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…

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…

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…