Saturday, April 17, 2010


Maya threw her cellphone down on the floor in a mix of rage & frustration. Here she was at the Delhi airport, waiting patiently for her flight for the past three hours and now the airlines announce that her already two-hour-delayed-flight has been delayed further! On top of that, right at that instant her cellphone just refused to show any network. Great, she thought, just great! Just what I need!

Maya had a three-year old son, Krish, waiting for her back home. She was longing to get back home to him & had arrived at the airport, upbeat about the journey, 'coz she knew, just a few hours more, & she would be home, holding Krish in her arms. But as soon as she arrived at the airport, she heard that her flight had been delayed by two hours. That meant getting to see Krish, two hours later than she had hoped. And now just as her two-hour long wait was about to end, came the announcement of her flight being delayed further! Maya felt her insides knotting up in emotion. She fought back her tears.

A working mother, Maya had always had to travel leaving Krish behind at home, because of her work. But whenever she went out of town, it had never been for more than two weeks. But this time, it had been different. Maya had been away on an assignment for two months. Two months away from Krish. It was torture to her. She missed him so much. Though she spoke to him over the phone more than once, every single day, yet she missed him. Because after all, speaking over the phone is very different from holding your child in your arms, hugging & kissing him, watching him play around you. Maya felt as if she missed a part of her herself, for the two months that she was away from Krish.

She was dying to talk to Krish at that moment, but her phone simply refused to co-operate & show network. She tried the phone booths inside the airport, only to be greeted by large, OUT OF ORDER signs, outside the booths! Maya took out the photo of Krish that she carried around with her, in her purse. "Mamma, is gonna be home soon, beta. Mamma is gonna be home soon", she said to Krish who was smiling up at her from the photograph. Choked with emotion, she couldn't control her tears anymore.

Suddenly she felt someone tugging at her dress. Hurriedly wiping off her tears, she looked up. There infront of her stood a little boy, about five years old, dressed in smart clothes. He stood there holding a lollipop in one hand & tugging at her dress with the other. He seemed a little bewildered to see Maya crying. Maya managed to give him a broad smile. The boy responded with a shy one. Maya had noticed the boy playing around in the airport lounge a little while back. She asked him his name. "Rehan", he said. Maya took out a toffee from her bag & gave it to him. Rehan, took it & rewarded Maya with a huge grin.

Feeling a little more confident about himself, Rehan sat himself down beside Maya. Then he asked, "What's your name?" "Maya",his new toffee-giving-friend replied. He seemed to like the name, beacuse he gave a broad smile. "Where are your parents?", Maya asked. Rehan pointed to a huge group of people, sitting on the opposite side of the lounge. The group which was dominated by talkative women & a large number of children, seemed like tourists to Maya. She asked him about his parents( "The fat woman, is my Mom & the man with the long beard is my Dad"), his siblings ("Five sisters & two brothers. I'm the youngest") , where he lived( "Hyderabad") , his school( "Apex Academy. Class I, section D, roll no.36") & whether he had pets( "Two dogs--Moti & Kalu. And one cat--Bobo").

Tired of all this questioning, Rehan held up his hand, indicating Maya to stop. "Now, I will ask you",he said. Maya smiled at him. "Where are your Mamma & Papa?" "In Mumbai" Rehan looked concerned. "Then how will you go home? Alone? Won't you feel scared?" Maya, smiled at Rehan's innocence. "No, I won't be scared. I'm a big girl now", she replied with a grin. "I'm a big boy too! I'm the tallest in my class." "What do you do? Do you go to office?", asked Rehan. "Yes, I do." Soon, Rehan got tired of asking questions. His attention shifted to a new, interesting object he had just spotted. "Whose photo is this?", Rehan asked pointing to the photograph of Krish, Maya was holding in her hand. "This is my son, Krish. I'm waiting to go home to him. I've been waiting for the past four hours, because my flight is getting delayed. I've been away from him for the past two months & right now I'm yearning to go back home & hold him in my arms & hug him & tell him how much I missed him & how much I love him. But I dont know when my flight is going to be scheduled, & when I'll be able to reach home!" Maya broke down. Filled with anger & disappointment at not being able to go home, Maya just couldn't bear it anymore. She cried like a baby.

All this while, that Maya ranted & gave vent to her emotions, Rehan sat beside her looking at her, a bit quizically. But when Maya, started to cry, Rehan gave an understanding look. This was an emotion he understood. His mother had told him, that whenever someone cried, it was because their heart had broken & the person was very, very sad. The only way, to stop the crying was to shower love on the person by giving hugs & kisses to the person or by holding his hand or by patting his shoulder. He saw that his mother did all of the actions whenever he or any of his siblings cried. Rehan, may not fully realize the reason for which his new friend, Maya's heart had broken, but he was definitely going to try & mend it. He was not going to allow his new friend to be very, very sad.

Rehan shifted closer to Maya & held her hand firmly. Then he patted her shoulder lovingly. When he saw that she was still crying, Rehan got down from his seat. Then standing infront of Maya, he slowly uncovered her face, which she had hid behind her hands, to conceal the fact that she was crying. Rehan looked at Maya's tear-strained face. He felt sorry for her. Then, without warning, he gave Maya the biggest bear hug, he could. Maya, was taken aback. For a little while, she just sat, motionless. Then, taken in by the warmth of this unknown kid, she hugged him back. They kept hugging each other for a few minutes, when Maya suddenly felt more pairs of hands around her. Looking around, she saw, the kids from Rehan's family had also gathered to hug her. They must have seen their brother hugging someone, & they had rushed to show solidarity with him.

At that moment, Maya felt a warm, fuzzy feeling inside her. She felt happy. Happy after a long time. She seemed to forget, that she was away from her son. All the anger & frustration that she had inside her seemed to vanish. All because of some act of kindness from some unknown kids at the most unlikeliest places of all! They did not know her. She did not know them. They have never met before & in all likelihood would never meet again for the rest of their lives. But that did not stop these kids from coming over & hugging her, as if she was some long lost friend. They were showering love on a complete stranger, but the love that she saw in their eyes was honest & straight from the heart. They were happy to help someone who was unhappy,& in distress, by extending their warmth. And it was all so unconditional. Maya's heart filled with joy. She gave huge bear hugs to each of the kids. She gave toffees to each of the kids. Flashing big smiles, the kids went back. But Rehan was still there. Maya held Rehan close to her. Suddenly she felt like she was holding Krish in her arms. Here is this kid, Maya thought, whom I've never met before, & who will probably forget about me in a few days, but acted like a little angel for me today. He made me happy & made me feel cared for, at a time when I needed the maximum emotional support. Maya kissed Rehan on both cheeks. He smiled at her. He felt happy that he had been able to mend her broken heart & had been able to make her smile again. Rehan kissed her back.

Just at that moment, Maya heard the announcement that her flight was scheduled to leave in half an hour. Passengers were being called for check-in. Maya's heart leapt up with joy! She would finally be able to go home! She would be able to see Krish in a few hours! Face flushed with excitement, Maya stood up. Then taking Rehan in her arms, she gave him a goodbye kiss. "Thank you Rehan. Thank you sweetheart for making me happy today. I'll remember you for the rest of my life. Today you were my little angel. Thank you. You are a very good boy, Rehan & a great friend. Goodbye dear, I've got to go now." Rehan suddenly felt a little shy to be receiving such praise. He looked down at his feet. Maya started to walk towards the check-in counter. Suddenly she felt two little hands embracing her from behind. She turned around to see Rehan. "I wanted to say, I'll remember you too. Bye-bye." Then, he left & went & joined the other kids in their games.

When Maya sat in the flight, she had a contented smile on her face. Exhausted, she fell asleep on her journey. She dreamt of Rehan & Krish playing together and then running towards her and hugging her. She smiled in her sleep. When she reached home, it was 9P.M. Krish was wide awake, waiting for her. The moment she entered the house, Krish screamed "Mamma" in delight, & ran towards her. Maya swooped him up in her arms an hugged him tightly. All the love that she had been saving for Krish for the past two moths, came out like a torrent. Krish too had missed his Mamma, & refused to let go of her. Only when he fell asleep, was Maya able to free herself from his clutches. Late at night, sitting beside the fast asleep Krish, & caressing his forehead, Maya smiled at her memory of the day's events. She had been amazed how a little unknown boy had given her so much joy, by simply hugging her. Such a simple gesture, yet such a lot of love & warmth it conveyed. And she had learnt an important lesson today, You dont need to know a person to reach out to him & shower him with your love & kindness at his time of need.You dont need to speak eloquent words, or give someone expensive gifts to make someone happy. A small gesture such as a hug, a smile, a pat on the shoulder can go a long, long way. And besides you can give as many hugs to anyone you like, without cringing,'coz HUGS ARE FOR FREE!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For decades, one of the many superstitions plaguing us, is that of stopping in our tracks if a cat runs across the street. It is believed that, if you pass through the road, just after a cat has crossed it, it'll bring severe bad luck & may result in fatal accidents. Everyday, on some road or the other, you'll find superstitious drivers waiting in the middle of the road, because of a scampering feline. They'll wait for some other non-suspecting vehicle to pass before them, thus nullifying the effect of the curse!

Well, all superstitions originate because of some reason, & this particular superstition too has a reason behind it. The story goes, that in Britain, sometime in the 1800s, every single house on every single street, owned a cat. In those days, the concept of family planning not being in vogue, every household had a large brood of kids. The kids spent their time playing with their pet cat. Now, cats being highly independent(sometimes bordering on disinterested,disobedient,disloyal traits) creatures, would often run out of the houses into the streets. The kids too, would follow. This obviously led to a large number of accidents. The vehicles on the streets, would often end up killing a poor-little-innocent child in search of his not so poor-liitle-innocent pet cat.

To put a stop to these accidents, a law was passed, that said, each vehicle should immediately stop in their tracks if they see a cat on the road, for it would mean that some children would definitely not be far behind. As time passed, the people outgrew their fascination for cats. The number of cat-owning households fell. Kids, stopped running out into the streets after their cats. Accidents stopped. The law was eventually forgotten & discarded. But, the one thing still continued. Vehicles still stopped in their tracks, if a cat crossed their path. Slowly, the noble cause behind the stopping-of-cars was compleetly wiped off from memory, & all that remained was, a stupid old superstition!!

So, the next time you stop your car on seeing a cat cross your path, remember this story. And don't forget to catch a glimpse of the cat's face. It just might be having a sniggering laugh at your expense!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

There he stands in the corner. Barefeet. Clad in a white vest with holes & a dhoti. He stands there with the dhaak, almost doubling up with the weight of the instrument. The organiser tells him to play the dhaak from time to time. He obeys. Suddenly the sound of dhaak bursts into the pandal. He is playing the dhaak in a frenzy. Smoke from the arati engulfs the pandal. The sound of the bell in the hands of the pujari fills the air. But it all gets engulfed by the sound of the dhaak. Strong, singular, powerful, exhilarating,invigorating, towering above everything else. That's how the sound of the dhaak is. Wait. That description matches that of Maa Durga too! Maybe she resides in the dhaak. Thats what gives the old, frail dhaaki to play the dhaak in such a frenzy. Thats what gives him the strength to continue playing for hours at a stretch, to stand barefeet in the magnum pandal for hours, the strength to continue playing without thinking of his own joy or his family,the strength to swallow the harsh words & insults from the organisers if he slips in his job,the strength to withstand the huge crowd which doesn't even bother to glance at the dhaki, the strength to supress his jealousy when he sees all the people wearing new clothes & wasting money,while he struggles to draw up just two square meals a day for himself & his family.

But its the festive spirit. Its the joyous time of the year, when everyone is busy frolicking, forgetting all their differences & troubles. Its the time to be happy. But isnt it also the time to keep others happy? Cant we spare a thought for all those who are not so lucky to celebrate & join the festive spirit? Cant we care for the old,frail dhaaki standing in a corner of the pandal, or the 12-year old balloon seller who instead of spending a happy time pandal hopping with other kids, is roaming around streets looking for customers so that he can have a proper meal, or the man selling hats & whistles,struggling to find customers to buy his cheap ware,or maybe the old woman standing at the pandal asking for alms?

It's time we look around us. It's time we start caring. Durga pujo is all about ending of evil. So its time we come forward & take an initiative to end the evils plaguing our society.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Letter From Diya

Rummaging through old books,
I found it.
A letter.
Old, brown & spotted.
A letter from my grandmother.
A letter from Diya.

The letter has a smell.
A peculiarly, familiar smell.
The smell of old books &
all things forgotten?
No.Its her.
I smell her in the letter.
She is with me again.
Invisible yet present.
Intangible yet full-bodied.
I can feel her again.
Feel her after nine,long years.

The year 2000, reads the letter.
She writes about her trip to the U.S.A,
Her visits to the Niagra Falls
& the Yellowstone National park.
Her excitement is visible.
Infectious even.
I read the letter thrice.
Each time scourging the letter,
to find any missed detail,
to find something New.
I find Nothing.
The letter does not change.

The letter is meant for a 10-year old.
As I read it,
I find myself transforming.
Transforming into the 10-year old ME.
The girl,who received the letter,
nine,long years ago.
A girl, bubbling with excitement
on receiving an American stamped letter.

As I read the letter,
I realise how much I miss her.
Nine years is a long time.
Time is a fast healer,they say.
It makes you forget.
But one look at the letter,
& I know its all false.
As long as I live,
I will always love & miss her.
My Diya.
The letter is not a letter anymore.
Its her.
She lives in it.Its her.
The woman I call Diya.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Perfect Rings of Smoke

One.Two.Three. Three perfect rings of smoke went up in the air. Atin was smoking again. The wall clock showed tthe time as 2p.m in the afternoon & Atin was already smoking his 20th cigarette. Today had been very stressful for Atin. Atin looked up at the smoke rings in the air. Perfect circles. He smiled. The smoker Atin could create such perfect circles, which even the artist Atin couldn't!
Atin was painter by profession,specializing in portraits. Hailing from a well-to-do family, Atin had been sent to Paris for attendind a famous art school. After returning to India, Atin had made a name for himself. Although Atin was an extremely jovial & likeable person, there was one habit, which Atin just couldn't get rid of. Or perhaps,didn't want to. Chain smoking. Atin would finish off 50 cigarettes in a day & the habit was getting worse. Atin needed a cigarette in his mouth all the time & his craving was growing by the day.
Atin's family has been trying for the past few years to free him of the habit, but to no avail. Atin would always pursue the same line of argument. "Why don't you quit smoking? Don't you read the newspapers or watch on TV how harmful it is for you? Don't you know it can prove fatal for you?" "Baba, please, not again! How many times do I have to tell you, that I'm a creative person and people like us need such addictions to beat the stress. Besides, what's bothering you? i'm smoking with my own money! It's my money & i decide how to spend it. You can object the day I ask you for money! Now if you will please excuse me, I have work to do." Atin's father would leave the studio in a huff. the father-son arguments have become common in the house, but Atin's smoking habit remains unaltered.
Atin passed two more smoke rings in the air. It was the year 2001, Atin remembered. The year he went to Paris. His peers out there, smoked, did drugs & were heavy drinkers. Atin tried refraining from these habits, but peer pressure did him in. " Hey Atin, come smoke a joint with us!" "Hey buddy! wanna smoke?" From one to three & by the time Atin left Paris, he was smoking 30 cigarettes per day!!
Atin passed another smoke ring. Curiously today, Atin was finding it difficult to smoke. Today, Atin's closest friend Smarak had passed away. "Lung cancer", said the doctor. Smarak too had been a chain smoker like Atin. For the past one month, Smarak had suffered a lot. Painful chemotherapy sessions had robbed him of his hair, but hadn't been successful with the deadly cancer cells. Atin visited Smarak everyday at the hospital. Atin couldn't believe that the ghastly looking, shrivelled up man lying on the hospital bed, coughing up blood, was once a tall, well-built man, with whom Atin had spent hours talking & smoking away. The doctor said, it was Smarak's smoking habit which proved fatal for him.
Every puff Atin smoked, made him remember Smarak's ghastly face & his pitiable condition in the hospital. Desperate to wipe off those unpleasant memories, Atin lighted up his 21st cigarette. He was deeply moved by the loss of his dear friend & tried to calm himself by smoking. He tried remembering all the happy hours he had spent with Smarak. But try as he might, all he could think of was Smarak suffering in the hospital & coughing up blood.Atin tightly shut his eyes & tried remembering Smarak's smiling face. But the face that came up infront of him, was far from smiling. It was a shrivelled up face, with the skin clinging onto the bones & the eye sockets abnormally large. The mouth hung open as if letting out a soundless wail. Then, slowly, Smarak's face turned into a skull-face, laughing menacingly. Horrified, Atin opened his eyes. He was shivering. Smarak's death had been a huge shock to him & now after this experience, Atin was a bundle of nerves.
In a bid to soothe his nerves, Atin went up to the empty canvas in his studio. He had made up his mind to paint a portrait of Smarak. A happy & smiling Smarak. Atin picked up the paintbrush. As soon as he did that, Atin went into a trance. He no longer had any control over his hands. But his hands moved toward the colour palette, & then the paintbrush moved towards the empty canvas. Atin watched in awe as different strokes coloured the canvas. Atin's hands were moving furiously fast over the canvas. Within minutes, the portrait was complete.

Atin was shocked. What he saw infront of him, jerked him out of his trance. there infront of him,stood the canvas with the finished portrait. But the portrait was not of Smarak. The portrait showed a man's face resembling a bony skull. The man's face had shrivelled up & the eye sockets were abnormally large. The mouth hung open. there was blood on the man's clothes. And in the background, there was smoke. Cigarette smoke, Atin told himself. Cigarette smoke with perfect rings of smoke going up. The face looked similar to the image of Smarak, that Atin had dreamt of a few minutes back. Only this time it wasn't Smarak. A chill went down Atin's spine. For the face that was staring out at atin from the canvas, was none other than Atin himself!
Dumbfounded, Atin sat down. He couldn't figure out why he drew such a self-portrait. A weird idea struck him. Maybe it was Smarak who made him do this. Maybe Smarak was trying to show Atin, his future if he kept smoking. The doctor's words rang in Atin's ears. "His smoking habit proved to be fatal for him". Terrified, Atin stubbed out his cigarette. And in that very moment, he pledged that he wouldnt touch another cigarette for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The News At 10:00

Ayesha sat nervously infront of the TV. Only ten more minutes before the 10 o'clock news starts.She didnt remember having waited so eagerly for the news, EVER in her life! She gave a nervous giggle and fretted with her hair.
Tonight was special.Tonight Vikrant Jaiswal,the self-made millionaire businessman,is going to announce his wedding,during his interview on the 10 o'clock news.Vikrant Jaiswal. Ayesha's fiance. The love of her life. Vikrant was everything Ayesha had ever dreamt of. If there existed a prince charming, it had to be Vikrant! The man with whom Ayesha dreamt of riding into the sunset.
9:53p.m. Ayesha was growing restless. She remembered how she had met Vikrant for the first time. Ayesha was the newsreader for a private news channel. Intelligent,witty,attractive,Ayesha was brilliant at her job. This ensured that she covered all the important prime-time stories. So when the channel decided to do cover the success story of Vikrant Jaiswal, Ayesha was the obvious choice to interview him. Vikrant arrived on time ad before the camreas started rolling, he had started a banter with Ayesha. The interview lasted for twenty minutes, but Ayesha and Vikrant kept talking late into the night. Ayesha had been floored by Vikrant.
It took two more meetings between the two,for them to realize that they were in love. Ayesha thought Vikrant was caring,loving,supportive,modest,down-to-earth,and intelligent. Everything she looked for in a man. Vikrant on the other hand fell in love with Ayesha's intelligence,her determination and sincerity towards whatever she did. Both of them were brutally honest, a quality which both of them admired. The two of them became inseparable.
After a whirlwind romance of a month,Vikrant took Ayesha out on a cruise & there amidst red roses & soft music playing in the background,he popped the big question to Ayesha. Needless to say,Ayesha agreed immediately with tears of joy sparkling in her eyes. Finally, today Vikrant was going to announce to the world, that he was getting married to Ayesha.
9:58p.m. Ayesha suddenly had an anxiety attack. She tried calming herself thinking that she would be able to see Vikrant's smiling face on the TV screen in just a few moments. But ominous thoughts kept flooding her mind. She tried her best to ward them off, but was unsuccessful. She sat biting her nails and looking nervously at the clock ticking away.
9:59p.m. Ayesha switched on the TV. Although she felt happy and excited, she couldnt really ignore the strange thoughts playing in her mind. One more minute to go before the BIG MOMENT. 10:00p.m. The news started. But instead of Vikrant's interview, the "BREAKING NEWS" sign flashed across the TV screen. Ayesha got impatient. She clicked her tongue in irritation. Then suddenly,something she saw on TV, hit her like a bolt of lightning. The entire room swirled around her. She felt like she was sinking helplessly into an endless pit of darkness. Nothing around her was making sense. She was falling into a hole with no end. Stretching her arms out, Ayesha tried holding onto anything that she could grab. Catching hold of a chair,she caught it with both her hands, and with a huge effort, sunk into the chair.
Ayesha couldnt believe what she saw on TV. She did not kow what to do. Trembling and shaking she felt helpless. Her mind drifted to the images she saw on TV. The same images were being played over and over again in the news. Ayesha blankly stared at the TV screen.
"BREAKING NEWS" flashed across the screen. Then the images of the mangled remains of a car on the road. There had been an accident on the highway. The car had collided with a truck going in the wrong lane and being driven way beyond the speed limit. The passenger inside the car had died on the spot in the impact of the crash. The truck driver had escaped with minor injuries. Images of the dead man were being shown. The body was soaked in blood. A shiver ran through Ayesha's spine. Then the voice of the news anchor,giving details of the accident. "Businessman Vikrant Jaiswal, aged 28, dies in car crash on Highway 36. Jaiswal's car collided with a truck which was going in the wrong lane and off the speed limit. Vikrant Jaiswal died on the spot. The truck driver,who was drunk,escaped with minor injuries. He has been arrested and taken into custody by the police. Vikrant Jaiswal, was on his way to our news station for an interview. Our correspondent Akash is present at the site of the car crash. We will get the details from him. 'Akash can you hear me? At what time......' ". Ayesha switched off the TV.
Her phone started ringing. Friends and relatives were calling after hearing the tragic news. Ayesha switched off her phone. She wanted to be alone. The 10 o'clock news. It was the place where they had met & where Vikrant was going to announce their wedding. It turned out to be the place, which brought an end to her dreams. The place where she saw her Vikrant, going away from her life forever. Her world had come crashing down. Silently wiping off her tears, Ayesha made her way into the bedroom. She sat down infront of a framed picture of the two of them. Vikrant smiled at her out of the photograph.
Clutching the photograph to her heart, Ayesha closed her eyes and began dreaming. Dreaming of riding into the sunset with Vikrant. Ayesha smiled in her dream. She had always thought Vikrant was the stuff dreams are made of. Now Vikrant has been reduced to just that. A dream. A happy dream. A single drop of tear rolled down her cheek.


This is a poem written by me when I was in the 9th standard.
I wonder how it feels to fly.
Into the clear blue sky,
or between the shredded clouds.
I wonder how it feels to
stretch wings of freedom
into the limitless horizon.
I wonder how it feels to
soak in the warm rays of the sun in your wings,
or to be rainkissed in the first bouts of monsoon
while you fly.
I wonder how it feels to
be soaring above everyone.
Do you feel majestic?
I wonder how it feels to
dance with the wind
or be embraced by it,while you fly.
I wonder how it feels to fly over borders,over the seas and the mountains.
Is the sky any different on that
side of the border?
Are the sun's rays warmer?
Do the rain or wind seem any different?
I envy you as you fly away.
Fly away into forbidden land.
The land across the border,
while I remain here bound by
chains of restriction and restraint.
I want to be free.
Teach me how to fly,
how to spread my wings and fly away.
I want to see the world.
Not through picture in books.
I want to fly over the seas and the oceans
and the mountains.
Take me with you.
Set me free.
I want to know how it feels to fly.