The Lost Salary

Anand was a happy man today. He had counted his salary twice as it gave him a nice feeling as his fingers touched the crispy notes. After all it, it would not remain with him for long. He checked the wad of notes in his pocket when he climbed on the bus, once more while he was seated and when he left the bus at his door step. Thank God, it was still there, but he knew, all these would disappear soon. He wondered if inflation was the main thief in the country.

“Good evening Anand, you look a happy man today, am sure it is the salary, ” remarked the grocer Dayal, to whom Anand owed a month of grocery bills. “How much do I owe you, Dayalji? asked Anand bringing out the wad of notes. Painfully he parted with almost 20 percent of his salary. As he approached the gate of his housing society, he saw Ramu, the milkman with big milky teeth, waiting with glee on his arrival. As they parted, another 1500 had vanished from the crispy notes. The measure of happiness had already started vanishing along with the size of the wad of notes.

The society office boy came next day morning well in time to catch him before he left for the office to collect the monthly charges. Anand’s wife asked him to keep a 1000 for the cooking gas cylinder that might arrive any day. Just as he wanted to contain any more spends, he bumped into the newspaper boy who collected another 750 for his 2 newspapers that satisfied his morning ablutions.

With the electricity bill giving him a shock, as he paid it at the electricity office, Anand wondered how many more debits awaited him, now that a paltry sum remained from the salary he received, a few days back. On the train, the ticket checker asked for his ticket or pass, which he promptly showed. The checker handed it back with a smile. Only when he was putting it back, trying to make meaning out of the smile, he noticed, that the pass was expiring the next day. That means another set of notes would vanish tomorrow.

The second day evening, coming back from office,  he saw boys at his apartment complex trying to get a tangled kite from the network of television cables. Anand called the cable boys lest these kids might wreck havoc on the cables. They arrived in minutes but only left after collecting their monthly due payment.

Anand was now left counting as to what remained and if he had enough money to survive the rest of the month after provisioning for miscellaneous expenses like bus fare, school fees, vegetables and fish at the market where they would not give him credit. Despite the lost salary, he firmly decided with the next salary he would buy a small camera, a thought he had been cherishing for so long…

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Lost in a forest

survivetheforest

Yet another from the Lost Series.. Reading Time Max.10 mins Words:1530

It was quite some time you had been thinking of driving through a forest and your dreams turned a reality last month when your visa came home along with your passport through a friendly travel agency where Mike or Mac made it possible for you? The travel flight to to the  airport at Tiguasa was itself a 7 hour saga with a 3 hour overlay at Kanwabe airport where there was this one flight every alternate day to Tiguasa you had taken. This place was situated in the expanse of the 500 hectare forest reserve that had been carved out of the 2000 plus hectare woods of Sagwarosa where all sorts of wild life abounded.

The gamekeeper office had given strict instructions for everyone to follow. The visitors should slice themselves in the 8 passenger traveler bus that would take you through the heart of the game as they called it. The first trip would start off at 9 am and end at 4 pm and was properly charted for the inmates of the bus to see most of the wild life that abounded in Tiguasa. Not much of the great cats were here save the occasional leopard and a few old lions somewhere hidden away from these day trips made in the bus.

Coming back to the itinerary for the day. It had begun well with a decent breakfast with a lot of vegetables coupled with Brown bread and a serving of hot coffee mixed with coco lending it a chocolate taste. The bus or van as it appeared was rumbling away as the 6 passengers ascended it. It already has a seated driver (who it seems is a new guy substituting for someone else who seemed sick today) who would flash a beaming smile at every occupant including you as they got seated. The cushions in the seats were a bit old and torn of at a few places especially at the edges making you think of what did happen while the tourists eyed some creature that came their way.

The bus took off on a winding and dusty track such that the dust from it would come into the bus at times. The air conditioner of the bus was built in legendary times since it did little to cool the inside and appeared to be more of an oven rather than a cooler. At the back of the bus where there is enough room can be seen lying a bunch of bananas.

It is at this time you pass a cursory glance at your fellow occupants. There were it appeared by the magnetism of the mannerisms two couples and an elderly gentleman. Sensing your glance, the elderly gently put out of his hand to introduce himself. The name is Stein and when your hands shook his, it nearly shook your complete self. Others also joined in..John and his wife Rita. Lin with his pretty wife Long who appeared in her early twenties.

You are sitting in the left rail with Stein in the front row whereas the 2 couples are chatting on the right wing of the green bus. The driver is humming a song in his language looking back every now and then for appreciation but then all occupants eyes are busy scanning for any forest native who might grace that way. First sighting was of a fox who was disturbed from his sleep by the mechanical Fargo bus and meandered his way to a better sleeping place or to wash his face you would never know.

Then came a flash of parakeets with long tails and a fast of yellow on natural green. They created quite a commotion as they flew over the starboard side only to disappear into the distance.

On the right side after a ride of 15 gruelling mins, there appeared a large natural pool that looked more of a waterhole with an assortment of animals quenching their thirst and preparing themselves for the day ahead. A small gathering of deer, a resident hippo and a few buffaloes could be seen. You fish out your digital camera as you saw others do the same and start shooting pictures of the silent hurdled group. The deer are on alert ready to bound at the first sign of danger, the hippo has a tired look at the bus as if he has seen this for quite some time. The buffaloes seem to be in two minds whether to move on, or share some space with the hippo. After a few minutes of anchor, the bus moved on to another place this time where the bushes and shrubs gave way to a bunch of trees with hanging branches. The trees look properly watered as the green leaves on them make you think so.

What was that? there now, you could hear some chilling cries of some animals, and before you can connect the sound to their owners, there appear a few elephants on a rampage, it seems one was trying to get away from others. He finds way through the narrow road and the thickets and almost overturns the bus. The other bunch is playfully behind him but they are a bit slow as they see the bunch in the bus including you and drop their investigating trunks in the now fully stopped bus. Where are the passengers and the driver? They have somehow gone and ran for their lives, as you were wonder struck with the trunks of the playful mammoths. You had some sense in you to get out of the seat and drag those banana plantains to the near reach of the trunks of those medium sized elephants. They grabbed it out of the open windows just as you were transferring it to them. In a jiffy, they disappeared after they had gobbled up the food, leaving you to yourself.

Taking the bottle of water in the small bag, you get down and start jogging on the look out for your fellow passengers who are nowhere in sight. The jogging person in you makes a bunch of monkeys come down from their lodgings and try to harass you or that is what you thought allowing your legs to make a dash out of that scene, to a much thicker part of the woods. The next bus should be on the way in another half an hour, but you are reluctant to go anywhere near those monkeys who now have stay put on the road.

There are quite a collection of trees here as they give you cool shade and it would be better to climb a branch or two to be on the safe side. As you grace up a tree holding on to the tighter twigs that support you as you ascent, some sticky substance on the branch make you lose grip and cause you to fall headlong as the twigs give way and you land with a thud on the soft sand below.

You don’t know how long you were in that state, and by the time you are back to your senses, it is dusk, you get up with a nasty headache and take some time to find your bearings. It was a wonder that you were safe on the ground all these hours, maybe the forest goddess was taking care of you all this while. The bag has fallen some place and you search for it with final success among the fallen leaves. Grabbing a gulp or two from the water bottle, your senses are alerted to some noise coming this way and you try to scamper up another tree but it seems your left leg has a tearing pain and is unable to help you much in the process. After making a couple of attempts, you try to flee to somewhere near the road, that is some meters away. There on the road, you try to stay and before you can think you see two hyenas at around 50 yards walking towards you.

That is it, you think, this is the end of me, I was supposed to be killed here and you resign yourselves to the fate in front of you. But the winds of luck change in your favor instantly as the same rampaging group of elephants come your way from the right in their usual frolicking manner and when they see you, they are delighted and stay put amusing you with their trunks resting on your shoulders, some on your stretched palms wondering what else you have got for them.

A few more minutes, a motor car grunting across the road comes to a halt, and a couple of rangers get down to salvage you as the elephants gladly make way for them, and you are so happy to see some human faces now. Upon enquiries, you were glad to know that the co-passengers and the driver had met the ranger’s vehicle minutes after they had dashed out of the bus. Now that the day trip had come to a close with the Sun bidding bye, the memory of Tiguasa however getting etched for life where you had almost got lost in a forest.

Ramayana

rama

1. Born to Dashratha,  King of Ayodhya
Rama, the eldest among four sons
cheerful, loved by all, and yet so humble
a great son to a great father was he.

2. Rama of Kausalya and Bharata of Kaikeyi
Lakshmana and Shatrughana of Sumitra
four pillars of strength to the King Dashratha
Ayodhya glowed with due resplendence.

3. In those days the earth was abound with
the rakshashas, the so called demons
who created fear wherever they roamed
in holy saints and mighty human kings.

4. Their king,  Ravana who ruled Lanka
with great warriors in his army
he had subdued even the devas
on account of boons got from Brahma.

5. With his son Indrajith, a  warrior
master of black magic and many astras
with his maya powers was unconquerable
even Indra got defeated by him.

6. Ravana had asked immunity from gods
the gandharvas and the yakshas
as boons from Brahma during his tapas
but not from man whom he thought puny.

7. Rama, of the solar dynasty, the race
had mighty kings Ikshavaku and Sagara
with Anshuman and Bhageeratha
the oceans and the Ganges we had.

8. One day, of Dashratha, was requested
services of Rama by the sage Vishwamitra
who himself was a great King, now a sage
master of every weapon, a Brahmarishi.

9. It was a thirst to rival Vasishta, the sage
that Vishwamitra became a Brahmarishi
the progress towards it contains a story
that fills pages with unraveled glory.

10. With Vishwamitra conducting a yagaa
let Rama be on guard for destroying
the rakshasas who defile the yaaga
as they shower unclean items on it.

11. Vishwamitra could destroy them
being a dignified sage, he less wished
merits to be wasted on curse or injury
though being master of every astra.

12. Dashratha not willing to let go of Rama
but with an unflinching Vishwamitra,
whose anger the world had known
was advised by preceptor Vasishta to let go.

13. The sage with Rama and Lakshmana
the princes by his side, as they walked
resembled a force, no evil could face
safeguard the ritual was the holy goal.

14. On the way, the sage, a great teacher
initiated the two princes with the astras
the use of weapons and how to recall
memorize and equip them for future.

15. After six days and nights, upon arrival
Maareecha was thrown to a long distance
and Subaahu killed on the spot with others
fruitful end of the yaaga and the rakshasas.

16. On the way back, the sage, all knowing
took the princes through the city of Mithila
ruled by the great King Janaka, a beloved
daughter Sita, a kind and beautiful soul.

17. The city of Mithila, ruled by Janaka
where Sita would wed a prince
who would lift and string the bow of Siva
a lot of suitors had come for her and failed.

18. Janaka was happy to see the Sage illustrious
with the two charming princes who glowed
by blessings of the sage and by royal birth
Happy he was, who wished Rama be a suitor.

19.  On that auspicious day, hinted by Janaka
Rama was to be shown the great bow
when Rama, lifted, strung and then bent it
joy broke out among all those, Sita included.

20. Sita garlanded Rama, her Lord for great years
messengers in haste to Ayodhya, with glad news
royal court so happy, with mothers waiting for
Rama who defeated the asuras and wed Sita.

21. When Dashratha decided to crown Rama
Kaikeyi coaxed him to change on bestowed vows
Rama be sent to the forest for 14 long years
let her son Bharata be anointed the crown.

22. When the news broke out, Rama was silent
it was important he followed his father wishes
with Sita and Lakshmana, both unrelenting
to stay back, while he roamed the forests alone.

23. That night when Rama left, the great King
Dashratha passed away and gloom descended
Bharatha not in town  not aware of happenings
when called for, he did best what he had in mind.

24. He and his retinue went on the look out
found Rama in the forest and pressed him
to return to his rightful place and crown
Rama remained firm, to honor his vow
to a great father who was now lost to him.

25. Bharata was to return and rule
the brother his mission failed assumed
the role of a caretaker by installing Rama
in his heart and his sandals on the crown.

26. The stay in Chitrakoota at first
then the dandaka forest, was spent well
initially in the company of sages
who welcomed them with all hearts.

27. The time of thirteen years had passed
the events had to change for the purpose
of Rama’s birth, the fall of Ravana
was initiated by the latter’s sister.

28. Soorpanakha, on seeing Rama
desired him to have as her husband
but Rama dodged her to Lakshmana
and the latter again sent her to Rama.

29. When she knew they were playing
becoming angry and rushed upon Sita
mutilated, she ran to her brothers
Khaara and Dooshana, stationed nearby.

30. Having related to them the happenings
her brothers came  with great numbers
Raama single handedly dealt with them
the death blow, causing great rage in Lanka.

31. Akampana a survivor reached Lanka
Ravana beset with rage not knowing
how dare a man cause such great havoc
the best way to punish him, he consulted.

32. Hearing Sita’s beauty from Soorpanakha
he decided to covet her, and kill Rama
but was advised by Mareecha not to proceed
but prevailed upon, they set together on a plan.

33. With a wily disguise, Mareecha as a deer
a golden beauty, the sight bewitching to Sita
imploring Rama to get it for her as a pet
Rama went after the deer for a distance.

34. Rama knowing the demon in deer shot him
when Mareecha regained his form he cried
his last act in the staged play, before he died
Mareecha cried out exactly in Rama’s voice.

35. As Rama’s voice in distress reached
confused Sita asked Lakshmana to go
who stood his ground, as per his duty
an angry Sita drove him away weeping.

36. When Lakshmana out of the scene,
Ravana stepped in a mendicant’s form
with respect, he introduced his greatness
when Sita angrily rebuked, he took her away.

37. When Rama saw Lakshmana, he feared greatly
they being tricked, hastily hurrying back
not seeing her at the hut, where could she be
was she playing a prank or did someone take her?

38. When Ravana sped fast in his puskpaka
he fought the opposing Jataayu, the aging eagle
Sita removed some of her jewels hastily
dropping them, to a group of monkeys below.

39. The brothers came upon poor Jataayu
in his last moments, who told what happened
before dying a brother who tried his best
failure, it does come even to the invincible.

40. On the way they came upon a Rakshasa
he was released from the curse, when killed
the divine being told them to seek Sugreeva
who would help them in their quest for Sita.

41. Vaali and Sugreeva, brothers of great power
once when an asura challenged Vaali to a duel
they fought for many days in a mountain cave
fearing Vaali had perished, Sugreeva blocked it

42. Sugreeva came back to be crowned king
when Vaali weary with fight came back
he drove Sugreeva out while keeping his wife
wasn’t Vaali resembling the like of Ravana?

43. Hanuman who was Sugreeva’s minister
a great communicator, he was his strength
when Rama and Lakshmana came looking
Hanuman was sent to know, if friend or foe.

44.  It was Sugreeva to whom Sita had dropped
the jewels when she saw the group of five
the only way was to restore to Sugreeva
his kingdom Kishkindha of wise monkeys.

45. It was difficult to kill Vaali face to face
with Indra’s necklace he could not be won
when Sugreeva and Vaali in a close duel
arrow from Rama killed Vaali from behind.

46. With Sugreeva back as Vanara chief
he decided to sent his people as scouts
in all directions, scores were sent out
the best headed south where Ravana flew.

47. With  Hanuman and Angada
the crown prince and Vaali’s son
with Jambavaan the king of bears
why wouldn’t the south group succeed?

48. Rama had full faith in Hanuman
gave his ring and a certain incident
so that Hanuman could be trusted
if he should be able to speak to Sita.

49. The search party arrived at the shore
the sea seemed a hurdle as it lay across
they saw Sampati, the aged eagle brother
told him about Jataayu and he about Lanka.

50. Lanka was at a distance of 100 yoganas
the vanaaras in the group when asked
some could jump 10, or even 50 not more
Angada could do one way but not two.

51. When Jaambavan reminded Hanuman
about his hidden prowess, the son of Vaayu
grew in stature and made a huge form
before making that leap of faith to far Lanka.

52. On the way he met a few friends and foes
but humble as he was, with great faith
he could well explain or swiftly destroy
as there was no time to talk or rest.

53. Landing as a small ape, he was startled
by the guardian goddess who slapped him
she was stunned when he slapped back
the fall of the city started as she vanished.

54. Hanuman went in search of mother Sita
he searched every palace, adorned by riches
where great men and women rested in peace
but not Sita in these places without any peace.

55. He came upon a calm, pleasant garden
was it Sita sitting, surrounded by women
guarding her fearfully, when he saw Ravana
walking to her and telling her to yield to him.

56. Hanuman in his tiny form, hidden in the tree
below where Sita sat, sang the praise of Rama
in a language, even great scholars could not
Sita having seen him, was still not convinced.

57. Hanuman then showed her Rama’s ring
and the incidents only known to them
consoled was she, now that they knew
her Lord would come to rescue her.

58. Hanuman decided to strike some terror
they should know about Rama, his army
he laid waste the garden which caused
the news about him, reported to Ravana.

59. Thinking it was some wicked monkey
he sent a few soldiers who were slain soon
then he sent a fierce warrior, Jambumali
who too was slain, causing discomfort.

60. Ravana then dispatched his son Aksha
a disciplined and formidable warrior
but he too was sent to the heavens
causing the great Indrajit to step in.

61. When all weapons of great strength
failed to effect Hanuman, the great son
of Ravana sent the Brahmastra
and bound by it, Hanuman lay motionless.

62. The rakshasas surrounded Hanuman
bound him by ropes and presented him
before the ten headed seated Ravana
the monkey will be shown his stature.

63. The brahmastra could not effect Hanuman
because of an earlier boon from Brahma himself
the tying of ropes on a person already bound
would diminish the effects of that great astra.

64. First counsel to Ravana was to kill the vanara
but Vibhishana, his brother a kindhearted soul
prevailed to spare the life of  naughty Hanuman
as per dharma, was it proper to kill a messenger?

65. Second counsel was to put fire to his tail
loads of cloth were brought and soaked in oil
bound to the tail which seemed to increase
the length but they lit it up not knowing him.

66. Before the happy rakshasas would know
the great servant of Rama shook his bonds
flew up into the sky and set fire to the palaces
all places he could think of to scare them.

67. He rushed to Sita, was she affected?
so glad to see her safe and sound
apprising her of what happened, assuring her
the army of Rama will appear soon to free her.

68. Hanuman, his mission accomplished
with acknowledgements from Sita received
he flew across the sea and patted the mountain
which rose to offer him rest, he while on a hurry.

69. Having landed in front of his friends
who were getting worried on his delay
he told them of of his visit in Lanka
joyfully they resumed back to Rama.

70. Rama mighty pleased to see Hanuman
to hear of his valorous deeds of crossing
and having seen his beloved wife Sita
sad of her plight told in far off Lanka.

71. Sugreeva gave orders to call all divisions
monkeys and bears came from all corners
the army of Sugreeva was a sight to behold
they marched southwards to the great sea.

72. The sea, a challenge to be tided over
for the mighty warriors to cross over
for not all could jump as Hanuman did
the need of the hour was a quick bridge.

73. Back in Lanka, Ravana held a call
on the damage done by Rama’s ape
how best we could destroy this army
Vibheeshana had a good solution.

74. Return Sita to Rama and fall
at his feet, don’t you know who he is?
this was not acceptable to Ravana
and he drove Vibeeshana out of Lanka.

75. The good souled cast off brother
surrendered to Rama, knowing him
though others were wary of acceptance
Rama crowned him as a future King.

76. Rama prayed to the sea god
to help him tide over the problem
the sea god appeared and said
he could only help maintain a bridge.

77. Why worry when you  among  have
Nala, son of the great Vishwakarma,
advised the sea god to Rama
he will be your architect to you
just as his father was to the gods.

78. The call was to bring stones and trees
great columns of these dropped
the sea held still on to these rocks
the army of soldiers built it fast.

79. The big army marched on the bridge
it was a matter of time before they reached
the shores of Lanka, a city waiting to fall
days before the war cry would sound.

80. Before the war was set to begin
Rama decided to give Ravana a last chance
he sent Angada the prince as a messenger
again the great lord of Lanka did not listen.

81. The war had begun with both armies
formidable, one with rocks and trees
the other with shields, arrows and clubs
blood flowed in torrents, a sight to behold.

82. Ravana sent Indrajith when he found
the balance uneven, who fired naga darts
that felled Rama and Lakshmana
to the bewilderment of the vanara army.

83. Soon Garuda the eagle king flew to the scene
seeing their sworn enemy, snake darts vanished
stroking the brothers now revived by his feathers
the great bird disappeared into the distance

84. With the war going at full swing
a lot of warriors falling on Ravana’s side
he ordered to wake up Kumbakarna
from his sleep, for he alone was enough.

85. With his deep sleep disturbed
the great giant brother of Ravana
enquired as to what had happened
knowing that Rama had arrived.

86. Not approving of  Ravana’s act
of having brought Sita to Lanka
he had gone off to sleep as his curse
for six months just before the war.

87. His sleep disturbed, Kumbakarna
duty bound now strode into battle
causing great havoc among the vanaras
Rama killed him before he could kill more.

88. Indrajith again dispatched this time
fired the Brahmaastra on the brothers
the great weapon, though did strike them
they fell in a swoon, but appeared dead.

89. The might vanara camp  became gloomy
to the glee of the losing Rakshasa army
Ravana in great joy ordered Sita to be shown
the plight of her lord grounded from the air.

90. Jambavaan sent for Hanuman
to fetch the sanjeevani herb  from north
that alone could rid the effects of the astra
restoring the princes to their original glory.

91. Hanuman took upon the task
no task appeared huge for him
only one thing mattered, his master
should come back to win this war.

92. He took some time to identify the herbs
failing, he picked up the whole hillock
with his hugh frame, flying back to Lanka
with the sanjeevani given, all was well.

93. With fresh hopes, the vanara army attacked
the gates of Lanka, and this time Indrajith
again had to come out as even Prahastha
Ravana’s commander in chief had perished.

94. Lakshmana riding on Hanuman shoulders
struck a duel with Indrajith, astra to astra
finally delivering the Indrastra on Indrajith
which struck him dead and Ravana in sorrow.

95. For Ravana, all these warriors now dead
who had acquired boons and master of weapons
who had defeated the gods was wonderstruck
as to whether Rama was Narayana himself.

96. With no one in the camp left, as a general
it was Ravana himself who marched out to battle
Vibeeshana pointing  out to Rama where he was
Rama thought, a great warrior but had to be slain.

97. A great battle ensued between the ten headed
and the vanara warriors, and chiefs combined
but Ravana the matchless warrior that he was
duly dispatched them back with sore injuries.

98. The two Lords,  warriors faced each other
one had acquired boons and absorbed sins
the other having the blessings of the blessed
the gods came out to see the great duel that day.

99. Darts flew from both Rama and Ravana
each astra was met by a matching astra
finally Ravana’s chariot was shattered
while he looked defeated, Rama sent him back.

100. The next day, with many ill omens
Ravana came out to face Rama once again
the battle took place for a long time
when Indra sent his chariot for Rama.

101. Standing in the godly chariot
Rama shone like the sun of the solar dynasty
his prowess unequalled sending shafts
that each time defied the ones Ravana sent.

102. Finally the time has come, may I
remind you, said the charioteer to Rama
of the Brahmastra that should be fired
when Rama with a sigh, applied the mantra.

103. The great astra flew and struck Ravana
and what a great fall that was
the invincible and unconquerable once
now fell lifeless to the ground heavily.

104. There was great jubilation
every person in the Ravana camp
was spared and treated very well
on orders from Rama and Vibeeshana.

105. Finally Sita was free and back with Rama
with Vibeeshana now made king of Lanka,
Rama along with his devoted wife and brother
flew to Ayodhya in the pushpaka vimana.

106. It is said that Sugreeva and Vibheeshana
with Hanuman accompanied the raghu princes
on the way to Ayodhya, with other vanaras
who played important roles in the war.

107. The vimana landed at an Ashrama
of Bharadwaja the sage for the night
before Hanuman could inform Bharata
who ruled Ayodhya from his ashrama.

108. Bharata mighty pleased meets Rama
on whose behalf he had ruled 14 long years
and returns the kingdom to the rightful king
thus ends the Ramayana signifying victory over evil.

Work is Worship

For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…

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 neighboring 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 inquire 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”.

Sands of time

An instance of a dream that I had some days back

A person (me) goes with a message to a distant village

on the way he has to cross a hot desert with obstacles

he meets many a person at various points in his journey

he is surprised to see the same people in the village

but there is something different as people here are sad

but whom he met on the way were very joyful and helpful sandsoftime

got me wondering, if I ever met them in the sands of time…

 

 

Story of a Ruin

 

Hindu temple, Ubud, Bali
Pura Temple, Bali

 

On the banks of a winding river
covered by shade giving trees
stood an old temple now a ruin
one day, was I mighty surprised
to see myself walking towards it?

The glaze from the noon fiery sun
as it struck many majestic pillars
at first blinded me; I could now see
a deity of a goddess unattended.

Offering my salutations to her
I looked around to spot anyone
who would come this desolate way
but alas, no one seemed to exist
except me, in these lost quarters.

I walked down the once trodden steps
when having heard a sharp noise
I turned around to see, to my wonder
the old sanctorum door now shut
who had shut that door, I wondered.

I went around to the farther side where
trees grew abound next to a cool pond
with water flowers growing amid aplenty
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey and a squirrel eyeing in awe.

The cool breeze and the fruits in bounty
took me to a dream of bygone days
I dreamt of that very place back in time
how festivities rocked the still ground
where people flocked and lost in joy.

The temple fair with all its pristine glory
had attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor like me now in different attire
it was then I spied upon a beautiful girl
who stood in the precincts of the temple.

Was she beautiful, or was she radiant
there was something about her charm
eyeing all who seemed to be lost in fun
wondering who she was, bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churning with thoughts.

I climbed the well laid lovely temple steps
a flood of devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the face of the deity
could very relate to that on the young girl
one in divine and another in human form.

Making casual inquiries it was made known
she was the very child of the temple priest
a staunch devotee who cared for nothing
engrossed in the ardent service of his folk
worship of a mother who was his child.

I circled with the crowd, and at every turn
her radiant smile, of the ever mighty holy
my doubts cleared with the compassion
she bestowed on us with her look of love
a mother truly pleased at her children.

At a loss, to keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, not had I, the courage
should I approach her the wonder she was
would she listen to me as others of her age
or be wise as a woman of a countless age.

One day, she was playing prank with kids
getting close, away from the little ones
when she sensed my faithful approach,
the graceful, the all knowing smile asking
how was I attracted to her, all these days.

Garnering courage, I went near divine her
while the kids were not at close quarters
asking her, was it true, what I had sensed
she being the divine in human form said
keep it to you, which I did all this time.

Days were spent meeting and asking
had she powers that she could exercise
could she keep the village blessed
she would wait for them to pass a test
would then, she decide to be a part of it.

A few months passed by, days of joy to me,
but one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
the ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician at the king’s court
might help her to tide over her such illness.

A journey to the palace place was too far
calling the physician might invite wrath
a young lad, i was to carry the message
private it was, to the medic to respond to
a person who still glowed, despite her pain.

I went to the king’s court and with difficulty
manage to get his consent, for the call
but he asked for a big fee, which I doubted
any one, of the village could well afford
but they could have grouped and helped.

With sad tidings, I brought the message
no one cared or willed to help the priest
who rendered selfless service for them
helped bring them blessings from Her
just as She had blessed him with Her.

Chiefs and the landlords refused to help
in kind or in money, left him disconsolate
the priest died,  heart broke, just as he was
was this test you told of, she faintly smiled
she was to pass away, with me by her side.

Rain clouds hovered to the delight of all
but my wet plight only, no one could gauge
I lost her that very night, her hands in mine
radiant as ever, her loving eyes upon me
was it in torrents, it poured from the sky?

The river, beside the village, rose in anger
submerged banks with all its people
the waves climbed the forsaken temple
did they also wash away our lost selves
I must be delighted to part with my body.

It all came back to me, I was driven here
a place where once, I loved a  girl of  glory
a divine Odyssey it was,  that got me here
I now, left to reminisce the story of a ruin
a pleasure if She would come again for me.

 

Treasure your savings

I had no dreams to be big, though sometimes I felt, I could at least buy a bicycle when I grew up, to tread on  the beaten path by many a person. But today, I have so much with me, I can share some for the needy who is not so bountiful in life as I am.

I worked in a bountiful junk store, that had rusted items for sale and all hard toil and a breaking back could only get me a meager pay and some sidekicks from the grumbling keeper.

One day, a disheveled guy came in, counting his coins, looking for an axe. It was he who introduced me to small time savings. Little did i know that day, when he stepped in as a fatherly figure, he would teach me to save for and sustain in difficult times in his own classic way. He would come now and then to the store, looking for odd things, and sometimes with a bag of rice, hanging on his shoulder, when one day, I thought of trailing him and followed him  at a distance by the pine forest, to find  that he lived alone in a make to do hut.

With a few books, that I had read from the junk store, he resembled a person like Robinson Crusoe. He would put a pot, scour some rice with his palm, and watch it disappear into a rumbling pot that sounded like a hot spring. He would eat the meager stuff with gusto, stretch himself for a while, and then wander out in the woods for firewood and what things, only time could guess on his return. He resembled a Goliath laden with firewood and fruits when he used to come back from those outings.

He had a strong body, now worn out with age as were his boots. I wondered who he was, living a lonely life and away from society. What could have caused him to be in such a state with a heap of clothes, and hanging wrinkles around his neck. Sometimes, I took him to be a Rip Van Winkle, when he stretched himself near his dwelling. A kerchief wound over his neck, he would look all around, as if someone might follow him. What was that he feared, thieves or ghosts?  my little mind would always wonder those days.

Was he a pirate lost and shipwrecked and had come to the coast, and could he have some treasure hidden like the fugitive Joaquin Murrieta of the California gold? Always, he carried a small purse, tied to his worn out belt with wooden twigs. He would count it like a bead string, now and then, and with a smile, and sometimes a sigh he would tie it and look around with fear and sometimes at me, who was lost in gazing at him, whenever he made such visits to the store.

In spite of all this, at the store, he would ask me how much had I saved, for the future was bleak with scavengers and vultures bound to take your treasure and casting you away like rusted junk. He would address me as, “Son,  how much have you saved today?”,  to which I would reply something like 50 cents. But he had no time to listen to my replies or enquiry, as he got lost as soon as it seemed, he looked sane. For a week, in spite of my busy schedule, I noticed his absence one day, and went searching for him at his house near the woods of pine. He was not to be seen there. Fearing the worst, I searched for him at some distance in the thick woods, but fear got the better of me, and I had to beat a hasty retreat back.

The next day, I happened to take my shop owner to a nearby medical camp to help him tide over his fever that had got aggravated. When we were leaving after getting the medicine, I saw our man, on one of the hospital beds. I rushed in and inquired of him, but as always, he looked lost, and was murmuring something. I could not stay there for long, since my owner was calling me, and had to rush to assist him on the way back home. In the evening, I rushed back to the camp, where i saw the doctor and asked him, what was it, that caused my hero to seek medical attention. The doctor looked grave, and said that it was too late to save him, since he was dying of some condition, that i could not understand at that time. I went up to his bed, where he was lying, with his hand on his shillings bag, which was shaking on his shivering. The doctor came and stood beside him and said. He is truly a remarkable person, never cries in pain, in spite of the pain he feels, and always has a smile before he gets lost in his own world. He even paid me for my services from his meager store of coins in his bag. Somehow, I couldn’t take it and gave it back to him, fearing that he would lose his life, on losing his precious treasure.

Every day for the next few weeks, I used to visit him in the evening, and became good friends with the doctor. Every day, when I was at his bed, he used to ask me with a smile, “Son, how much have you saved today?”. To show him my daily savings, I would take the coins with me and show it to him, thinking that would help him to distract himself from the pain. One day, as per the doctor, my fatherly figure had spent all his savings in his bag to buy sweets to distribute it among the sick in that camp. I was moved as was the doctor, for to us, during this period, his bag had become significant, something larger than life, and this act of his meant, he was giving away his life. Fighting back tears, I left him quite late in the night, and was terrified by the darkness on the way back to my shed next to the store.

That was the last day, I heard him asking me about my savings, for the next day, the doctor gave me the sad news and asked me, if I wanted to see him for a last time. I declined the offer, since I wanted him to be seen asking his usual question , “Son, how much have you saved today?”.