Drowned

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You have been warned : Do not go further, there is danger ahead.

The still waters beckoned me as my little footprints made their imprints upon the hot dry sand from the now setting Sun which was once at its zenith only a few hours ago. As the cool waves lapped at my feet tickling me, needless to say,  they were now beckoning to get in more of my self into the blue expanse lit only by a distant horizon and a few stars making their appearance.

I could feel the embrace of the heavy stillness around my waist pushing me ever so slightly, in all directions, four directions I had been taught in school. I never had experienced so much soothing, as if somebody had applied the healing balm all over me. The timid mind had made its plunge into the deep even before, though the body ever so careful made steps with my tiny legs that had now started to complain to me that the water though helping it to hold on was also pushing the weight of my fear into the quick sands that were quickly forming. But as egged on, as I used to walk with parents, I persisted to walk ahead into the inviting spectacle.

When the plush waves pushed with me playfully, I tried to balance with my hands trying to use them as paddles, oars or fins, oh I could see my vocabulary was slowly failing me. The shadow of fear that had appeared quite some time ago in my messy head was now standing next to me, not helping me, but standing still, waiting for me as my mother did, to take care of my ablutions.

I looked out to the beach, how far was I away from the people walking upon it, the playful children creative as they could get with the sand. I could see some navigating the now invisible thread of their playfully wielded kites and the hawkers trying their best to get in a morsel or two of the food in their cans into the mouths of the visitors. Shout I did as as I was slowly drifting away, the sea taking  with it, poor me, as it retreated for the evening but all I could manage was a croak. Was it because of the salt that had gotten into me or had  I become an amphibian after settling in this water for some quite some time. My skin needed to breathe, my pale self not helping,  the fish scurrying desperately getting away from a stranger who never knew or learned to swim like them. There was no log of wood for me to hold on, nor one to write my last wishes for the dear people whom I left back on the beach.

Had they noticed my absence, the dusk fast giving away to darkness, my head and frail hands that bobbed up once in a while, was it visible to them, to anyone who gazed at the deep sea or the arc of the horizon, I knew not. The body got heavier by the minute and whatever air in me gave way to the water now gushing in with a pinch of salt. Water, I was taught was life giving, but my small body could never handle too much of it. The ocean was now feeding me what it knew best, to intruders who had never understood how to step into it. Oh dear mother,  if only I had listened to you and had not wandered off into the deep water when you were not looking. I sent you on an errand so that you could not see me running into the vast expanse of bluish water which had always enchanted me, a place of wonder where a lot of my imaginative characters dwelt.

I know the lunch with the wonderful curry you fed with your hands seems to be, my last feed of the day as I now rest myself on the floor of good old nature, bidding bye to all my worries, my unanswered questions and rest now. My tired body has sunk, buried by a thin layer of sparkling sand, a blanket against the increasing cold of the heavy rumble above me. How I, fervently wish, I might be a floating log tomorrow for my loved ones to reclaim and rebury along with their fond memories of me…

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Branding Birthdays

To all those, to whom a birthday every year, is a day to cherish!

Perceptions

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!

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My Poems

The Lost Series

The Lost Sparrow
The Lost Poet
The Lost Explorer
The Lost Dog
Lost Forever
Never lose a friend
Balance Lost

Nature

The Indian Summer
Indian Monsoon
Clouded Vision
When it rained
The waterhole
The Open Window
Marching Soldiers

Grief

Maid for you
Friends who blossomed
The Wait
The poor girl

Reflections

Unanswered
Making of a guru
The Inspiration
To know it was the day

Adhoc

Sense with Eyes
The tea maker
The Eerie House
Sentries
The Messenger

Sun Stories

Ganga had come late to school today also. The teacher chided her for being late every now and then. She was late most of the days in a month, let alone some days when she was absent. The only municipal school that stood at the periphery of  the village had an assortment of pupils drawn from various walks of life from the village residents.

Little did the teacher know that Ganga’s day started at 4 in the morning. She had to supply milk from Lalchand Seth’s diary to around 25 households which used to get over by 5:30 and go to Ratan Seth’s house to wash and clean the dishes.
Today the teacher had had enough and decided to give the punishment to the little girl. As she stretched out our hands for the cane to land, the teacher’s eyes fell upon the marks on the hands. It was full of cuts and bruises. When asked what had happened, Ganga preferred to remain silent. She escaped the beating this time, but will have to sit outside the class for 2 hours as punishment. As she sat outside, her eyes fell on the chirping sparrows playing in the sand and the parrots flying to some far off land. If only, I was one among them, she wondered as she shielded her eyes from the hot Sun making his presence felt.

Bala is standing beside the road with an assortment of guavas and oranges. Like his elder brother Shiva he is also a bread winner for his family, berefit of their father, and with 2 more siblings and an ailing mother to support. Both of them are out all the time selling wares. In the case of Shiva he has a make shift stall outside the main market that he uses to sell bangles, beaded chains and all  such items.

Bala used to buy 5 kilos of guavas and oranges and walk another 2 kilometers to a vantage scenic spot on the highway so that he could sell them to people or tourists frequenting the place. There were lucky days, when before reaching the spot, his goods would have been sold on the road itself. Bala had gone to school till his 4th standard and after that what ever knowledge he had gained in the last 5 years was  from these very tourists; He had picked up a bit of few languages at least that came handy in negotiating during the purchase or the haggling saga. There were days when very few people picked his wares or gave him a decent money in return for them. Today was a hot summer day and there were not many  people who even cared to look at him, let alone his fruit basket.

Rakesh was enjoying his vacation as his summer holidays had started a few days back. He along with his family is on the way to Nasik and planned to visit places that they had skipped in their visit last year. On the way, they saw some tourists have disembarked from the magnificent vehicles to see an attractive waterfall.

They also stop to get down to take pictures, selfies with all backgrounds possible. At this time, a boy of 12 approaches them. “Saab, madam,   Peru, Santra lo na; yeh bahut sast hai, saab ” in a pleading voice (translation: Sir..please buy these fruits Peru(Guava) Santra(orange), these are very cheap). Rakesh looks at the boy aged same as him, he appears shabby and sun burnt. The boy is watching him with awe and wants him to negotiate the sale with his parents. No no, the father says, we have enough food and fruits stocked in our car, no point in buying from this boy, don’t even know from where he has plucked all these.

The large guavas, for Rakesh, seemed inviting as also the boy’s eyes but his pleas fell on deaf ears and he had to get into his car that was raring to go with his parents. But before getting in, he waved back to the dark boy with his basket of fruits who was still looking at him with one hand shielding himself from the afternoon Sun.

While speeding through, in the cool comfort of his Innova car, that was now negotiating a hump, his eyes fell on a girl sitting outside a small school veranda near to the road. Pointing to her, he nudges his father.  Why is she sitting outside father? He curiously asked. “Maybe she hasn’t done her homework before coming to school ” was the quick reply..” Put the blinds on son for the sun is really hitting us even through the tinted glass”.

 

The Referral

Jagan was looking for a paying guest accommodation in the city and one evening finally tired of walking through building blocks, decided to take rest below a banyan tree that had a concrete bench built around it where he thought  he would rest his aching legs.

You seemed to be tired, young man. What is it that are you looking for? asked an old man sitting on the same bench at a distance. Jagan didn’t remember noticing him while he had sat on the circular bench. He must be in his late seventies, a retired old fellow who must be a frequent visitor here, so he thought. Jagan told him about his predicament about getting some accommodation, as staying in a shanty lodge which was far away from his work place was difficult for him.

You have come to the right place and lucky for you, I am been sitting here this late today. Maybe I was waiting for thee” he chuckled to himself, his wrinkled faced showing the amusement in the faint glow from the street light. “There is an old lady in the next building who is a bit lonely. Her children now grown up with families of their own, have left her for greener pastures. Maybe you can drop in and have a word with her. If she likes, as I have, you can surely move in to her house and stay with her as long as you are in her good books“.

Jagan thanked the old gentleman who was now looking at him with gentle eyes as if a father would look at his son, and proceeded to the building pointed by him. He had walked a few steps forward and then turned to ask him. “Can I refer your name to her?  ” Why not? came the answer. “Tell her one Mr. Ram referred you. I am sure that would be an advantage for you” he said waving to him. Jagan thanked him again and went in search of the flat on the second floor.

While climbing the steps, he had his doubts as to whether he could adjust with the old lady or whether the owner would adjust with him. Not that he had any habits which would be a bone of contention for rejection.

The lady took an immediate liking for him and told him that he could stay with her and share her flat. He was supposed to be with the lady, so that there was someone at home, who could take care of her in case she fell sick with some ailment at this advanced age. Therefore the rent amount fixed was quite low by her to Jagan’s liking. Jagan was a pleased man as he climbed the steps down that day. He could move in, bag and baggage from the next day itself. As he went by the banyan tree, he wanted to meet the old man, but he was not to be seen, not surprising, as it was quite late.

As days passed, contrary to expectations set, it was the lady who started to care for him. She always prepared breakfast for him though it was not part of the deal. On weekends Jagan could enjoy the vegetarian lunch and dinner with her. She used to have a  menu of dishes so that Jagan would not feel it mundane. While eating , she used to remark, “what is the point of lavishing love on you by making such dishes. One day you would leave me as others have did..”

Once when he came late as usual, there was no electricity, so he bought candles and lit one of them as he climbed the stairs. He knocked on the door and kept the candle besides his face, so she could identify him in the darkness as she looked through the peephole. But what a coincidence, as soon as she opened the door, the electricity had come back.

Most of the time after dinner, he used to switch on the TV and leave it running and fall asleep and it used to be her job to switch it off in the midnight. She used to make fun of him about this. The lady had trouble sleeping and therefore the only job he used to do for her was to bring sleeping pills for her using an old wrinkled prescription. Some medical shops would decline seeing the date on the slip and he would have to approach a few before he could get a couple of strips from an obliging shop or a shopkeeper who didn’t care to see the date.

One day, he had to rush to the doctor on the ground floor as her pressure was low and she couldn’t get up. The doctor when he heard Jagan, in surprise and  shock asked. “which lady are you referring to?“. The lady in Flat 202 on the second floor was Jagan’s reply. The doctor got up immediately and came upstairs with Jagan, and when they went to her room, she was not to be found. They searched for her everywhere, but just as the doctor had thought, she was a faint apparition of her self that passed away an year ago.

It was now Jagan’s turn to look surprised and worried as he heard the story and packed his bags with the doctor in attendance all the while. He thanked the doctor and bid adieu to his accommodation of few months, his mind full of turmoil, and as he walked on the pavement, he just looked upwards at the balcony, did he see an apparition of the old lady waiving lovingly at him? He averted his eyes, was it fear or something else which made him look down, he never knew. At least, he was still in her good books, he thought.

He hurried knowing he had to find Mr. Ram one of these days and then wondered if he would ever find him…

old lady
Pic Courtesy: Shutterstock

My Dog Charlie

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My Dog Charlie

Charlie, came into our lives the same month I got married. He was just 2 weeks old when one of my relations handed him over to us and he adapted to his life with the new surroundings. There was our Tom cat whom we used to call Mani with us for the last 2 years before the little dog arrived.

Initially Charlie used to play with Mani, but somehow the cat was not very amused to see the attention getting diverted to the new visitor. Once he tried to put his paw at Charlie, and from thereon the dog was careful in his interaction with Mani. Mani as tom cats do, slowly used to disappear and would come back once a week and thereafter his frequency decreased to a month and then he never came back again.

Within leaps and bounds, in a matter of a year Charlie grew up and was seen in almost all corners of our one acre land. You could see him smelling something at one corner, and the next minute he would be standing just next to you. He was a dog seen in all places within the well defined boundary walls of the compound that had a pond and many palm and arecanut trees and a few cashew and jack fruit trees.

When we used to call him, he used to run across to us in a fluid motion with his mane flowing. Most of the time he would collide with me as he rarely could bring himself to a complete halt.One of our past time was me putting my hand in his mouth an he trying to bite playfully with the right amount of pressure applied.

In the initial stages, he loved to take a bath especially in the summer days, but as he aged, it was a bit difficult to entice him for the bath. Sometimes he would run away before the first cup of water was poured over him, and sometimes he would vanish after the  soap was put all over. But somehow I would manage to grapple with him and bring him back to the bath stand and because of the love he would stand still and take the bath, maybe, because he did not want to hurt me or any person in the family, who was trying to clean him.

In the night, he was left to roam the compound and during the day, he was sent to his kennel, the only way to entice him to it, was to either bring his breakfast or his lunch. He would run from wherever he was, the moment he heard the sound of his steel container, as that meant, his food was ready.

Dogs rarely like anybody touching their plate, once it is handed over to them, and this was true with Charlie too, as he would growl and show his teeth, if your hand went anywhere near his tiffin once he had started eating.

Dogs also know who is the real master of the house, and that way, he first respected my father and mother and then us in that order.

He was vaccinated only twice in his entire life of 13 years with us. Once I remember, I had to close his barking mouth, since he was not very keen to get the injection the first time when he was around 1 year old. But I could see the trust in his eyes, as I closed his jaw, saying silently to me, “I am not bothered what the doc does to me, as long as you are close to me and wish me well”.

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The pond in the compound would see him standing at the edge and looking into it, maybe looking at the tortoise or the fish that used to come near the edge. He rarely was engrossed for long in any particular thing and would move on to the next thing that interested him.

While my father watered the plants and the palm trees, he would run around or stay around, but would rush with great speed towards the gate, the moment he heard someone touching the latch on our gate. That way we used to keep our gate closed and had to take him to his kennel before letting our guests in.

Since he was seen strolling freely most of the afternoon times especially in the summer, all visitors would call out to us at the gate just to make sure that Charlie was not anywhere near.

One day, I remember, I came home late in the night, and my parents had locked the gate as I had told them, I will be sleeping at the office and be coming in the morning. As I came near the gate, Charlie made those funny squeaky noise especially when he spotted a loved one. But I wanted him to bark at me, so that my father would be alerted. But he just lingered for a few moments and vanished and finally I had to climb over and jump into our compound. I was a bit worried though, as to how he would react to me  scaling and jumping over. But then, he had disappeared into the darkness..

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After the first few years, myself and my family moved to the middle east and would see him only once in a year, and you could see the joy as he saw us when ever we came back. Leaving him after the vacation was heart wrenching for me, as was to the whole family.

My parents took good care of him, and he turned out to be their second son in my absence and mother would say to me, “taking care of him, sometimes would neutralize your absence “. The last years, was not good for him, as my parents had to leave him alone at the house with the care taker coming twice a day to feed him. The absence of his loved ones for one month or so in the last 2 years left him a bit gloomy and depressed. Though I came back, 2 years before he breathed his last, because of relocation to the city, my visits to him also went down.

My parents had gone to meet my sister and during that time, he contracted some illness and stopped eating for 2 days, and on the third day, I reached and gave him medicine to help him recover from his ailment. He was also running a fever. I knew he was going through his last moments. Dad arrived that evening without my mother as she planned to stay for a few more weeks at my sister’s place.

Dad gave him some food in the evening which he took, he must have been really overjoyed to see him back, the master of the house,  despite his illness and happy that he could rest in peace. That very day, during the night he passed away leaving a vacuum in our lives. My mother was really sad but in a way consoled herself that she was not there, as it would have been heart breaking for her.

It has been around 5 years since he left us, but to us, he was to us, a great pet and shall ever remain etched in our memory till the very last…

My Story

This story goes back to my school days in Bombay, now Mumbai, where I grew up. The 4 storeyed building where we stayed had around 72 tenants. Each tenant had a home of 450 square feet that included a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.The ground floor had an assortment of shops that had 2 laundry shops, 2 clinics, 3 groceries, a tailor, a medical shop, a co-operative bank, classrooms of a school and now to the central character of this story, the civil supplies ration shop.

The locality spread across roughly 30 plus acres was called Abhyudaya Nagar which had around 45 such buildings, and also had the Kalachowky police station quarters  opposite our building. The nearest railway station was Cotton green. To serve these tenants, around 3000 and amounting to an average of 15000 people, we had 6 or 7 such ration shops in the locality.

Since this particular ration shop was in our building, in my running around the building during play time and my weekly visits to buy our monthly ration of rice, sugar, kerosene and sometimes wheat, I became friendly with the owner of the shop, who also acted as the cashier. His job was to check the ration card, similar to a bank’s savings pass book and give out necessary receipts after collecting the payment. There was another person to help him dole out the ration to the customers as they came in whenever any or all of the above mentioned commodities was made available.

The wheat, sugar and rice came in jute gunny bags on lorries or trucks. Kerosene used to come to these shops on bullock carts from the nearby Sewri Indian Oil godowns at a distance of 3 kms. A 500 litre tank was drawn by one bullock, and sometimes the 1000 litre tank that made its appearance to these shops were drawn by 2 bullocks. In those days, the rationing for kerosene, priced at 1.20 INR per litre, was anything from 20 litres for a small family for a month or more based on the number of members listed on the ration card.

Since kerosene was a scarce commodity and strictly available only in ration shops during the early late seventies and early eighties, people used to flock to these shops in great numbers whenever such carts made their visits to the shops. At such occasions, during my playtime that would start at 3 pm to 5:30 pm, I sometimes used to volunteer for support to give the grains and sugar to such customers, since the only man was busy managing to give kerosene and grains at the same time. The shopkeeper liked me coming, since as I was known to him, and did not mind me helping him and thereby increasing the throughput and reducing the waiting time of customers in the queue.

I never went every day, as I could now remember but made it a habit of chipping in only when the kerosene carts came and when the queue was more than 15 to 20 people. Some people especially ones from my building was only too glad to see me serving them. There was one occasion when an old woman from the police quarters who blessed me saying, “Son, you will be never be want of food in your life for what ever help you are rendering to us”. It was during those formative years that I learnt my initial customer service and support lessons.

Once, during my 9th standard, these consortium of such 6 or 7 ration shops decided to bring a lottery scheme for all the ration card holders in this area, and the shop owners went to each and every home and sold lottery tickets which had the first prize as black and white television and other prizes which I do not remember. During those times, since color televisions had not appeared, the black and white one costed as much as 5000 INR, a costly luxury item for most of the people. They came to my house and our shop owner asked my mother to buy at least 10 tickets each costing 2 INR to which she obliged, since she did not want to upset either him or me who was present at that time. 2 rupees itself was a big amount in those days, because you could buy a kilogram of sugar or rice or wheat at that time.

The day of the prize came, and I had memorized the lottery series numbers which we had bought. That day however I forgot all about it and after school, I went out to play cricket. The shopkeepers were going to each and every building and announcing the prize winning numbers on a loud speaker and when they came to our building and announced, was I glad to hear that we had won the first prize…

 

 

Journey of life

All of us are walking on the road that leads us to our final destination. This is the path that everyone takes in their life and which no one can shun. All get pushed on to this road and walk they have to. Experiences that we gather get tagged as luggage on to us. Some are good whereas some are bad and others best to be forgotten.

These experiences and memories cannot be discarded as each event and action gets etched, some on your body and others most in memory. We get our family members to walk with us in this journey of life where some leave us soon and others stick on till the very end.

Friends come in from different directions as they meet us in their journeys. Some give you company  and lighten the travails of the travel. There are others who confront you with negative motives and who are best to be avoided but not everyone can, as some are forced upon you that leaves you weak and tired to continue the arduous path ahead. The journey is long for some who grumble about it and short for others who enjoy the travel.

The sun, the wind and other elements play their parts when they cross your paths daily as you walk ahead not knowing what is in store for you, a journey where the destination marks the culmination of a life well spent or best forgotten…
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The lively professor

A professor when he was on the verge of retirement  dream’t of coaching eager students in his now retired life, so he thought, as he drove back from college on one of his last days.

He called up one of his old students who now worked in the press to put up a classified in the morning newspaper that would advertise his skills in accountancy, a tutor anybody would love and dream’t to have.

A few days back, 3 girls, all pals,  came to his house for coaching as exams were just a few months away but they saw a padlock greeting them on his door. They went away sadly as they could not meet the tutor who dream’t of teaching even in his retired life.

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After a week they came again to inquire and this time they found him waiting and ready to teach. Not wasting much time, he taught the nuances about all he knew about the subject in those few months.

The girls loved him for his knowledge and more than that, the way he imparted it to them, making it look so easy. If only, they thought, all of the professors they met were like him.

On the day of the results, our girls were mighty thrilled and why wouldn’t they as the results outdid their expectations and they hurried to their old mentor to convey the great news but sadly the padlock greeted them this time too and they lingered on for him to arrive, for quite some time.

But arrive, he never did that day, and as it was late, the trio went back sadly each to their own homes. The next dawn they went back again to see the house still locked as they found it the earlier day. This time they inquired about his whereabouts with his not so near neighbors, only to know that he had passed a few months away…

 

Some good souls linger on to complete an unfulfilled wish…

Lost forever

There never was and never will be
any one dear to me as you were
but it took long years to know it
now that you are no more with me
How will I reciprocate the feeling
that now criss crosses my mind
now that you are not there…

It took years for the love to mature
just as good old wine with sweetness
that fermented and lingered
How can I now raise a toast to you
to commend you on your support
etching those memoirs in my mind
now that you are not there…