Sunday, 19 October 2014

Words under mango trees

Did she hear something? She strained her ears to listen. There must be someone. There was an eerie silence everywhere. The strains of a distant church bell faded away, enveloped by the silence that descended the room like a cloak. The sound of the clock ticking and tiny rivulets of rain drops sliding down the weathered tiles and dripping on the window sill was all she could hear. Her glazed eyes peered through the window at the lone withering mango tree. 

It has seen many summers, like her. She tried to count the years the tree was laden with fruits, its many branches touching the ground in a wisp of brownish green. Was it thirty? Thirty five? She found the counting tiresome. Years don't matter. Do they? Like a shadow on the window pane, she saw her. Her daughter. The twinkle in the eyes, the long braids pulled to her sides and mouth open in tinkling laughter, she was there. Long, slender fingers traced a pattern on the glass, her eyes alight with unspilled laughter and happiness. 

Her eldest daughter had always been her favorite. A mere child who pulled the family together when child after child arrived to fill the family's cradle. She was the doting sister to all the younger siblings, guiding them and cherishing their dreams. Losing her dreams in the midway somewhere never mattered to her. She found solace in Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Frost. Words wove magic for her. Poems enthralled her to live. It was under the same tree that she sat, swinging on an old rubber tyre, singing. "The Solitary Reaper" came to life as she closed kohl laden eyes, swinging to the tune.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again? 
She knew nothing of her daughter's talents. Neither her singing, nor her literary talents. All she knew was she loved her dearly, no matter how mush she yelled at her. Her daughter- her love whom the entire village revered. A cold sweat broke on her wrinkled forehead as she fought breathlessness and tears, looking at the silhouette etched on the glass. She was here. Her daughter was here. And then the shrill ringing of the telephone filled the empty house.

300 miles away...

She loved this giddy feeling. The smell of coffee, mingled with the newly wet land tingled her nerves. The swing moved swayed gently as the drizzles weaved patterns of concentric circles on stagnant puddles. She gazed at her threshold where her mango tree stood majestic, its leaves dripping and the three mangoes. Every year, this magic tree yields just three mangoes. This year was no exception, she smiled to herself. The smile was becoming a rarity, she mused. She was not so sullen and stricken when her mother was around. 

Her mother- memories of her widened her smile and it reached her eyes. Dosas dripping with oil, coated with verses of Macbeth, Sunday evening hair grooming sessions with words recited from Othello, chopping vegetables listening to daffodils swaying in the breeze...memories was all she possessed now of her mother. She had heard stories of how the dead protect their dear ones for ages, in hiding. Where was she now? She eyed the mango tree warily, the three mangoes touching each other in the cool breeze, as if feeling their contours. Kicking her leg, she suddenly sprung to recite-

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 
The cool breeze kissed her forehead and reminded her of someone who kissed her so. Her granny. Why hadn't she called her?  It has been a long time. Sucked into the vortex of self inflicted work, she had indeed forgotten to call her. Pulling her cellphone out of her pocket, she dialed her grandmother. The phone rang and rang and rang....the air pregnant with unspoken words of love and loneliness....


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Sarkari Damad!

You can always find him in the labyrinths of gloomy Sarkari offices. His demeanor is demure, yet he radiates arrogance and indifference. He is always buried nose deep in files that are dustier than the surface of Mars. His brooding face and sulking jawline speak volumes of the sarees and petticoats belonging to the Missus he had to scrub and twist in the morning. His languorous fingers tap the table as he carefully assesses every passing homo sapien. Welcome to the world of Sarkari Damad!

Life of a Sarkari damad is not that easy! His mornings start with incessant rambling and screeching of his walking alarm clock, that is his wife of twenty years.The lady had bought him from the flea market of his city once upon a time, when she was slim and well-shaped. Her sole aim in life from day one has been to make the life of our damad miserable with her demands, that tower higher than the Eiffel. She laughs her head off as our Government Mapillai toils in his own house sweeping, mopping and slogging it out. He sweats and scrapes, as she fans her non existent hair, swinging in the jhula.

The morning's free milk supply comes from the dhoodhwallah who got his two bigha land registered bribing our damad. As he milks the cow, dhoodhwallah is lost in his past, reminiscing the day he was doomed- the day damad pushed him into a tight corner, flashing his awful pan-painted teeth. A file pushed out of damad's table can cost anything, from free milk to free newspaper, free wall paper to free toilet paper. As he poops in his freebie closet, imagination running around his steno whom he ogles at every other day, the free tissue paper roll withers at the rot he exudes of. He stinks of 'free' 'something' as he lathers his soap- a 'gift' from the neighborhood supermarket chain. One floor of building permit skirted around gives a lifetime of free soap and cosmetics to our damad. And mind you, it is just not any soap- only Dove that has moisturizer, damad has to keep his palms greased all the time, you see...

The free 'brut' perfume ensnares the brute to no end. NRI 'customers' of the damad see to it that our damad fogs his butt with brut force! The Missus doesn't lag behind the damad. Her groceries are always free from the neighborhood shop. Her vegetables are free. Her haircut is free. Her pet dog is free. Her manicure and pedicure too are courtesy of our damad's clients. The higher the rank of the damad, the larger the size of the missus. The damad being an officer is a privilege to the missus. Mrs.Officer shops till she drops at any random saree shop and coolly walks off without an inkling of that ugly word called the "BILL". 

Talking of damads and who would forget gold? Damads are always gold crazy. Do you look for gold in his neck and fingers? No no no...don't ever risk looking there. All the gold is stashed in his molars. You have to pry open the lion's mouth for a peek at the gold capped molars, as our damad never dares to smile. Damad's breakfast and lunch are 'sponsored' by some poor caterer who is in dire need of catering contracts. Damad conducts 'surprise quality checks' to fish out dishes that he salivates by merely looking at. The Missus loves jewelry shopping, blabbing her way through necklaces, of how her husband is so condescending with his EQ allotment for premier trains! Making charges and wastage go down the drain, traded in for a few AC berths on Sunday nights:)

Damad's shirts come with multiple hidden pockets that he dutifully remembers. Separate folders for different accounts. He regards his prey with cool precision, hunts him down and latches on to his wallet like a leech. The mantra here is 'stay cool and stay focused'. No amount of threatening, pen cameras or cajoling work with the damad. He reserves his 'million dollar' smile only for one man- Gandhi. The larger the Gandhi, the broader the smile, the faster your job gets done with the damad. 

As his head hits the pillow every night, yes, you heard that right- pillow, not the double-bed sized missus, he reminisces the day's collection. The free chaais, free vadas, free masala dosas, free magazines, free perfumes, complimentary sweets, free air tickets, fully paid family holidays abroad and the free soaps dance in his eyes. As he snores away peacefully, the Man Above chuckles and says- " Sarkari damad hai! Chalo...chalta hai!"

p.s.: Please translate "sarkari damad" as "Government Mapillai";) Keeps the fun quotient few notches higher!
p.p.s.: Sorry about the shockingly truthful post, Mr. Damad. This post is aimed directly at your non-existent heart.
p.p.p.s.: Happy Independence Day to everyone. Let us fight corruption with all our might this year too, like all them earlier years...2G...kya G? :P