A helping hand

For those who have already read Reach to the Poor, Pravin and Raju are familiar characters now.

It so happened that during one of their recent visits to the town, to augment supplies to their shops, both had the feeling that it was time they visited a hair cutting salon.

They always lodged themselves at the Hazari lodge which was slightly away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a Sunday morning and after a quick breakfast at a nearby dhaba, they walked in search of a salon. A few minutes into their walk they saw a ruffian at a distance arguing with a wayside hawker woman. It appeared that he was threatening her to part with some amount of money as weekly hafta to shore up his fortunes. The misfortunate woman with no one to seek help, it being a Sunday morning with most of the shops being closed, parted with her earnings.

The money collected, the ruffian parted soon from the place. Our silent observers at a distance, walked upto her, heard her out. They took some time to console her, helped her with some money saying they would teach a lesson soon, to the so called terror whenever an opportunity presented itself.

On their look out for a salon, they came upon a few other hapless hawkers who too had to bear the brunt of the so called Gajya the illegal tax collector.

A poor man was pulling his cart of ice slabs at a distance. They hurried upto him to make inquiries. Despite the heat and a sweating brow, he was kind to stop and help them with directions and also offered water laced with few pieces of ice if they wanted. As was their nature, they politely declined the warm offer of cold water and hurried to the salon.

The road to the salon was a bit bad and they had to take care not to fall into the many inviting potholes. As they reached the shop they could see one hair dresser and two persons waiting on one of the two worn out benches. They seated themselves on the other one and picked up a conversation as was their wont.

The hair dresser also lent his ears and the topic turned to Gajya. Most of the shopkeeperd feared him, said Jayanti Lal who was finishing his creative work on one of his customers and at the same time eager to be friendly with the visitors he asked Raju as to what they did. Pravin with a laugh said, “I burden those who come to me and he sees to it that they don’t die” . Hearing this Raju also laughed in big tones.

This is a poor locality, Sir and we do not have that much earnings to share with anyone said Jayanti Lal with a confused look. Offlate Gajya has been asking for more which we cannot give and that gives rise to skirmishes with him. I don’t mind giving him a free hair cut and a shave if he demands and he paused, maybe that offer I can give to you too. One of the bench customers, Javed looked with fear about himself and in a whisper told Pravin… He carries a knife with him, they say. Oh no, talk of the devil and here he comes….

Gajya’s frame came into view to all eyes who looked his way. With a Pepsi bottle in hand, he was idling his way to the salon. At the same time through another lane, came a ice cart pulled by an old man. One of the cart’s wheels got stuck in one of the pot holes and he asked for Gajya to help him out not knowing who he was. All eyes were riveted on Gajya as to how he would react. The irritated ruffian slapped the man and continued walking towards the salon.

Javed bhai whose turn was next whispered.. Now it is his turn, we will have to wait till he gets his hair cut and beard shaved. We, the timid always have to wait.

Raju’s blood was boiling. He would strike this bully as soon as he was within striking distance come what may. Pravin sensed Raju’s mind and decided to teach a lesson in their own way. Touching Raju he said a word which only Raju could understand. “Big boy”. Many a childhood scenes of skirmishes flashed in Raju’s mind. He smiled briefly. It was time to act.

Raju got up and stood near the dressing chair. The current customer had got down. Javed bhai afraid of annoying Raju whimpered, ” but it was my turn”.. Raju looked at him with a fearful avatar and said “Did You say something” . As if taking up the cue Pravin rose from the bench remarked, “Yes it was Javed bhai’s turn. How can you..” . Raju just laughed.

Helllooo, blared out Gajya. “Everyone will have to wait because it is my turn”. Pravin not even showing that he had seen or heard Gajya rushed to Raju and chided Raju for breaking the queue. Raju told Pravin to keep himself outside of this and tried to get himself seated. To the onlookers, it seemed Raju and Pravin were strangers or not friendly to each other.

Gajya was finding it a bit difficult to make his presence felt. Today it seemed these persons were deaf and blind at least these two strangers as others were atleast passing him a glance. Maybe they didn’t know his credentials. So he shouted at Raju to get out of the chair. Pravin meanwhile was trying to pull Raju out of the chair to the consternation of Jayanthi Lal. Today it seemed he had to deal with not one but three thugs who might pull the rug from his feet if he didn’t act in time.

Pravin nearly managed to drag Raju out of the chair ignoring the pleas from the hair dresser and good old Javed bhai who had now withdrawn his case and awarded his turn to Raju. But Pravin would not let go of Raju and pulled him out. Gajya came and tried to sit in the vacant seat or so he thought but Raju on his way down pulled him down with him. Now Pravin asked Javed bhai to seat himself to which the poor Javed bhai said he could wait. Now Pravin looked so angry that Javed brother got into the chair.

This was too much for Gajya who got up and was trying to work himself into a rage but now Pravin took hold of him and gave him such a resounding slap that his face turned outside to the lane where his eyes met the poor fellow still grappling with his cart. How in a few minutes the equation has changed, he thought. “No, I will not take this beating quietly” he loudly said. You will have to pay for this and he pulled the infamous knife from his pant.

The gleaming wicked looking weapon was well sheathed and in Gajya’s hand could work wonders. It was not without its labor that its master had become himself respected out of fear. Slowly as everybody stood frozen, came the knife at Pravin but the plunge was arrested with a timely kick to the knee from Raju.

What followed was a brawl. Gajya didn’t know from where all the blows came, so thick and hard that he cowered before the lot. A few passer-by fellows also joined in the revelry. It seemed to everybody that Raju was a much bigger thug than the punitive Gajya. All the cash on Gajya was taken out by Raju and he was unceremoniously kicked and dumped out of the shop. The knife now in safe hands, Gajya had to run out for his life.

Raju bhai please be seated said all in one voice to which he laughed and walked out with a smiling Pravin. On the way they treated themselves to cold water offered by the old gentleman after having helped his cart out of the gaping pot hole. When they looked back at the salon, they could see Jayanti Lal and Javed bhai saluting. On their way back they parted with the money to those few hawkers who had lost their money earlier. “A visit to the salon can wait, Big boy” said Pravin as they walked hand in hand back to their lodge.

No Time

There is no time to look at the blooming flower

There is no time to look at the perched bird

Nor any chance to find time for a small prayer

Time ambles along with you glued to the gadget

as you spend time looking at the varying stocks

undecided for there is no time for you to decide

for there is no time to sit on the rocks and gaze

at the time keeper setting far away into the dark

You have no time to enjoy the delicious food

no time to thank the loved one who serves it

as you kill time on chat with a distant friend

who has no time to meet you anytime soon

Time stops and slowly passes you over

for chiming time has proved time and again

you have no time dear available to value it.

Happy Birthday

I woke up to the sound of
birds chirping and the
bard singing his tunes.
In the distance, a church
bell rang in sweet chimes.

Down in the street, there
appeared a few people
celebrating some event.
With bugles and trumpets
they were all ready to start.

The wind had a fragrance
and a vibrance never seen
before, and yet little
flowers kept beckoning it
to keep them swaying.

I wondered what it could be
memorable as it seemed to be
and then remembered it to be
a special day, that could only be
a day to cherish, Your Birthday!

The Wait

The train has arrived and the long wait over
on the station you have been in attendance
as always, every day to meet your beloved
did she consent to meet you one more time?

Quarrelsome that you were, with a bad past
you had made amends, now that you had aged
you survey the passengers slowly getting down
in the darkened dusk, wonder where she was?

All these days, with a distant promise from her
with all bliss, you came everyday to receive her
she was  sure to visit you, or so you thought
will I live long to see her just one more time?

With a heavy mind carrying a bundle of thoughts
now that the train had left today with all hopes
you start walking out when someone pats you
as you turn, are you surprised to see her again?

 

shutterstock
Pic Courtesy: Shutterstock

The tea maker

Seated on a wooden frame
at a table with a marble top
you would order cups of tea
every day and spend it here.

Behind the scene, I would wait
for your every order of tea
and wonder what makes you
addicted as you were to me.

One day, I made a special one
for you and served it myself
the glance at me after a gulp
was enough to serve you for life…

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Pic courtesy: Shutterstock

Solitude

I was gazing at your portrait till sleep took me
slowly feathers sprouted as I soared like a raven
over the bright town you had once long dwelt
looking into each nook and corner and lane
to get a fleeting sight anywhere of, dear you.

I dived into close quarters hoping to hear you
your soft voice that still sounded as nectar
somewhere I hoped to see a glimpse of you till
I came crashing down from my bed to the floor
and smiling at me still, was your beautiful face…

 

Sounds of a City

The tinkering of the milk man whose tampering

with your milk has broken all fresh water records.

The artistic chime of the cart  of vegetables

that the vendor has painted in the morning.

The gas cylinders getting unloaded nearby

when you had ordered one, a fortnight ago.

The newspaper thrown at your door by the

boy who vanishes into thin air everyday.

The school bus horn, when your kid’s

lunch box is still made by the half-maid.

The laundry man who comes for your clothes

and wears them before returning it to you.

The fish monger who pedals his bicycle

with lots of fresh ice in his long dead fish.

The mango pickle vendor carrying jars

having a mix of everything except mangoes.

The mat seller who drapes himself in the rugs

that he claims are hand-picked from Kashmir.

The fire engine that arrives at your back door

to contain the fire that is raging in the front door.

The ambulance that comes with a blaring horn

just as you slip into a coma with a glaring wound…

Ushering in the New Year

Take care wherever you are, for there are others who need your care
for the days are going to be challenging nevertheless in the New Year
With competition waiting to put you aside while you lose your focus
Take each day as it comes, play and live by its merits
Do not count on your past to live the present, as each day is a present
Accumulate glory and wisdom as you add each day to your age
Live life to the fullest and let no virus ask you to retire.

Wishing you the very best in the New Year