the other end, “Tell me, what happened”.

She sat down on the drawing room sofa and gazed at the bouquet which was so heavy that she had struggled to hold it with her right hand. It was a gorgeous bouquet with an assortment of roses and chrysanthemums. She was lost in the bouquet for  some moments when she realized she had  a mystery to solve. Of course she had to call his husband first. She put away the bouquet on  a side table. She called her husband just to justify how busy she was at the moment and promised to call him after dinner.

Rita had moved to Bangalore two months back to join her new job while her husband and two school going sons stayed in Delhi. She held a senior position in a multinational company. Her husband was a senior bureaucrat posted in one of the influential ministries.

First she tried to recall if she had forgotten that day’s association with any important event in her life. No, there was nothing like that. Or was it that rascal colleague who, from the day one of her joining, had been trying to be so friendly with her that she felt irritated each time she thought of him.  Of course there was a small secret consolation. Even at this age someone took the risk to befriend her in an uncomfortable way. She was almost fifty and had begun to put on weight of late. She smiled at herself and almost forgave that uncouth scoundrel.

“Then, what about the boy? He may be just a pawn in the game”, she thought.

“Or, is it a case of mistaken delivery?”

She got up and went out to inquire in her neighborhood whether anybody had any occasion that warranted a bouquet to be delivered. But, none of her neighbors had any such occasion.

“I think I have seen that boy”. She felt embarrassed that she was talking to  herself so loudly.  She felt further embarrassed as there was no one beside herself.

Then she remembered. It was the maid’s son. Her face lit up with the prospect that she could now nail the culprit.

She went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. While the water was boiling, she boiled inside with excitement.

Pouring tea into the cup she pondered, “What if it is the same scoundrel? Should I warn him?”

“What if he is not?” As the thought crossed her mind she was touched with a mild touch of melancholy.

As she sat down with the cup of tea, she caressed the flowers with her fingers and decided to stop further probe once and for all.

A Brief Note on Stephen Hawking

Saddened to hear the news of the death of one of the greatest minds of our times. I had written a post about him a couple of years back. I am sharing it as my tribute to him. May his soul rest in peace.

Durga Dash Blog

stephen hawking

Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website: 

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton…

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switching trouble

My two wheeler is giving me some switching trouble. Before I gave it for servicing it had a few problems, but not this one. The switch start was working perfectly. Now, those problems, that I mentioned to the customer care guy at the servicing station, have been taken care of. But, new problems have cropped up.

Of course,  I am yet to ascertain whether the same thing happens with my car.  But, car servicing being few and far between, it may take some time to ascertain it.

These are like the health problems I used to face during my childhood days. If I took medicine for loose motion, I got fever in lieu. If I took medicine for  running nose, the disease ran away but not before switching baton with dry cough. Things became slightly better when I practised yoga and used ayurveda along with allopathic treatments.

But it is surprising that in line with my body’s reaction to allopathic medicines my vehicle too should develop side effects. What is more surprising is that this phenomenon is immune to the type of servicing centre you go to: authorised, unauthorised, local, known, unknown, reputed, or notorious.

I noticed this phenomenon after shifting to Bangalore. While in Coimbatore, I had a friendly owner of an authorised service centre. I don’t remember ever paying beyond three figures any time for the periodic service. But every time the vehicle came back from the servicing centre, it felt like a new one.

One of the perils of living in a city like Bengaluru is that (if you are not a techie) there are guys who earn US salaries to be spent in India. In comparison to them you are doubly disadvantaged. Thus, when a Bengaluean of the good old days, his own finances now on shaky grounds,  is bitter  about the IT guys, his grumbling definitely is on solid grounds.

This is what happened when I first gave my old motorcycle for servicing for the first time after coming to Bengaluru.  It was an authorised service centre. Many vehicle were already in a long  queue. Back in Coimbatore I don’t remember ever waiting in a queue for such a thing.

To test my patience further when my turn came after forty five minutes the customer care girl took a break. Of course to my relief she came back after five minutes. She looked at my face quickly noted down ten serious problems of the vehicle.

Then she was gracious enough to ask me, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I said, “Look. My problem is that I don’t understand what an intelligent girl like you is doing here. You should open a face reading and astrology consultancy centre for celebrities.”

Luckily she did not understand. Or, pretended not have heard anything and repeated the question more politely, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I asked her,  “Can I see the list of problems you have noted down?”

“These are just routine things, Sir.” She was a little reluctant to show me the list.

I snatched the worksheet from her. After going through it, I said, “Change of rim and spokes.. anti rust coating… change of the .. you call these routine things? Anyway,  you strike out these and write what I say.”

Reluctantly and after showing her disgust at my audacity in not taking here advice, she noted down my requirements.

I was to get back my vehicle at six in the evening. I reached there on time. Again I had to stand in a long queue at the billing counter.

I noticed that the guy at the billing counter, in stead of a proper bill, was handing out hand written chits. Nobody was complaining. People were just handing over whatever amount was asked for and going away without pausing even to check. May be IT Guys who did not think in terms of Rs. 3500/- , but mere 50 dollars.

In the morning I had been given an estimate of Rs. 3500/- . So I was shocked to see a bill of Rs. 6500/-. When I asked for a break up, from his jumbled answers, the only thing I could could  make out was that the last item for the bill was for VAT and the penultimate item was labour charges. I had only one question. “How come you charge VAT on labour charges?”

As he fumbled for reply more customers came forward questioning the handwritten bill and demanding a detailed break up.

Things were turning out to be chaotic. The manager of the servicing centre stepped in and explained that there was a problem in the computer network and we were free to collect our vehicle the next day along with a proper bill. While some, with a little bit of grumbling, preferred to pay and take their vehicle immediately, I preferred to come the next day.

When I came next day morning to collect the vehicle I was pleasantly surprised to see that the printed out bill for me read Rs. 3790/-.

It was only later, after using my serviced vehicle for two to three days, that I realised I had got more side effects than I had bargained for. I went to the servicing centre ( to use Chetan Bhagat language) with six and a half problems and came back with eleven and a quarter.

 

 

(Sixteen Parenting Sutras will be available for free download till 12th March.)

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

 

 

 

 

behind the grease paint

sridevi.jpg

Life and death are conjoined twins. Nothing makes us ruminate more on life than the news of death.

During those demonetization days if everyone became an economist, on the demise of  Sridevi everyone seems to have become a philosopher. This was evident from the first tweet and the first whatsapp message that I came across.

The conscience keepers of the nation too had their grudges vented. Some lamented that while the nation and her pressmen were obsessed with a matinee idol, the death of soldiers in the boarders got only passing mention.

Some moralists even cried foul to see her body wrapped in the tri-colour. Actually, these moralists should protest when an artist is given any national honour  like the Padma Awards. If we don’t have any objection to someone being given a national honour while living, why should we protest when, out of protocol,  the same person is given a national honour when dead.

Ironically, these so called gatekeepers of Indian morality must have, at some point of life, indulged themselves in one of her movies to escape from the mundane affairs of everyday life.

Ram Gopal Verma, in a blog post, has shed light on some of the harsh realities of Sridevi’s life. He says that the only moments when Sridevi seemed comfortable with life were those when she was in front of the camera. If cinema has been an escape for the Indian public from the harsh realities of life, so was the case with her, from a different angle though.

During those days when she was gaining her foothold in the movies, high payments to filmi people were in black money to avoid tax. Her father entrusted the money to different relatives. When he died the relatives refused to give back the money.

Subsequently, her mother took charge to manages her financial and other professional affairs. She made a lot of bad investment decisions. By the time Sridevi and Boney Kapoor met both were in deep financial trouble.

I am not much of a Sridevi fan, though she came to rule Bollywood with a spate of super-hits with Jitendra when I was a late teenager. For casual fights and arguments, in our college hostel, we had two major Bollywood groups: one was the Jeetu-Sridevi group, another was Amitabh Bachchan group. I belonged to the later. My one-to-one combat  used to be with Subrat Satpathy, who also had been my high school classmate. When I came in contact with him after a long gap (thanks to facebook) the first thing we relished was about our fights over Jitendra-Sridevi and Bachchan.

Nevertheless, we can definitely draw inspiration from the struggle and the achievements of persons like Sridevi. An artist’s contribution to the society as well can never be undermined in spite of the foul cry of the moralists.

We know that it is only a minuscule percentage of prospective artists who make it to the top of the celebrity charts and stay there for some time. The road to stardom is paved with thorns of sacrifice and struggle.

Still then, we fail to see the struggle, the pain, and the tears behind the grease paint applied to give us the picture perfect.

 

love is the way

love is the way durga dashLate nineteen eighties. Just when we thought we were out of our teenage hangovers and stupidities, and the advent of TV and DVD players would sound the death knell for Bollywood, a spate of romantic films ruled the box office. These movies also launched the career of a lot of stars: the innocent looking Juhi Chawla, the dhak dhak girl Madhuri,  the chocolate boy Amir Khan, and romantic singer Udit Narayan  to name a few. We enjoyed listening to those great romantic songs without bothering much about their meanings or origins.

Now we don’t have to even wreck our brains to understand the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  We have to just google it. I found out this from a site:

Aye mere humsafar
Ek zara intezaar
Sunn sadayein de rahi hai
Manzil pyaar ki

O my companion
wait just a while
Listen to the calling
of love’s destination

Even after a little help from the Google, the song may not be fully understandable. I too write poems that friends say they don’t understand. But what I do understand from the above song is that it treats love as some kind of a goal to be achieved. And I have an objection there. Because I think love does not have any destination. Love is the way.

When your goal is to become a doctor, it means you are not a doctor now. Same way if love is your destination you are not in love now.

In those days, not having the advantage of Google to check out the exact lyrics and not being native Hindi speakers, the lines we sang sometimes went like this:

App jaise koi
Mere jindegi mein aai
To baap ban  jaye
…… to baap ban jaye

Duniya kaminooo.. ka mela
Mele mein yeh dil akela

Those days we never tried to understand the meaning of Hindi film songs. These days, even after trying my best I fail to understand the mystic connotations of the majority of Hindi film and pop songs.

 

In Bhakti Sutras (which some translate loosely as the Aphorism of Love), Narada says that love is the goal as well as the way. Of course he was talking of divine love. Similarly many of the songs written by Rumi and other Sufi saints are about divine love.  For the spiritually inclined love is the way to self realisation.

But, for the Bollywoood lyricists love is the way to make lots of money. Some highly paid lyricists have brought down many Sufi bhajans from their high pedestals to the level of teenage infatuations. They don’t even acknowledge that they have plagiarized the songs from Sufi and Bhakti writers. Don’t think it is only the script writers who plagiarize.

Of course our popular bhajan singers do not do a better job when they sing bhakti songs following the tune of Bollywood songs that reminds you of  semi clad heroines and item girls gyrating to the tunes in all their vulgar glory.

In my book Idle Hours, I have dealt at length about my ruminations on love at length in an article. I have also discussed about the origin of the Valentine’s Day.

According to one theory, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who performed secret marriages in the 3rdcentury Rome against the diktat of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers. However, St Valentine would hang his head in shame if he now learns that marketeers are exploiting his name to sell cards, roses, and chocolates to gold, diamond, and platinum. Moreover, we are not satisfied with marketing the ‘ways’ associated with love only for one day. We have invented so many curtain raisers (Rose Day etc.) before the Valentine’s Day.

On a serious note, St Valentine will also hang his head in shame when he learns that even though we are living in the twenty first century we are seducing girls so that it will add to the numbers of our community.

At the other extreme, we are killing the people who genuinely choose love in spite of differences in social status, religion, caste, or creed.

I was deeply touched by the way poet Rahat Indori has put it.

फूल इस सोच में गुम हैं, के कहाँ महकेंगे, 
तितलियों के लब ए इज़हार पे पाबंदी है..... 
क़त्ल करने की खुली छूट है अब भी लेकिन, 
प्यार मत करना, यहां प्यार पे पाबंदी है.....

one life is not enough – the paradox

One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.

One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself. The statement may  seem to be a paradox, self contradictory, and outright goobledygook. However, it is not when you see different parts of the statement from different perspectives.

When you are playing the role of an experiencer, when you are drowned in sense pleasures, you crave to experience the pleasures again and again. The lustful man wants to have sex with all the women in the world, the greedy wants to own all the wealth of the world. Same way one can be greedy for experiences and achievements. Alexander wanted to leave no corner of the earth unconquered.

But, you can switch your role from being an experiencer to being the observer, or  a witness. Then you have a glimpse of the depth of the moment.

Baffled by the myriads of the creations, I have often made the petition to the maker  that one life is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time, to experience the depth of His creation, one must learn to dive into the depths of the present. One who is bothered too much by the past or concerned too much about the future, loses the opportunity to utilize the fare of the creation on offer right now. Same way, being grateful gives out a message to the universe that you deserve to be an active part of His creation for ages to come.

Time is fleeting. It is a continuum. The moment one tries to catch hold of it, it is already gone. So where is this moment and how to catch hold of it? One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop and a stage comes when is established in the witness consciousness. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.

It may not be possible to play the role of the observer or be in a state of samadhi through out your life. Same way it is tiring to hanker, non stop, experience after experience. Deep real rest and an attitude of letting go helps a lot in recharging one self from time to time.

Life in its myriads of colours, shades, flavours and tastes

There are six basic tastes, according to Ayurveda. Depending upon the person, some tastes are pleasant some are unpleasant and some may be outright atrocious. However, to have a balanced diet and thus a balanced body and mind, one should include a bit of all the tastes.

Same way according to Bharata’s Natya Sastra, the artistic expressions involve nava rasas or nine falvours- some positive some negative. Contrasting flavours makes any story interesting.

So also in life. There are positive as well as negative feelings and  emotions.

If one has experienced only the height of joy and not the depths of depression and sorrow, if one’s journey of life has been a smooth road without any ups and downs, any twists and turns, one has missed to live life in its totality.

Life is such an enigma

This is my translation of a favourite Hindi film song from Anand – a  popular movie of yesteryears.

 

Life is such an enigma

Sometimes it makes you laugh

sometimes it makes you cry.

The mind never wakes up.

It continues chasing after dreams

Sometimes it so happens

The traveler on the path of the dream

leaves behind the dreams

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

Those who came together

to set up the ‘mela’ of life

together struggle and are

partners in happiness and sorrow.

Suddenly one of them chooses silence,

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.