The innocent barter

scales

A shopkeeper in the Dharia village always seemed busy, giving groceries to his customers who used to flock to the shop till he closed his shutters by 7 pm. A group of retired people and laborers used to come and sit talking to each other on the wooden planks laid out in front of the shop and comment on the happenings of the day, or about the columns in the daily newspaper which one or two would take turns to read loudly to the benefit of those who were either lazy to read or had pitched their tents only eager to hear gossip.

Every week, on a Saturday, a small boy named Golu used to come to the shop to sell the clarified butter (ghee) his mother used to make at home from the unsold buffalo milk that had few takers in a solitary tea shop and a couple of neighbouring houses. The buffalo was the only means of livelihood to his family. Every time, he used to carry a kilogram of ghee and would barter it for a kilogram of sugar or pulses from the shop, as was the agreement with Bansal, the grocer.

As Golu would make his appearance whenever dusk was approaching, some of the elders would make inquires about his family, some about his buffalo while some used to tease by calling him as Gheelo (take Ghee). Some used to chide him for unnecessary things just to make him cry, to make merry for themselves, while the only sane guy among them, Raichand, scolded them for showing such behavior to the poor lad.

One day, as Golu came with a kilogram of Ghee, Bansal, the grocer kept it on the weighing scale, as he was busy handing over some condiments to another customer. Someone’s attention in the group fell upon the ghee packet lying on the scale. On the other balancing pan, was a weight of 1 Kilogram. The ghee packet pan was floating in the air and therefore he deduced that the packet contained less than the weight intended. As was their wont, the issue quickly grabbed the attention of the retired folks and some started making arguments in the shop saying that Golu and his family had been cheating Bansal all this time.

Now Bansal was in his elements having taken up the cue and started shouting at Golu. Such allegations coming at short notice from all quarters forced Golu to tears and he started crying loudly. Raichand who was also in the shop and who was a retired sales tax inspector consoled the child and asked the others to maintain silence while he got down to inquire as to what could have gone wrong. He was one man who never thought of implicating anyone unless the facts were laid out before him.

Once Golu’s crying had subsided to sobs with deep breaths in between, Raichand asked him, “Golu, could you let me know, how do you weigh your ghee at home in the packet before you bring it here”. Golu between sobs, pointed at Bansal and said, “I always weigh our butter pack against the sugar or the green gram packet that is given to me in barter”.

Arrogance Heights

Arrogance is a mental state and when it will take seed and cause our ruin, no one knows and therefore this story serves us to remain humble or remind ourselves when we land in such situations. The post was written when Basheer a friend and Cabbie in Bahrain was harping on this topic of how arrogance spoils an individual and complemented it with an outline of a simple story that he learnt in school, which I had never come across earlier. I hope on the occasion of Eid, this story makes an interesting read.

Once there was a tiny mouse, who used to live in holes dug by himself, some on the ground, some in the wall of a house where he frequented at night for dishes forgotten to be tightly closed or some left overs lying here and there. There was no issue of food for the mouse, but he always was in awe and fear of an alley cat who used to frequent the place where the mouse lived. The alley cat would try to pounce upon him given the opportunity or whenever they came face to face, but most of the time, he used to give the cat a slip by slipping just in time into one of the burrows dug to handle such situations. There was a tree nearby the house, and it used to be difficult when the cat after his sleeping sessions on the tree would come down in a jiffy when the mouse was just loitering around and our poor guy had to scamper with many a wounds which he would lick in private and think how his world would change..

Once it so happened, that a sage visited the house and its inhabitants on his way and blessed them and was just about to leave when the mouse approached him and told all about the miserable life that he was living because of the alley cat. Sensing what was going in the tiny mind, the Sage asked him, in what form would he like to continue in life, if the cat was giving him so much trouble. I would like to be a cat so that I wont have to dread this alley cat and any others that might come this way, pleaded the mouse. So it be it, said the Sage and walked away.

The little mouse was mighty surprised to see himself as a cat and he ran the whole day in leaps and bounds, climbed the tree and jumped to the window to startle the little boy inside and then back and so forth. He went into the house through the door and nobody saw him nor shrieked when they saw him. He was loving the freedom and came out to enjoy the world in his new form. But to his chagrin, the house dog barked at him and chased him and he had to beat a hasty retreat out of that house for ever. He too became an alley cat living in every street a day based on the street dogs pushing him away and he soon became tired of being on the run, leading the life of a fugitive who could barely rest in peace anywhere.

He chanced upon our Sage one day and asked him if he could change him to a dog and the transformation happened much to his joy. But the happiness was short lived when children and adults alike threw stones at him whenever he went his way looking for food around the houses and shops across the street. To cut a long story short, our guy changed many forms till finally he told the Sage, “let me become a tiger in the forest, so that everybody will respect me for what I am and I can live a peaceful life”. So be it, said a smiling sage and vanished.

The tiger roamed about and was happy to see that nobody came his way or troubled him. He could kill any animal that he liked for his food, be it a nimble footed deer, a lost goat or a troubled buffalo. Days went by and slowly the tiger became more of a trouble maker in the forest. He killed animals with gay abandon even when he was not hungry and hence every animal dreaded him.

The sage thought of making a visit to know how the mouse fared in his newly acquired tiger’s form now that the mouse was not even thinking of him. On the way he saw the forest in disarray as if somebody had created havoc to the eco-system with carcasses of animals lying here and there and rotting. As he walked, some of the gentle animals came to him and said how the tiger had became a menace to the inhabitants and pleaded with the Sage to rescue them from the clutches of an animal gone wild.

The sage said he would talk to the tiger on their behalf and ask him to mend his ways for good and the retinue of animals thanked him but still followed our sage at a safe distance. Sensing some movement, the tiger came out of his dwelling and saw the sage. He just blinked without giving any respect whatsoever now that he was the king of the forest. The sage put forward his proposition and advised the tiger to come to terms and behave himself for the good of all creatures. The tiger got angry telling the Sage it was no business of his and he should beat a hasty retreat before he got hungry. The sage laughed at this, and the tiger could see the animals in the distance watching all this. “How could you laugh at me, when I am ordering you to flee if you value your life. Why are all of you tired of life and in defiance”, he spoke to the Sage and said that there was no need of him visiting him again with silly advice and demanded him to leave immediately as dusk was fast approaching.

The Sun much as he wanted to enjoy the climax of the unfolding drama below, was beating a hasty retreat behind the dense foliage. On the way down, he saw the rising Moon and told him all about what had happened, so that he could tell him all about the unfinished story when they met the next day morning. The moon ever so eager, climbed fast in time to position himself at a vantage position to see what would be the outcome of the conversation between the tiger and his preceptor, the Sage. An eagle flying that way also thought of resting his wings and he landed on one of the branches below which the Sage was standing and lent his ears as did other animals in abeyance.

The Sage seemed hurt at the dialogues from the tiger and he warned the mouse turned wild cat that it would be better to be humble rather that destroying himself with arrogance. Hearing this, the tiger who had had enough sprang at the Sage who was standing at a distance of a few feet. As he took off, he knew the Sage would be a an easy prey but to his surprise the Sage easily dodged him while he was in the air and when he landed on the ground, much to his surprise, he found himself having turned into a mouse. These moments didn’t last long, as to his horror, the eagle had already descended from the branch above to pounce on an easy prey in the darkness lit only by the glow of a smiling crescent Moon…

EID Mubarak to All..

eidgreetings
Eid Greetings

The Lost Life

It had been three days since I moved in with my parents. My father had got transferred yet again to this hill station after 5 years. He would be in charge of the repairs section of the Sanshet dam constructed around 40 years ago and which now stood towering in the distance.

I had barely finished college, scraped through it you could say. Pass marks in all subjects. At least I was consistent. I was wondering if I could apply anywhere with such an academic record. I had got up in the morning today earlier than I was used to. The morning mist looked inviting. The coffee cup was still waiting for me to pick it up. The newspaper sheets were flipped till I reached the appointments page for any such job that might suit my credentials.

As I was going through the various vacancy ads, I heard someone calling. Thinking it was some one calling dad or mom, I continued only to know the person whoever it was calling was trying to elicit my attention to her.

I opened my window pane to see Meena looking eagerly waiting for me as if she wanted me to show something. Meena was my classmate in school at Sanshet school before I left this small village town after my dad’s transfer.

Her hands were empty save for a couple of glass bangles on both. There was some calf love between us during those days, I must confide, which both of us were proud to admit. Her eyes seemed to talk. They looked sad and yet there were streaks of shine happy to see me after these long years which seemed ages to me.

I got dressed casually, put on my slippers and walked out of the room through a door which could open directly to the courtyard where stood a beaming she. Her silver anklets looked the same as her pretty frock she used to wear long back. Her form was the same when I last saw her. She had not changed one bit.

Before I could ask her anything, she took my hand in hers, clasped them tightly and beckoned me to follow her. The morning dew on the grass was making things slippery for my feet as the initial walk now became brisk and it was clear she would have broken into a run over the mounds and crests of fine green grass that adorned the beautiful country side, had I complied.

Where are you taking me, I enquired of her, my eyes riveted on that beautiful face etched in memory which I used to dwell upon in my loneliness and depression bouts at college.

Meena was the foreman’s daughter and they lived in the officer’s quarters that was half a mile away. But today she was taking me elsewhere. I tried to start another conversation thread. How have you been. Did you finish college? In silence she smiled at me; the same patented smile of her which I had taken care to imprint and nurture and chisel on in memory. The years spent with her in school was a dream run never to come again but the good Lord had given me the ability to replay those beautiful moments. She didn’t reply even this time but her lovely eyes did.

Where are you leading me, Meena? I thought you were taking us to your parents. How are they? Still the silence prevailed but I could see that she had slowed her steps while still holding my hand tightly.

There appeared a desolate house and I wondered if something was wrong as she led me to it. She opened the door to the house which welcomed us in with a creaking yet haunting voice. Except for a couple of old wooden benches and a chair there was nothing in this room of this shelter.

All of a sudden she let go of my hand and went into the other room. I thought maybe to bring me some water who was not used to such long walks in the morning mist which only aggravated my asthma. I now remembered I had not taken my Asthalin Inhaler before venturing out with her.

I waited for a few minutes and still when she didn’t appear, I came out, circled the house twice looking for dear her. Calling out to her also did not elicit any response. Sure she was playing a prank as was her nature. I walked to the officer’s quarters and located her house which was the fourth in the second row of houses that had got a fresh coat of white paint.

I walked in unwelcomed, so I thought, based on old memories. Her father looked very uneasy and tired sitting in the easy chair. His eyes looking into the far distance trying to solve some puzzle in which he looked entangled. Addressing him, I offered my salutations but he looked through me as if I didn’t exist. I walked around the kitchen hoping to see her mother or her but none I could see there. I walked back into the living room that looked lifeless and my eyes fell upon the picture of her mother that was garlanded with non fading flowers and was I shocked again when I saw another garlanded frame of Meena.

I sat next to her father and tried alerting him to my presence but he either looked blind and sounded deaf or both or was it I, who was dreaming all this while. I smiled how crazy dreams could get..it was a matter of time before I woke up from it. But things remained the same and I got up as there was no point sitting in front of her crazy father or was it me who had gone crazy.

As I walked back she appeared again briskly trying to catch up with my footfalls. She held my hand as we walked in silence. I tried to play along with her act not showing what I had learnt upon the visit to her house. But the silence was killing me. Are you on a vow of silence? I asked not expecting an answer. “No”, she answered taking me by surprise. I wanted you to know what had happened after you people had left. I used to frequent the typing institute to hone my skills in it. I must have gone two years and got a good speed.

One day on my return through these same paths there was heavy rain accompanied by thunder and I had to take shelter in that house where I took you today. I couldn’t venture out that evening and got trapped there in the incessant downpour. Someone came there, a stranger. It appeared he was staying there without nobody knowing except me in my misfortune. I never saw his face in the darkness but he sensed my vulnerability and took advantage of it and as I resisted him, little did I know that he would snuff the very dear life out of me.

He fled the place and was never to be seen again in this territory of mine she said with a change of tone. Now as I looked at her she was not the diminutive Meena I had known. She was a beautiful woman yet of a pale self. Were you waiting for me these years? Yes she replied I knew you would come so that we can spend some ages together in bliss. How can we, what makes you think…. I broke off, not knowing what I should say.

Come, let us go your house, said she, sensing my thoughts…Wanting to give a glimpse of what a life i had lived I started to enlighten her. After I had left Sanseth, I had got into bad company at college. First smoking then drinking which seemed soothing at first before I got addicted with drugs whatever I could lay my hands on or whatever the peddlers could give me.

A once healthy me was a pale self now, with frequent attacks of asthma adding to the aggravation. I tried to wean away from all these considering the love of my parents and you who I knew doted on me and would wait once I came back after graduating. It was easy to kick smoking but not doping. The drugs were the demons who came to you every night and pestered you till you relented and met their demands. They pleased and praised you and left early morning with you defeated. Yesterday it looks I had a heavy dose or else how could I explain your appearance though you now appears lost to me. I couldn’t understand how such misfortune could come in our lives.

Life’s lessons are sometimes too harsh and at too short a notice. You never know what hit you and slowly we reconcile ourselves to the grim truth of reality. Isn’t life a chain of events like beads in a rosary caused by karma and a mix of choices that we make? With a throbbing head and with the shadow of Meena in tow, I walked into my quarters where could be heard a wailing from my mother with father holding her crying self over my body now lifeless, eyes looking into the distance trying to make out the purpose of dear life.

How some stream that we take channel us into paths best avoided and before the gravity of it sinks in, we get drowned before anyone could help us. There is no point thinking over it now nor staying here anymore, Meena said, as she held my hand and led me out into the sunshine…

My Savior

The Lord is my mighty Savior
for without Him there is no me.
At every rock and every brook
the Lord has made arrangements
to guarantee me a free pass.

He has trees to nourish me with fruits
He has fields to nourish me with grains
He is the shine on the sun to charge me
He is the calm on the moon to soothe me
He has taken pains to keep me at ease.

He has been my ageless and tireless friend
who has walked with me in countless forms
when I was young, wasn’t he my guardian?
when I aged, isn’t he thrilled to play my child?
He knows me much more than I know me.

If only we countless warriors abide
by the rules and laws He has laid
That is when He can rest and stand
the test of time and rebuke of others
who criticized Him for this creation.

A lot of his time is spent correcting me
me who, goes stray without a guide
He loves playing the shepherd role
He has to fight mighty battles with
my steadfast love that is His armor.

The Lord is my mighty savior
for nothing pleases Him than us
his loving creation in whom he prides
His loving grace with abundance glory
want us to practice faith and patience.

Assets and Disabilities

A rich man who had worked hard in his youth now wanted to enjoy the best of his life. He got a beautiful house built, a green lawn to go with it and a powerful vehicle. He had a vast area of land around this house. There were a few servants at his beck and call. He was now reaching his sixtieth birthday having retired a few years back.

His devoted wife was always concerned about him and their children who were well settled in life and lived in different parts of the world. Everything happened to go well for him and it appeared to all that he was living happily. But of late he was not feeling as of old. He wasn’t happy about this phase. He had no health issues yet he was feeling a bit low.

He travelled to places of scenic beauty in his car. He had the best fruits brought to his house. He was still caught in the web of money. His mind was busy calculating how much his investments gave back in return. Exploring new vistas of financial planning was becoming his best loved hobby and he had gotten used to measure everything in money. A person walking by his house was measured by him whenever they got a chance to speak to him.

He still read the newspaper before the breakfast was laid out for him. He read some paragraphs from priceless books written by successful men. Walked around his garden inspecting the trees whose produce gave him good money.

His lunch had the best dishes though he partook very little from each of them. He surveyed his workers at work in the large tracts of land and came back home having lived yet another day. But as said earlier, he wasn’t sure if he was happy in spite of having what he had wished for.

One day a famished dog with a wretched look came to the gate. The gate was half open and the dog looked at him in anticipation but he raised a hue and cry and the poor dog took to his heels. His wife who was him chided him gently for not helping the dog.

A few days after, a man came during noon time asking for something to eat. Even though he knew lunch was almost getting ready, he shooed away the poor man who had come with great expectations. This also was noticed by his wife.

The same day evening his chartered accountant came and laid before him the income statement. He was highly impressed and rewarded him and showed the statement to his wife. The assets column was overflowing whereas he had no liabilities. See Rumi, he told his wife, no liabilities. Yes!, she remarked sadly, “but you have a disability. You have lost the ability to move even a mustard of these earnings to those who need it” .

Escape to Eternity

burnt forest
Courtesy; Gettyimages

I took off fast on my horse
when I saw the forest on fire

You, who had ventured deep
amidst the pines, a while ago
dried as they were in the heat
scorching it was, this summer
a fire had started somewhere
had built itself now into a crown.

The logs of timber reduced to tinder
the horse though nervous did speed
through streaks of fire amid crashing pine
the dense smoke had made us to wheeze
wasn’t getting difficult for us both
could we surrender to the elements?
when you were there somewhere
lost yet near, waiting to be found.

As we gate crashed the rising flames
we did spy a patch of grass where
you were seen lying unable to move
with a heavy branch having fallen
that felled you as it came down
Tying the rope to the half burnt log
I asked my dear steed to back off
And then was, the tinder got moved.

I pulled dear you from underneath
Just as the fire seemed to engulf us all
‘Down you kneel’ I cried out to the horse
Helping you who could not now stand
to mount the stallion who was once
a part of a long forgotten battalion
then I jumped on to the stirrup
And how we sped, only the Lord knows.

With the fire singing on our heels
He stopped only when we were out
of the woods which had caught fire
But it kindled the lost love in us
never any fire can burn it down
nor the earth can engulf us down
partners we were, we will remain
Till these burnt woods remain…

Clouded Vision

monsoon-6
Pic Credits: Indianlifestylez

The kid on the balcony was looking out at a bunch of twigs on fire
apart from that, what would enliven her otherwise sultry afternoon?
the cool wind gushed through the trees dousing out the feeble fire
people started hurrying, sun scampering, as the place turned dark.

She looked up wondering what was it that caused it, an eclipse?
her sight met dark clouds now gathering fast from all quarters
full of moisture, laden by weight, not knowing if they could continue
or should they stop awhile and lighten their load of life giving water?

In full array, they came and converged in a circle around the place
it would now rain at any moment, the girl thought, with sheer joy
She ran down the  stair rails to enjoy the first rain of the season
the monsoon had arrived with all paraphernalia, ready to deliver.

The streak of lightening greeted her as her feet touched the ground
thunderclaps resonated notifying that the act was about to start
army of clouds now started to pour their oblations upon the place
this ritual always appeared in time to drench her, so she thought…

Indian Monsoon

Wandering miles through burnt grass
in search of the elusive water source
the animals all huddled up, look for signs
that can only herald the arrival of
their perennial savior from the skies.

One fine day, a cool breeze starts to blow.
The hot air now becomes the hunted
looking for dear places to hide
for death is certain with the arrival
of the Great Indian Monsoon.

The small streams and the rivulets,
pour their volumes into rivers beds
that were once sand banks and ponds
and playing fields to kids in summer
now slushy fields with the downpour.

Life is back to normal now that nature
has bestowed its blessings upon the
region that gets its bountiful rain
for which man was ready till now
to barter with gold and riches he had.

So much is at stake, thus spake the
economists whose misty vision
revolves and evolves on the
aspects as well as the prospects
of an advancing and retreating monsoon..

Calamities

A calamity befell me when I stayed in a big city
I thought of leaving the city and reached a village
It seemed to be a safe place till an earthquake struck
I ran to a safer place where I built a house of rags
only till an angry fire consumed it when it got hungry
I shifted my base to a cold serene place near a river
and lived happily for a while till a flood took everything
and left me stranded on a rock alone with my thoughts…

Why there is amity whenever a calamity befalls us
Why there is enmity among us when things are fine
Why can’t people understand good old theme of unity…

Root Cause Analysis

I met Asiri when he joined our hardware support team, the same time I had been inducted into the documents clearing software team. There were around 10 engineers in hardware support and were quite busy with the numerous installations we had in the emirates. Most of them were either on a call with a customer, or driving to a customer site or was already at the site. It was not that they were busy all the time, there were days when most of them were seen in the department, carrying out the process documentation or inspecting faulty equipment in the lab by wearing anti-static aprons or even vetting newly arrived equipment spares at the store. We, the payments software team gelled well with them. Both teams, the hardware and software support, used to rush to assist each other whenever required at various sites. Those days in the late 90’s, Dubai was devoid of much traffic and we could cover Bur Dubai and Deira within a matter of few minutes.

There were times or days when most of the incidents would happen due to hardware glitches and while some clients thought it was a software problem, others blamed it on the equipment. On such occasions, our support departments wore a deserted look. I thought of writing this post today to highlight the ways and means used to uncover the root cause by our engineers especially Asiri also referred to as the ‘Doctor’. Asiri used to wear his anti-static apron more than anybody else and that is how the term ‘Doctor’ stuck to him. One more reason was due to his style of functioning whenever he reached the site. He used to sit or stand patiently beside the faulty document processor, maybe touching it all the time and getting valuable feedback from the customer as to what caused it to malfunction. He would appear as a doctor posing many a question to the client to understand the root cause before he even thought of opening or checking the machine.

One day, a bank called him while he was on the way to office in the morning, saying that one of their document processors was rejecting all the cheques/checks instead of processing them. He thought it could be a sensor failure issue and reached the client in 20 minutes. In Deira Dubai, those days, you might take only 10 minutes to reach but you may need another 10 minutes to find parking for your car. By the time he reached the site, the document processor which was acting weird was now back to its normal self and processing them without any issue. Asiri cleaned the sensors at the reading bay and watched the machine for another 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual came back.

The next day more or less at the same time, another Engineer received a similar incident call from the same bank around 11 am and rushed to central operations and by the time he reached, the machine as earlier had shook off its symptoms and was processing the cheques at its standard speed of 250 documents per minute. He also sat for around 15 minutes and finding nothing unusual left the client. The client also joked saying that when you doctors come, the machine doesn’t show any symptoms. This incident, if memory serves me right was not communicated by the second engineer to Asiri the same day.

The third day, Asiri is in office and waiting for any potential incident to happen and perhaps working on one of the defective document processor in the lab when he got a call again for the same issue. Since the client had a backup machine and it was not a peak volume day for the bank, he took some time to get out of the lab. By the time he reached his car, the client called back again saying the machine was working fine now and he need not come.

Asiri walked back from the parking space to the office and that is when he met the second engineer who told him about the call he made the earlier day to the bank and how he had to come back since there was no problem with the machine when he arrived. “So that means today is the third day, the machine is behaving this way” said Asiri and checked the time. All three incidents were pointing to the time around 11 AM.

The next day, as was his usual wont, Asiri did not wait for the customer to call but made himself present at around 10:30 AM at the site. Fakhruddin who was managing the clearing operations at central operations welcomed Asiri by saying “today nothing will happen since you are here”. Asiri smiled and asked for a chair and got seated with his eyes riveted on the reading bay sensor where each speeding cheque on the track is sensed and stopped. He just sat there looking at the sensor, who he rightly thought was the root of the cause while the minutes ticked away. At around 11 AM, he saw the rays of the sun striking the sensor through the venetian blinds of the cabin, and the sensor along with the machine went haywire as the cheques on the track started getting rejected and Fakhruddin had to stop the machine by pressing the pause button. A smiling Asiri pointed out to Fakhruddin the root cause which was the venetian blind slanting position and moved across and closed them completely. On the way out, he told Fakhruddin, “You won’t face this issue anytime soon unless someone plays with the blinds again“.

NDP 250
NDP 250 Document Processor