Reach to the Poor

Pravin and Raju were friends since college days. They used to play not only lots of cricket at a nearby playground in their locality but also a lot of naughty pranks at others, such much so, that most people used to avoid them whenever they saw them coming their way. Though the general perception about them was so, there was no doubt they were good at heart. Pravin having the rare O-ve blood group was always a call away in emergencies that required his blood group, and many a time he was disturbed from his sleep by someone who was referred to his house in such cases. Raju never lost an opportunity to help the old and infirm. He was a bit short tempered but used to laugh uncontrollably at himself when someone pointed out his mistake. Pravin was always smiling when you met him and it seemed he had a solution to every problem that his visitor had, in his welcome smile.

After college, both decided to set up shops in the nearby town center, a distance of a kilometer walk from their homes. Raju set up a medical shop with his DPharm License and Pravin a Grocery shop next to it. Though both shops were not that expansive, it seemed it had everything any buyer would want when they started frequenting these shops. There were a few as I said who stayed shy away from these two shops and the owners wondering what new pranks they would play on them during their visits.

They had a fair share of critics and cynics who were not happy about how they had settled themselves in life since their earlier predictions about the duo had gone haywire and also wary about what and how they sold. This was one of the topics of the so called group who whiled away their time in the shade of a poor banyan tree who could not but help listen to all their negative conversations.

It was not that there were no other grocery and medical shops in the town and our PR brothers knew it would take some time for consumers to come to their shops from afar. Knowing that the local community would not fail them, they reposed their faith and trust in their businesses and got going. Both had stocked only the bare necessities in their shops since they did not have a big capital while starting their ventures. Having studied the buying habits of the people in their place by frequenting the other shops, whatever they had on their shelves they could sell fast.

One evening on a dark night when Pravin was about to close for the day and down the shutters of his shop while calling out to Raju to do the same, an old woman came up to him asking for a kilogram of rice and half a kilo of tur dal. She was perhaps over seventy with wrinkles adorning her features with a stick in hand. She looked at peace with herself and yet so out of place in the middle class locality. Pravin was wondering where he had seen her and it was then a fragile piece of memory dawned upon him. She lived in a small house with her daughter in law, her son having passed away a couple of years back near the playground. He had gone into their small courtyard once to retrieve the cricket ball that Raju had struck for a Sixer. She, her daughter and her granddaughter subsisted on a pension that amounted to a meager 2000 rupees as per the all knowing banyan tree group.

Son, should I go back or will you be kind on this old woman in the dark“, she said with a smile mirroring Pravin’s smile. Oh Dadi! how could I be so cruel to have turned away such a beautiful woman away from my shop, was the instant reply that came out from Pravin. Old habits die hard, he muttered as he bit his tongue. How is your granddaughter doing? “Oh, she is not keeping well, down with fever since yesterday. Only when I wanted to prepare some gruel for them was when I came to know there were no provisions at home to prepare one”, with a chuckle came her reply. Gita is also sick since morning otherwise she would have come for this.

Hey Raju, don’t close your shop yet. There is a customer for you. “Dadi do you have some medicine for their ailment or should you need one, you can ask Raju here for one, he is dying to help people recover their lost health”. As Pravin gave the packed rice and dal in her cloth bag in the dim candle light, he waited for her to pay him. She took out her small purse which had a few small denomination rupee notes and quite a lot of coins… In the dim light, since the electricity was out just as as the old lady had reached the place, she was taking a bit of time counting the notes to pay a smiling and observant Pravin. Raju having heard the conversation had come with a strip of Paracetamol and he looked to Pravin with a twinkle in his eyes.

It is okay Dadi if you don’t have enough money to pay us now. You should hurry as I sense rain some minutes away from here, and we don’t want you too, to fall sick. “It is okay sons”, she said, “I think I should have enough money to pay you” as she went on counting her notes and coins to make it tally…

What Dadi? how can your counting tally since each time you are dropping a few notes and coins, as Raju sat down and picked up a few notes and a couple of coins and gave it to her. “That is so kind of you son to have noted it and helped this old lady. I am a bit nervous and hence fidgety with my fingers”. When Raju counted back the money and handed over to Pravin his share and took another 10 rupees for his Paracetamol strip, there were a couple of notes given back to the woman, saying this time also, your counting was wrong. “Come we will give you company, give me the bag, it will be heavy for you”, said Pravin, as the trio traced their steps to her house. Would you want a cup of tea here before you reach your homes was her parting remark. Don’t bother Dadi, some other time, said they, in a single voice and waited outside till she had entered her house.

Raju you were quick to switch off the light, in fact I think you saw her before me. What is our gain today, remarked a laughing Pravin, Well, she got fifty five rupees from me, said Raju. Hmm, and half a kilo more of gram and rice from me. Each patted the other on the back as they walked back, contented towards their homes. Their well devised prank and well rehearsed reach to the poor, who counted their meager store of money in the dim light had worked out well, this time too…

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A Kadali Tale

 As per Wisdom Library:  Kadalī (कदली) is a Sanskrit word referring to “Banana”, a hybrid-species of trees from the Musaceae family, native to the tropics of Africa and Asia, and is used throughout Āyurvedic literature such as the Caraka-saṃhitā.  The equivalent name in the Prakrit language is  kelī, and is Hindi it is known as kelā.

Hope you enjoy this Kadali Tale laced with karma… kadali

Reghu chanced upon a small cottage while on the run away from the nearby Chartusra city and in his travails, hungry and famished and with a bag laden with stolen valuables, the robber makes his arrival known to the inmates by coughing and gasping at their door. Vedha,  the small time jeweller traded in his jewellery which was made at the cottage with Bhanu, his helping hand welcomed the tired robber not knowing his exact credentials. On inquiring as to why he looked so tired and out of breath, he said he was a trader from Chartusra and had been followed by robbers while coming this way  to Patali, the port city, the same place where Vedha used to sell his home made jewellery.

Reghu was welcomed as a guest and was told, he could stay for a few days before he could gain enough strength to go to Patali.  One day Reghu’s eyes fell upon the golden bunch of 4 Kadali kept in front of the Lord and worshiped by Sree, Vedha’s wife, Reghu was thinking of adding it to his collection. The old caretaker and help,  Bhanu to whom Sree was just like a daughter took good care of them all. Bhanu was not happy about Reghu but Vedha dismissed his fears and allowed Reghu to stay. With stolen silver and gold coins he impressed upon the jeweller to make a replica of the Kadali saying it would fetch him a good price at Patali. The jeweller obliged and took a week before finishing one, an exact replica of the one which he had made earlier on Sree’s request.

Once the work was completed and Reghu getting impatient and tired of the stay with the lovely couple, one day kills them and flees but not before taking the work in progress jewels and the two Kadali bunch. After walking for two days and night he came across a plain land with not much  human habitation near a placid river. As dusk was approaching he thought of burying the 2 golden priceless Kadali. He chose one huge old jack-fruit tree to bury one near it. As he was in the process, a fearful spirit came down the tree and asked him what he was doing. Reghu told her that he was hiding this Kadali which he had in his hand and said he would return in a week to claim it. She agreed and asked him  about the other banana  jewel he had in his bag. Reghu on second thought thought of burying the other one too there, but she told him to  hide the second one, a hundred yards away as she could not stand the sight of the divine jewel. Do claim this one in a week otherwise you will forfeit it and I will not allow anyone who comes in possession of it, any peace, was her parting words.

Reghu walked a hundred yards and came upon a mango tree near the river bank and as instructed started burying the Lord’s Kadali there. A benevolent spirit came down the tree and asked what he was doing…. He said that he was burying the Jewel in his possession and showed it to her. So be it, she said with a smile, I will guard this till it reaches the rightful owner and help him in any test that he is put to, she murmured to herself..and went back to the tree.

The river was in full flow and had submerged most of the land when he came back after selling  the stolen jewels and the coins with a few workers to set up a home. To his surprise he found the landscape had changed thanks to the flood. The marked trees had got uprooted and he knew not where his twin treasure lay buried. He was seen digging most of the time but never told his servants as to what he was looking for. They deserted him soon after his money got over. He was now a man gone mad…

Years had passed by with the jewels remaining hidden where they lay for a few generations. The land had changed much and it was a small village now.  Jinu was a landless worker who got a tract of land on lease from the greedy village officer to plant banana plantains. Half of the produce he would need to give to the officer as per the deal struck between them. As expected and to Jinu’s happiness, the first crop turned out well. One day while digging a canal to water the plants in the land,  he came upon one of the golden plantains. He took it to Jayaram the local jeweler who had a good look at it and gave a small token to Jinu assuring him the rest of the money, but as a law abiding citizen, he had to talk to the village officer first about its antiquity before he could sell it  as the laws had changed. He showed it to the village officer the same day who kept it with himself though he told Jayaram and Jinu  that he would be handing it to the higher officials in the government and had no plans to keep  anything to himself. The next day he told Jinu he had other plans and asked him to stop using the land for his planned second crop.

Jinu was out of work and was finding it difficult to sustain himself after whatever money he  had on him ran out. He could see that the  tract of land was fully dug up by the village officer in the hope that he would get some more of such golden Kadali, but his search for more treasure turned futile. Meanwhile Jinu again approached the village officer after a couple of weeks to use the tract of land for plantation, but he was driven out.

The village officer’s wife was fascinated by the golden fruit so much that she took it daily out of the strong box to marvel at it. The fascination increased so much that the officer had to hide it in another room and lock it. Meanwhile Jinu thought of planting a few banana plantains around his small home near the river bank where he was forced to retire. At least it will keep him from hunger once his efforts bore fruit. He prayed to Krishna at his home that the first fruit from his land will be gifted to him. As he dug another canal  he came upon another golden plantain which was the exact replica of the first one he had got, but this time he made good his promise and bestowed the golden marvel to Krishna. Whenever he prayed, the golden jewel would change to real bananas and he would take one as prasadam(offering from the Lord).

One day he chanced upon Tulsi standing nearby who happened to watch him at his plantation work. He inquired of her and came to know that she was jeweler Jayaram’s daughter. One day she asked if she could assist him at his work in the plantation. He replied on one condition that she should accept her fair share of the produce once it materialized to which she gladly agreed.

The officer came to know that Jinu had a small plantation around his house. Somehow be didn’t like it but also couldn’t do much about it. Jayaram paid a  visit to Jinu and saw the bunch of 4 bananas with a golden hue kept near Krishna’s idol. Oh! how marvelous a sight and so golden, said he after tasting the one from the bunch offered to him by Jinu. Can I have one more..Why not sir…take two, one for Tulsi too, smiling at her, who was standing at  the door. The much pleased Jayaram had never had such a tasty fruit and he expressed the same while having it. Sir, my Krishna’s prasadam is always like his love. The more you love Him, more sweet will be your offering to Him and so, his prasadam in return. Being a devotee himself, Jayaram was no doubt thrilled by Jinu’s company. He and his daughter became frequent visitors. One day Jinu revealed to Jayaram, his wish to marry Tulsi. But Jayaram first decided to put Jinu to the test before he could approve his request.

Krishna

Jayaram asked Jinu. This bunch of mini kadali  that you offer to Krishna daily…can you show me the plantain which yields such sweet bananas to you. Jayaram was sure no plantain could yield a bunch daily, in fact not more than one in its lifetime and with Jinu having not more than a dozen odd plantains, there seemed to be a mystery about them which he wanted to unravel.

Jinu was in a fix as to what he should say when an old woman came that way and asked for some ripe banana as food to be given. Jinu said I can give you some rice and vegetable but I doubt I can give you a banana at this time as it was well last noon and his kadali prasadam  could yield real banana only before noon based on his experience.

The old woman laughed a bit loudly, much to Jinu’s and Jayaram’s consternation. You call yourself a planter?  There, yonder. I can see a bunch of fine kadali. Jinu rushed to his garden and much to his surprise there was one ripe kadali bunch awaiting them. He took it down and gave to the woman. No, I don’t want all of this, maybe you can give the better share of this to your guest here, smilingly pointing at Jayaram. Saying so, the woman took leave.

Jayaram was a bit disturbed  and left with a perplexed mind. The next day he sent Tulsi to bring a bunch of fresh Kadali. Tulsi came in the morning as was her wont, to Jinu’s house, prayed to Krishna, took two of the prasadam kadali and there were only two left for the day. Father has sent me for a bunch if you could provide it. Jinu at a loss went to the same tree and there, lo another bunch of ripe bananas was waiting to be taken down.

This went on for a few days. Jayaram came on the fourth day himself and examined the tree. There was none. He was going to win he thought when another woman appeared asking for something to eat. Jinu asked what he could give her. Don’t bother I will go inside and take what I need. She went inside and was not to be seen for sometime. Both went in to see her feasting on a bunch of freshly plucked kadali. Jayaram was at a loss of words and failed to understand what was going on. He asked Jinu from where this bunch came when Tulsi appeared in the doorway saying I plucked it in the morning before you two had even got up and kept it here.

The woman had her fill and after blessing Jinu and Tulsi and laughing at Jayaram went her way. It was a matter of  a few weeks time before Tulsi and Jinu got married on an auspicious day.

The village officer couldn’t sleep on many a night as he could hear someone pounding on the closed door. The noise from the room where he kept the golden Kadali, the disturbance from the roof as if someone heavy was trampling upon the tiles…the fearful shadow behind the curtains, the poor sight of his wife  already at her wits end when she could not see  the golden fruit anymore, now out of sight behind the closed door of the cursed room. It was just a matter of time before the officer too went mad after he saw the room ransacked, one day,  by some robber and the golden Kadali missing…

A chance meeting

According to Aviation data companies in the past year there were an average of 9,728 planes — carrying 1,270,406 people — in the sky at any given time… there are about 25000 plus number of crew members serving that huge number above.

I had got into the plane on a normal clear skies day with the wind at 10mph. The weather was hot and there was nobody I could complain to about it at that time. The plane was not planned at the sky bridge and the airport bus was to ferry us to the Boeing 737 that was parked on the tarmac quite close to exit 3 of the runway, so that it could make a quick getaway considering that it was already 30 minutes late from departure. The inbound run from the country to which I was flying was delayed and that set off the cascade as far as flight times was concerned.

The airport bus ferried us, about 60 passengers in all, in one bus. It seemed this was one day where everyone who had booked the flight were available at the exit gate considering the departure time had already elapsed. The bus made its way and moored itself to the star board side of the flight SD439 and as we came out of the air-conditioned comfort, the heat and the wind made quick bites at our skin as we climbed on to the flight deck, with hand baggage in tow.

The passengers including me settled into our seats by keeping our baggage and duty free supplies in the cabin loft, as we made minor adjustments to the seats and got ready for a 3 hour flight in the mid summer noon sky. The air hostesses; 3 of them were making us comfortable to get ourselves seated and I was glad the flight was not to even half of its capacity. That meant either I would get or not get a companion by my side seat. I was thinking of taking the window seat if no one took it and so my eyes were on the landing deck to see if any new passenger would come onboard.

None appeared, and the flight crew got the orders to close the doors and get ready for take off. The safety instructions came up on the screens, and we readied ourselves, as the jet taxied on to runway 2 waiting for the final signal to take off. Within minutes, it picked up speed and we were in the air taking a steep ascent before we leveled at 1000 feet or so, my eyes glued on to the screens for altitude and speed information.

You seem to have an eye for details, came the voice from behind. I turned back to see one lady who looked like an hostess sitting behind me. I wondered why she had taken that position, as most of them should have been at their designated seats during take off. Don’t worry I am off duty today, she said reading my thoughts.

Hello, I said, yes the take off and landings are special as also a bit nervous to me. Which one you fear most, asked she. By the way, I am Lucy and you,? I introduced myself. I fear takeoffs because of the plane taking its time as it gathers speed and the bumps on the runway not helping much. But did you know, landings are more difficult for the pilots to navigate. Yes, I replied but for the passengers like us, it seems a bit more easy.
Hmm she replied, looking straight into my eyes, I averted mine from her, as I felt a bit uneasy.

After the seat belt signs had gone away with the jet at around 10000 feet and still climbing, it was time for the refreshments. I opted for a can of juice and crackers and made myself comfortable. The lady behind was not to be seen as she appeared to be at the rear in the pantry. I shifted to the window seat though there was nothing much to see at this moment..this is the captain speaking we would be hitting rough weather in a couple of minutes so please put on your seat belts..the crew was running around to take the empty cans when the first wave of turbulence hit us..the plane dropped a bit giving us the butterflies and the wings outside were flaying wildly..hope they can take the stress..i prayed to myself..

Why do we pray when things look pretty bad. That’s how we are wired I guess I said smiling to her second appearance now next to me. Where had you gone..Oh just to see my fellow mates at work. Hope they were happy to get an extra hand today…Nope I didn’t assist them they needed no help since there are only few passengers to feed.

The liqour and soft drinks round had started and one of her colleagues came over stopped asking what would I prefer to which I thanked her saying it is fine. I won’t be having any. She went across to the passenger in front. Why, she didn’t ask you for any drink. It is okay. I don’t. Why did you say No..was it because I am sitting here, it was her turn to question. I do not while travelling, I replied.

Normally there are 4 persons who serve us. Is someone absent or is it you who is playing truant I joked.

There are 4 generally but I guess with 67 pax, 3 is a good number, she said as she held my hand firmly.

Within seconds the jet hit another volley of turbulence and I felt glad she had held me at that moment. Did you see that coming? Mmm experience you see, she smiled her sweetest smile revealing a set of pearl white teeth.

The other crew members looked a bit dazed or sad I couldn’t pin point on what exactly it was. It looked they were going about their tasks in a depressed way or was it stress.. I couldn’t guess.

Looks like your colleagues are tired or is there something else to it. You are very observant; yes they are tired. They didnt get rest yesterday night nor they were rested today. It happens to us; the stress, the separation from loved ones, all gets into us one day or the other and takes it toll on us. Life is a tough taskmaster on the ground as well in the air. How I worked to get this job and see how lifeless it seems now. We never get grounded once we get snuffed off in the midst of a tragedy.

At 30,000 feet the engines were cruising smoothly though my mind was disturbed after hearing her talk.

I didn’t want to change the subject yet asking her as to why she thought so, might be taken as intrusion of privacy.

What chances do we have while we are forced to land on water. I asked her and why do you people smile so much?

We are in a pressurised metal capsule depending on 2 engines and wings with a lot of electronics onboard. Add to it the weather, skills of the crew in the cockpit and the decisions they make, all this makes it stressful to us while we play host to hundreds of passengers like you. Some are at peace while some are curious and others too demanding at times… so we smile all the time; make it a part of our habit and suppress the frown to far off corners.

This job might seem glamourous to you from the ground but like each job it has its pros and cons.

What about my first question?

We do give instructions on how to conduct yourself if at all we need to land on water..but coming to think of it, it all depends on the reason which caused us to try to land on water. First of all this is no seaplane or an amphibian. The chances are less unless the plane is still manageable and the sea calm as a sheet which is rarely the case. You cannot have both options on your side unless the Lord decides to come on your side she said with a sad smile this time.

Have you served on other airlines or is this your first? This is my third and last she said with a delay..Contemplating retirement or a career switch asked I as she looked to me in her late thirties. Yes, a switch which I pulled yesterday. You see I am no longer serving…I called it a day yesterday..time to settle elsewhere where my … mind beckons. Her stunning eyes had me in their grip..I guess I should leave you now. You need to rest I guess, must have been a hectic week for you? Yes it was I smiled back. The cabin lights were switched off now and most of us were trying to grab a bit of sleep.

I saw her walking back to the crew members in the pantry.

I got up when another crew member asked me to adjust my seat as we were preparing for landing…I looked around for Lucy, she had not moved out of the pantry or must be resting herself in some seat as she was off duty.

Within minutes the plane landed at the destination, the pilot thanking us for taking the pleasant journey. I readied my retrieved backpack from the cabin loft and waited till the cabin doors got opened and we walked into the skybridge. I looked around for Lucy but she was not to be found…maybe I will catch up with her on my next flight, soothing myself, I got into the booked cab taking me home about 40 minutes away from the airport.

I got home and had my hands on the morning news paper in the evening. On the 3rd page I came across a column that read Air hostess commits suicide in hotel room yesterday morning…

The Hidden Gold

Omprakash and Jaiprakash had migrated to the town with their mother from the village after their only strip of land was usurped by the landlord on the grounds that they did not make their payments toward the money they had loaned a few years ago.

Omprakash, the elder of the two was a lazy fellow, always complaining about others and even Jai, his brother. This had gone for a few years and their mother did not do much to reverse this habit of Om. They lived in a small shanty on the edge of the town, as they could not afford anything better.

One day, Om took up an argument with Jai and almost came to blows with him, and Jai was told to leave the house and never ever show his face to Om. Their mother was helpless as both of them were grown up now and she could not offer much to bring down frayed tempers.

Jai soon set up a small shop where he borrowed goods on credit from another shopkeeper and started selling them. With his hardworking nature and pleasing manners, customers thronged to his shop and within no time he prospered. A part of his earnings, he did sent to his mother through his assistant.

Om, though he had driven away Jai, was curious to know how Jai fared and one day went and stood in front of Jai’s shop for quite some time. Jai didn’t notice him as he was busy inside.

That evening Om started complaining, as was his usual wont, to his mother.
“I saw Jai today in his shop that he has setup. But he didn’t even bother to look at me, even though I stood for a full 15 minutes to glance at his face. I am sure he has got his hands on some hidden gold, as otherwise, how can he set up this shop in no time?”.

Om’s mother was tired of this and wanted to put an end this conversation soon. “You only drove him away last time saying you don’t want to see his face again and now you,  yourself go and stand in front of him to get a glimpse of his face?”.

She continued “Jai doesn’t need to get his hands on any hidden gold to prosper. His hard work and endearing nature alone would suffice to bring prosperity to him. If you go and drive him from there, he will go to another place and still prosper. The hidden gold, that you talk about, is hard work and a sincere nature. He has found it and therefore is way ahead of you. For you, it is still hidden by your veil of jealousy and attitude”.

Om had no answer to this, and walked off in a huff as such emotional taunts laced with philosophy from his mother never made any dent on his psyche…

Divine Couplet

Satish walked into the narrow lane just in time to spot Veena walking upto him. This was supposedly to be their last meeting. Veena’s father was moving out from this town with his business partner to Ahmednagar . They walked hand in hand across the splattered street with the wind and the rain having played havoc in the small town for the last few days. The turmoil that played out in their minds was not any less compared to the unsettled elements right now.

They had met a few years ago when Veena had come inquiring of a friend who lived in the lane where Satish had moved a few months ago. Do you know where Meena stays, I mean this address, as she showed him a slip of paper on which it was Sajan Nivas, Pakeesa Lane. Yes it is that one said Satish pointing to the next well built house where her friend Meena stayed. And beware of their dog, do not enter unless someone comes to the gate. Call out and somebody should open the door for you. Veena was looking at Satish, a young handsome man who wore a kurta, albeit an old one which had seen many a wash. Thank you. You have been so kind, as she bid good bye. After that she seemed to be a frequent visitor at Meena’s place who was her school mate and had not continued her studies after 10th grade. After attending Lalaram college which was around a mile away, she made it a point to take a detour through this lane hoping that she could meet and chitchat with Meena and have a glimpse of Satish who rarely, it seemed, moved out of his house.

After inquiries from her friend, she came to know Satish was a writer, a poet who wrote nicely and he had a weekly column in the newspaper where his articles and creativity was put on show for a paltry sum of 250 rupees a week. With this money he could barely meet his own expenses, but in the hope that something would dawn on him soon helped him continue and churn out his usual creativity. Most of his poems bordered on the poor and the helpless although he wrote on anything under the Sun. The newspaper did not have a wide circulation, so the publisher much as he wanted to, could not raise Satish’s earnings.

Veena started reading the newspaper regularly more so because she wanted to know more about Satish through his writings and fell in love with what he wrote first and then with the character behind the articles. Slowly they became good friends while Veena was finishing college. She had written her exams and was waiting for the results which would come with the monsoon rains.
Their favorite haunt was the brick wall house where Satish lived or they meandered sometimes to the nearby river that flowed at a walkable distance behind the mangroves. Her father Ganpat Rai had a few shops in the town but of late they were not doing well and he was thinking of another plan to move to another town where he had spent his childhood and youth. His wife Janki was from this town and after marriage he had settled here to look after the family business. But one day, Janki left them succumbing to a rare disease when Veena was 8 years old and after that they were feeling lonely all these years in their palatial house. Veena’s grandmother who was always a lovable woman passed away last year.

It was at this time Shankarnath another business man who dealt in cotton and jute asked Ganpatrai to invest in his business in the same town where Ganpat was thinking of relocating. It seemed to be a good idea, as Shankarnath had quite a booming trading business in the mentioned town and this would prove to be a good start. The decision took some weeks to be cemented and once it was taken, Ganpat Rai sold whatever he had, including this house and was bent on investing the earned money with Shankarnath. It was this decision that was to separate Veena from Satish.

For both of them it was not the opportune moment to tell Veena’s father about their marriage plans. Veena was just turning 18 and there was nothing Satish had in him to seek her hand. He was just a small time writer who eked out a living by writing on scrips of paper in a brick house that was open to the elements just as his mind was…

They walked on the side of the river. The evening was giving way as the Sun was seen fast disappearing in the far off mountains. They had so much to talk and yet kept their silence for words did not carry much weight to the destiny that seemed to take them way. They cast longing looks at the fading sun and at each other, each trying to imprint the other’s face in their minds. How pretty Veena looked against the backdrop, just like a bride whose hands would be decked with Henna in a few years. The question was, would Satish come up in life to gain her father’s respect and seek her hand. Only time would tell. For the time being he captured her image in his heart, the memory of which would keep him alive in her absence.

Time had moved on. It was seven years today when they had met last. Veena and her father had moved to the other town and then after that there was no news from them. Satish waited for quite a few years and after that he too moved to another town , a good 100 miles away to the south but not before leaving pointers with the children in the neighborhood where he was moving to, as he sincerely hoped that one day Veena would come searching for him. He had moved away because the wall of bricks used to torture him with her thoughts, her laughter, the tinkling of her anklets which once ringed within the four walls whenever she used to visit him, to read his latest poems that were unpublished.

He wished to move away from that desolate place, lonely and barren now like the desert for without her presence, her memories used to suffocate him and make him breathless and hopeless at times. He could not, he would not eat, he would spend sleepless nights, the only hours he got sleep had him dreaming with her visiting him again and making his life lively with her constant chatter, her long laughs, and her face flickered before him like a candle that was getting snuffed out. It took him quite a struggle to get himself out of the wretched life in that town and here he was for the last 2 years where he had setup a book shop in this town new to him. He wrote for the leading 2 papers in this town and things were becoming better and he was better known in these places as a person who wrote about the different shades of life. The sorrow and the pain lingered in most of his writings and appeared realistic to his readers who themselves led struggling lives.

Although he was getting busy and getting engrossed in work writing new poems of despair, of loneliness sprinkled with liveliness, a large part of him still yearned for her, her presence and would be always on the lookout for dear her. Whenever the doors parted, partly because of the onrushing wind, he would look up, trying to take a glimpse of a sweetness that had long lost to him, thinking it would be her after all these years, but there was no one except the teasing wind which ruffled his hair just as she would a few times during their occasional meet ups. Will she come at any moment of time, his heart hoped while the rational mind had its doubts, would she pick up on the clues he left in the neighborhood for her to know where he presently lived, he could only cling on to dear hope that for him was now a string of rope that he was holding on to, for dear life, as for him, he could not live like this for long.

The postman while coming on his bicycle sounding his bell had Satish rushing to the door thinking it was some sweet tidings from his lost love, but all the time they would be letters for his neighbor or the monthly magazines to which he subscribed. Whenever he locked his house and frequented the newspaper offices once or twice in a week he would wonder if she would have come during the time when he was out and had gone back unable to find him. He made inquiries on his return but no one had come nor appeared. Who would come in search of a poet who could not make two ends meet with words that flowed from his fountain pen. The rain beating down on the asbestos roof brought back memories of the dilapidated brick house that was open to the elements. Would it have survived this raging monsoon, or the river in spate, he never would know…

This post was inspired yesterday by the couplet written by the late poet Kaif Bhopali which I am listing below for reference and sung divinely by the unmistakable Jagjit Singh with his velvet voice. Please listen to this as it would add meaning to my post.

Kaun aayega yaha

P.S Also, let me know if a sequel to this would be good to read…

Kaif Bhopali

Gift of Time

Gopal was a daily wage worker in the small town of Nowrali in the eastern pradesh. Quite a few of landless labourers were not guaranteed consistent work. They did not belong to the town as they did not have a proper dependable identification as per the authorities whose task was to guarantee work to the poor under various schemes brought out by elected governments. He like others existed on the ground but never was a part of the system.

These men wandered daily in search of work at middle class houses and the rich in town and did to the best of their ability what came to them. The summer made their tasks difficult when the oppressive heat did not allow them to roam freely from door to door or while they worked.

A few of them loitered near Ramaseth’s palatial house thinking that he could assign them some work at his house or at his diary ranch at the outskirts a mile away where few people were guaranteed employment if they were found to be diligent in their work.

The summer was oppressive as said earlier and the Sun as task master struck people who ventured out of the shade for too long. Last year the town had lost quite a few people this way.

Today Gopal had gone from house to house in the well to do areas at walking distance from his shanty. Everyday he covered 10 to 15 houses on an average before someone assigned him some work. The jobs ranged from anything that the house owners could not do or manage for themselves.

For the last two days he wasn’t getting any and was thinking of what to do. There was nothing to eat and he went to Manikchand’s grocery to buy some rice and vegetables. But to his dismay the shopkeeper refused to give him anything on loan. Already Gopal’s dues had crossed 500 rupees and Manikji was not willing to extend it any further.

Gopal as his nature did not complain and retraced his steps. Manikji was right. How could he run his shop on charity. That would make us people lazy. He also would fall into the debt trap and become one among the poor if he persisted to help this way. He had to safeguard himself first if he had to help others. Lord, if only i got some work, i will pay him his dues soon…sighed Gopal.

A hungry Gopal scratching his face was walking back to his hut in the sweltering heat. It was then he observed somebody sitting outside his door in the shade perhaps waiting for him to arrive. Do I know him was the thought that came across his mind as he greeted the stranger who had got up on seeing Gopal.

Are you looking for me? No and Yes replied the smiling stranger with all humility. I was sitting in the shade. I am on the way to Neemgaon and hail from Govindpur and thought of resting my legs. I went near the shade of that bungalow you see there pointing to one of a well to do family house but the people did not like a stranger near their house and then I thought of coming over here. Can I lie down here in the shade for a while till I feel fine and go about my way. Why here, come inside. Here, have some water. Gopal brought it from the earthen pot and put some biscuits he had, to refresh his guest. You can lie on my cot till you feel comfortable to make the next leg of your journey. Gopal was happy to have a guest but sad at the same time that he could not offer a decent meal.

They talked about a few things including the lack of work in the town . Call me Keshav. I have to reach Neemgaon before it is dinner as I have an important work to accomplish there. Why don’t you, Gopal, try your luck at Ramaseth’s house. I heard he is rich and needs an extra hand or two on daily basis?

I went there a couple of times but there is always a gathering of people looking for work and much abler than me. Gopal drank water to suppress the pangs of hunger that emanated and rested below alongside the bed on which the stranger had gone to sleep.

As evening approached, Keshav took leave but not before gifting a wrist watch to him saying it was the only thing of any value he had on him to gift him for his endearing nature. Gopal was at a loss to accept this looking at Keshav’s smiling face upon him but the gentle hands pressed the gift into Gopal’s palms. I should hurry now looking at the setting Sun but not before giving a parting remark. Try one more time at Ramaseth’s house and do not forget to wear this lucky watch when you go to him early morning. Gopal agreed mentally as he watched Keshav go out of sight round the corner houses.

The next day after a quick bath he left early morning and was at the gates of Ramaseth’s house. Today there was nobody looking for work except him; maybe he had come earlier than the others or as Keshav said his gifted watch was lucky for him. It was then he saw the Seth coming back after his morning walk with a servant in tow. Though Gopal went upto him with folded hands, he ignored him as if he didn’t exist and went inside. The servant told him to wait for some time before they decided if they wanted an extra hand that day.

After a few minutes Divakarji, the police officer walked into the house for what seemed a customary visit. Gopal knew him as one or two times, Divakarji had given him some work at the town police station. Looking for work here? Yes Sir, replied Gopal with hands folded. The officer observed the watch on Gopal’s right hand. It looked costly and out of place on the worker’s hand. Where did you get this? Some habits die hard was the thought that came to Divakar’s mind as the question had left his lips before he could ask something. Sir, a guest gifted it to me yesterday at my house. And who was He to have graced your house? I do not know; he appeared to be a traveller. Hmm retorted the pondering officer as he walked inside.

Welcome Divakarji what a pleasant surprise. How come at this early hour. Hope all is well? Yes yes..I just happened to take this way for my morning walk. Please be seated, infact i just came in after finishing mine and was thinking of having breakfast. Why don’t you join us. I am waiting for my wife to complete her prayers you know how she is..let me go and inform her or else both of us will have to wait for more time. He came back after a few minutes. She is always busy with Krishna and attributes all what we have today to His grace and not because of my business acumen. Anyway what news have you about the town. How has been the last week for you. For me it has been pretty busy….As they spoke, Kanta, Ramaseth’s wife walked in, greeted the officer and asked one of the servant to clear the clutter on the breakfast table as she went into the kitchen to get tea and the dishes. While chatting over as they had the khichdi and Upma, Ramaseth glanced at the wall clock. It still was saying 5:35 am so it had stopped and pointed it to her to get it repaired. He wasn’t wearing his wrist watch, strange didn’t he tie it before he went on his walk. He asked the standing servant. Do we need any extra worker today? to which Kanta replied yes we need one to clean our water tank. Yesterday we had a dusty wind and the terrace is laced with dry leaves and twigs. Okay, time I get going as he glanced at his wrist a second time as was his habit. He wasted quite a few precious minutes of the day just to look up at the time. The wheels of time never stood still though every second it never stopped looking at what we did as if it had to maintain a log of our doings…

Where is my watch, he wondered as he went upto his room and searched for it and couldn’t find it. Divakar saw the troubled look on the Seth’s face and enquired of it. I think i lost my watch during the morning walk and these servants have you noticed it anywhere? It was a gift from a person last month when I had helped a person on a night when their vehicle had broken down on the highway. I had arranged all help to get him and his family to continue their journey. For my services that night he had gifted to me a watch an antique silver costly one..Kaantaa have you seen it..Kanta’s voice came from the kichen..i will look for it. Meanwhile Ramaseth asked his servant to send for the helper waiting at the gate.

Gopal appeared at the steps of the Gopalkunj mansion where its owner Seth was talking to Divakar who was now taking his leave. Gopal came up the steps with folded hands. Can you do some work properly on this property? Yes Sir. I shall..Divakar told Ramaseth that he could count on Gopal as he himself had utilised his services.

Kanta after taking care of the kitchen chores meanwhile went into the prayer room just to see whether the window was closed. Her eyes first fell on the watch lying on the solitary chair. Oh it is here my husband kept and forgotten while notifying me about the arrival of Divakarji while she was praying.

Suddenly she heard some loud chatter outside in the verandah and came out quickly.

Where did you get the watch? I am asking you a second time. Kanta walked in to a scene where she saw Gopal in tears and surprised to see the same watch in her husband’s hand. Do you see Kanta. It seems i dropped my watch in the grass somewhere during the morning walk and this guy gets it and walks into the very same house to where it belonged to. And on top of it he has the nerve to tell me, RAMASETH of all persons that it was gifted to him by some stranger who was mad to go and rest at his place. As if there were no rest houses or lodges in this Nowrali town!!

Divakarji what do we do with this fellow. Divakar who was maintaining calm so far said..yes this is the same answer he gave me at the gate when asked of this lost watch. Well it is your call Seth do you want me to press charges and proceed now that you got your watch. The Seth replied..I don’t want to, from my side. Well off with you he shouted at Gopal, there is no work for you here anymore.

Wait a moment..Kanta said and hurried to her prayer room; the watch was still there. So she was not dreaming. Again going back and before Gopal could move out, she called him back. NOW what, an upset Ramaseth asked looking at her. He didn’t like Kanta interfering in this case. She was too kind and left a lot of such people of the hook. NOW do you want to feed him breakfast too. Kanta looked at her husband once and he kept his silence.

Now tell me what is your name..in a sweet voice she asked….Gopal. The name struck her.and where did you find this? No maam i did not find it anywhere. Keshav had given it to me for my hospitality. I gave him water and food what i had and he rested on my cot and in the evening he gave this watch as a parting gift. And he also said..Gopal broke into tears now in front of the kindness shown by Kanta. I understand please speak on, do not be afraid of these two not so gentle men with a smile she made fun of the two who were listening. Keshav also asked me to look for work here.

Enough of your talk..this guy comes looking for my fallen watch and not work and has the audacity to wear it on him as a gift from an imaginary traveler. Divakarji take him, please! I don’t have the time for all this… said a fuming Seth.

But this is not your watch. Why are you taking him to task? Your watch is still lying on the chair in the prayer room. Ramaseth and Divakar rushed to find the evidence but came out soon in a huff. Now Kanta you are making a story to help this Gopal. I now suspect you gave this watch to him when he came looking for work..there is no watch in that room dear Kanta. What do you mean there is no watch there. I will go and get it myself for you to see. The devoted Kanta went inside the prayer room and her eyes first fell on a smiling Krishna and then on the extinguished lamp. It is too windy she thought as she shut the lone window and then lighted the lamp. Getting up she casually lifted the watch from the chair. These people did they go blind in anger? How could one judge others when the curtain of anger and prejudged notions exist, and one calls himself a policeman who cannot locate a watch on a chair in a 16 square feet room, her thoughts were lapping and making her a bit agitated. She calmed herself by looking at Krishna and went out.

Ramaseth was looking at the news paper headlines as she walked in. Where are the others? She heard the gate being shut and saw Divakar taking Gopal with him. She called out to the servant to bring them back and showed the watch to her husband. See Sethji..she always chided him by calling him this way… Here is your watch. Now you see there are two of them and coincidentally both were gifted. Gopal has not taken yours..Kanta addressed the men assembled. Divakar felt guilty thinking he had acted in haste and harshly in the shadow of the affluent Ramaseth. Kanta gave the watch back to Gopal saying Gopal we are sorry for what happened and I apologize on behalf of my husband. Please forgive us and can I ask you if you are still open to the task for today at our house?

A smiling Gopal gave the watch to Kanta saying…Please keep this watch safely with you. It acted as a recommendation letter and now I don’t have any use for it. For me the Sun is enough to judge the passing time. In that case Gopal, the now mellowed Seth said we are hiring you as a full time helper with us. You need not look for work anywhere else. Gopal with folded hands said..I am so lucky. Yesterday I met my Krishna and today I met Lakshmiji as he looked at Kanta. What more do I need. Seth looked at Kanta. He was proud of her and happy that things concluded this way. He went out but not before telling Kanta to feed breakfast to Gopal before he started his first assignment at Gopalkunj mansion.

Kanta smiled at Gopal as he ate his delicious breakfast and she retired back into the prayer room and kept the watch Gopal had gifted her in front of Krishna saying Thank you for saving us from commiting a sin today early morning. Here is a gift for you for being the master of ceremonies and presiding over today’s incident. Krishna smiled at Kanta for what belonged to him had come back to him…He was busy thinking who next would receive the Gift of Time…

Churned Quotes while writing this post:

All the time you seem busy or act busy. Spare some time for me who is all the time looking at you…

You never know when the tide of time washes over you. It may lift you now and then dump you the very next moment…

The Lord is the best scriptwriter and He nevers leaves an opportunity to act in his plays even if it be, a small guest appearance…

Hunger is the worst form of punishment that is inflicted on the body. If a man or any creature is denied that basic right, the gods go hungry…

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

Around the farther side were
trees plenty next to a cool pond
with flowers growing amidst it
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey, a squirrel eyeing in awe.

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

The temple fair with pristine glory
attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor in me now in different attire
there I saw a beautiful girl standing
at the steps of the majestic temple.

Was she beautiful, was she radiant
was something about her charm
observing all who were lost in fun
who she was, so bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churned thoughts.

I climbed the lovely temple steps
devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the deity
could very relate to that on the girl
one in divine, one in human form.

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

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

At a loss, keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, had I the courage
should I approach her I wondered
would she listen, as others her age
a woman, she of a countless age.

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

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

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

Months passed by, days of joy to me,
one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician with the king
might help her to tide over her state.

A journey to the palace was too far
to ask for a cure might invite wrath
a lad I was, to carry the message
private to the medic, to respond to
a person glowing, despite her pain.

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

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

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

Rain clouded to the delight of all
but my plight, no one could gauge
I lost her that night, hands in mine
radiant as ever, loving eyes upon me
in torrents, it poured from the sky.

The river nearby rose in anger
submerged all with its people
waves climbed the forsaken temple
they also washed away our lost selves
I must be glad to part with my body.

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

If you liked reading this, hope you enjoy the sequel that continues as a story in Yajnavalkya