Monday, 28 November 2011

The rain-kissed...

The rains lashed out their fury. She watched from her bed, tiny rivulets of water sliding down the window panes. The clock straight above stood still at seven. Was it evening or morning, she was not sure. The green gown of the hospital smelt of disinfectant and medicines, her head reeling at the heady scents of life and death. Where is he now, she thought absently, drifting in thoughts. She vividly remembered the color of his eyes, the laugh lines along the ends of his eyes, the long drooping eye lashes, the shock of dark curly hair and the smile- the smile that shook her very being, the smile that has been haunting her for a long time. She reminisced their last meeting, rain drenching every bit of her, remorse washing every ounce of her soul. He had sought answers- answers why she was running away from him and a future with him. All she could do was stand silently rooted under the banyan tree, with raindrops and tears running down her cheeks...

The night duty nurse Sheela picked up a magazine and flipped through the pages absently. The patient on the bed was resting, she presumed. It is rather tiresome to be taking care of the same patient for a long time, she thought to herself. It has been three months since she was assigned to patient 1243. Dutifully, she had checked the pulse, temperature, pressure, eyes and slowly rolled over the socks over the chill and numb toes. Hair plaited, eyes closed with a tiny band aid fixed to the lids and the ventilator humming, the patient was sleeping peacefully. Sheela's thoughts went back to her ailing father at home. His cough had gone from bad to worse and all she wanted was him to pass away peacefully in sleep. Lung cancer in advanced stage was almost eating him away and she was a mute spectator. Her long nights in hospital away from him had made him more melancholic and lonely, yet she needed this salary to keep him ticking. She had proper rest in the hospital after she was assigned to bed number 1243.

1243? How she hated numbers...He was not so, he was a super computer and an awesome programmer. An intellectual, she smiled to herself. Rain was a messenger between them. She was always struck with awe whenever they met and in the company of rain. The long conversations in the empty classrooms, the short walks to the bus terminus, the small parties with friends where they sent searing glances at each other, the long train journey they had once traveled together...rain had walked hand in hand with them. Memories flooded her mind. She remembered the empty envelopes he handed to her, asking her to write to him when they parted ways. They had always remained empty and untouched, underneath all paraphernalia in her cupboard. She had always wanted to write to him, but held herself back. Now there were two families involved and she did not want to hurt anyone, ever- him, the most.

When would he ever see her? He had vivid dreams of her these days. The shortly cropped hair, the ringing laughter, dancing eyes and chirpy voice- the memories locked away somewhere in the subconscious came rushing back. His life with his wife Rama had been a quiet and uneventful one, peaceful and serene. Yet he longed to see his childhood sweetheart, feel her and touch her- that chirpy bouncing girl of his younger days. The long lost love, for whom he had waited with bated breath. That woman who left him for someone else. That woman who never uttered those three words. If only he could ever meet her once before he died...he coughed out aloud and wiped away the blood trickling down his nose. The pain came suddenly, all he could feel was her soft touch on his arm, the warm breath of her fanning his fevered cheeks and her cool lips on his forehead. Not a dream, this was for real...he smiled. His last breath was painless and peaceful.

Sheela woke up with a start when she heard peculiar sounds from the patient. The patient was almost breathless, eye balls rolling but no movement in her limp limbs. Sheela had seen so many comatose patients and she knew exactly what was happening. She held the thin fingers lovingly and caressed the hollow cheeks. Her lips were uttering silent prayers. The ventilator ceased its function with a violent thud and a tiny drop of final tear rolled down the closed eyes. Patient 1243 was dead. Sheela felt a lump in her throat as she picked up the hospital phone to call the duty doctor. The relatives had to be informed. Her mobile had been ringing incessantly for a while now and she picked it up after informing the office of the death.

It was her little brother Vimal who sounded out of breath. " Dad passed away. I noticed just now, Sheela". His voice breaking down, he sobbed silently. Sheela glanced at the dead patient, whose face looked composed and angelic in death. The raindrops fell pitter patter on the window sill in their own gleeful dance, kissing the glass panes...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Orange blossoms

He lay sprawled on the road. His face calm and serene, not a scratch on the cherubic face. Splinters of glass lay scattered on the road mixed with flowers strewn around- tiny orange blossoms and the curious onlookers were slowly dispersing. Only when he was lifted and wheeled away, blood glistened in the evening rays of sun. Splash fell the water, rinsing away the blood from the flowers and the road. Passing vehicles were now crushing the orange blossoms and he did want to collect them all over again and smell the heady scent. Twenty six is not the age to die and definitely death by a road accident is not pleasant. He would have loved to die peacefully, calm and sleeping. God was one person who never heeded to his wishes. Drawing a few breaths, he moved away. It was time.

She closed the book she had been reading and peeked at the clock. It read five forty five. He usually arrived by five. Of all the three odd months they had been together in this tiny world called their home, he was always punctual. Their evenings were spent in strange silence. He would sit in the living room watching hours and hours of television while she sat by the sofa reading, sewing and at times, simply humming softly to herself. Their dinners were always short, the only sound being the clangs of cutlery on the plates. He liked neatness everywhere and she tried hard to keep things organised. Even if he found the house a mess, his reaction would be a cold stare. That stare always sent her scurrying, cleaning and wiping the house. She tried hard to remember the last time she had seen him laugh and failed miserably.

He always wanted to be home- he would pounce the moment the clock struck five. She always sat near the window sill on the living room, watching her favorite sparrows. The pair had moved in recently to the orange tree shading their hall and he knew she loved watching them. She loved to breathe in the aroma of orange blossoms, her eyes half- closed and head thrown back. The placid golden yellow rays of the sun would wash over her angelic face as her gaze lingeringly followed the sparrows and the blossoms.

 He loved the way her nimble fingers held the needle and the glorious patterns she stitched on her pillow covers and kerchiefs. He never complained about the way she kept her house. The orderliness, the cleanliness and her artistic touch in flowers adorning the corner vase, he grew to love them all gradually. He was worried when she didn't do her routine- he was annoyed that she might be sick when he saw the house in a mess. And he knew one stare at her would bring her back to life and pink of health. He loved the silence they shared together. 

He was a man of less words, that she knew well before the wedding. She tried hard to impress him during the early days and failed to get so much of a smile from him on her home making skills. He seemed to have shut her off completely...or she wondered if she had ever gone through the wall between them, being shy and coy herself. They had week end outings to malls and movies. Her efforts to strike romantic conversations with him back fired as he completely closed off her from casual pep talk. She was wondering what went wrong and tried to solve the riddle herself. After few nerve racking trials, now she was resigned to fate. Some day, he will...

He knew she tried to breach his barriers- his carefully erected walls. He was not going to let her do that, he mused. Memories of a painful past hovered in front of his eyes. He had always been an introvert and so when Deepa entered his life like a thunderstorm on a rainy evening, he was sucked up by a whirlwind of passion and love. Her chirpy demeanor and ringing laughter alighted his soul and he felt he found his soul mate in her. She came home, cooked for him, even bedded him and finally ditched him for his boss. That bitch! His blood boiled even now, thinking of her. 

He needed time- a few months at least, to size up this petite, young woman that has been his wife of three months. He did not want to repeat the mistake of falling for a wrong woman the second time...She was chosen by his parents and he had married her- had he a choice? No! These three months had been a living hell, he thought. God, how much he did want to talk to her, to caress the fine lines on her brow, to wipe away tiny rivulets of sweat running down her spine, to feel her thumping heart beat every time he came near her...The very thought of her made him ache for her...long for her...

She was so much engrossed in her own thoughts that the shrill noise of telephone startled her. She picked up the receiver and whatever being said on the other side must have been bad, real bad. He kept watching her face go from a dull pink to a sheet white and she fell with a noisy thud on the floor. He  wanted to pull her up in his arms and soothe her, wake her up and utter whispers of loving words... The sparrows chirped and the orange blossoms swayed in the cool evening breeze, the aroma wafting through the thin curtains. He could never tell her his last words- I LOVE YOU. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Of wedding portraits and love!

The hall of our ancestral home is an exhibition boasting of portraits of four generations of our family. The center of attraction is the picture of Jesus and His Sacred Heart. Flanked to his left is the portrait of my great grandfather. Now, he was one person who probably faced the camera first time in his life. His eyes almost pop out of the sockets in the picture. His demeanor is dull, gloomy and as a child i was scared to look at his picture at nights- too goofy you see! To the right is the portrait of great grandfather ( maternal) with his wife, taken in 1900s probably. He is regally seated on a throne like chair- i wonder where these studio guys buy "throne- like" chairs! His wife stands shy and coy, with her silk saree's pallu draped over both her shoulders. With a simple chain, jasmine flowers tucked behind her hair, she looks calm, cool and composed. Our great grandfather sports a silk angavastra, his look complete with a walking stick on hand, a HUGE moustache and a curt smile- he could pass muster as a village villain of any Kollywood movie.

To further left is the wedding portrait of my grandfather and grandmother, taken a few days after their wedding. The groom stands tall in his wedding coat- this is the influence of British in our family, i think- our forefathers had converted from Hinduism to Christianity by this time. The British were successful in converting many such villages totally from Hinduism to Christianity by a simple trump card- water! Only those converted to the new religion could draw water from canals for irrigation. The influence of British in weddings is depicted by the coat of grandfather- he even had a coat flower tucked in! And my grandmother sports a kerchief crumpled in her hands in the picture taken in 1947. 
Pic courtesy-
The next picture is that of my Dad and Mom, taken in 1977. The elaborate bouquet held gracefully in her hands, her wreath shining, Sharmila Tagore bun, jasmine flowers tucked by the side of her ear, big kajal laden eyes, my Mom was an equal match to Dad. His bell bottom pants, coat, curly cropped hair and big buckled belt- the retro look is totally enchanting! By now, men and women had learnt to stand together and were even bold enough to hold hands! 

Next in the lineup is generation 4- us, the cousins. These picture are ostentatious- pure display of status and wealth- the simple chain from generation one has now grown manifold. The number of neck pieces, pendant chains, haars and bangles till the elbow- now we know why the price of gold is sky- rocketing!!! The coat is the same, but the groom's chain and bracelet( of course gifted by poor fatherinlaw!) are more prominent than his smile! The bride- ah yes, poor she...She looks a mannequin who ran away from the ramp, all painted face, shining jewellery- clad in priciest kanjeevarams. As the mean distance from the grandparent's photo increases, so does the glitter and glamor of the cousins' portraits! 

Pic courtesy- google image search
 One look around the living room of my ancestral home, i try to peer closely at every pair and try to strike out a similarity between the four generations of wedding portraits. And i finally locate the underlying current that is synonymous in all the portraits- love! The glint of love in great grandparents' eyes that look straight at the camera, the gesture of hands held together in my grandparents' picture, the elbows hooked together in my parent's portrait and finally the 'clinging' pictures of the cousins- all speak of the love we have for our partners. God has gifted our family for four generations with His greatest Blessing- LOVE! And i am yet to figure out what the next portrait on the wall would be- probably a peck on the cheek of the bride....What say dear cousins?;) For a lip lock to be caught on a family portrait, it seems we have to wait another generation!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The week that was for Indian women...

Two news items caught my attention last week- One, Rajasthan's minister Maderna's involvement in a missing nurse case- very sleazy one that, and two, the murder of youngsters Keenan and Reuban, a case of eve teasing gone wild, in full public glare in Amchi Mumbai. The Rajasthani Minister's case was sen(x)ational one, with TV channels airing parts of sleazy CDs showing sexual overtures of Minister Maderna with the Dalit nurse Bhanwari Devi. She has been missing for almost two months now, probably murdered. Sadly, Maderna, though nailed by CBI, has been admitted to hospital with chest(!) pain in hospital. 

After Yeddyurappa, it is Maderna's turn to walk into the hospital, rather be wheeled into the hospital! Why doesn't the Government simply cut them open and conduct compulsory open heart surgeries? Seeing parts of the CD ( check link here) i could relate it to another sensational CD case, our own Swami Nityananda. Probably all porn sites should feature such amateur video CDs shot by 'unknown' people, they could cut down production costs, you see! Why does the press pounce on such CDs is anyone's guess- the TRP ratings. P7 and Sahara Samay has been pulled up by the Rajasthan High Court for repeatedly airing the CDs. Who worries anyway? PILs were filed against Sun TV network for airing Nityananda's CD- but we are yet to hear whereabouts of the case.

 I wonder why people with power and good public standing commit such sins(!) of coveting neighbours' wives. Saravana Bavan hotelier Rajagopal has been handed a life imprisonment in one such a case. He had ordered murder of Prince Shantakumar, husband of Jeevajyothi, the woman whom he took fancy to. Is this a deterrent to these men fancying other people's wives? NO. Success is something that churns out the sexual hormones in a frenzy...

Saravana Bhavan Rajagopal ( seated centre) and the woman wronged- Jeeva jyothi.

The other news that was deeply disturbing was murder of Keenan Santos and Reuban Fernandez in full public view- in the night streets of Mumbai. The two guys who were accompanying their women friends for a dinner in a Mumbai hotel. They were confronted by Rana, who sexually harassed the women friends, including Reuban's girlfriend in front of the hotel. Keenan and Reuban chased away Rana who was back with four of his friends armed with sticks, knives and sickles. With the whole neighborhood watching in horror, the two men who stood up for their women friends and their dignity were murdered in cold blood. Not a person watching, stood up for these poor men- ordinary men with ordinary dreams. The men who stood up for what they thought was right. Eve-teasing deaths do occur once in a while, but fade out soon, as the next death surfaces. 

Keenan and Reuban- the brave hearts
If this is the protection, respect and dignity that Indian women get in India today- why bauble on about 33% reservations for women? When rape in India has increased 800% in a decade, what good can our 33% reservation do? Nothing! Unless the society stops ostracizing women who stand up for themselves- women in India shall remain mere puppets, sans dignity.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Riyadh Zoo- A green haven!

When L suggested we visit Riyadh zoo that summer with the kids, i was a bit skeptical. Zoo is not a place that i liked to keep in the itinerary- i had outgrown it long time back. I had been to Vandalur Zoo in Chennai ages ago and developed inherent allergy to congested cages, dirty environs and almost dying animals. And when L suggested zoo and my two little ones yelled with joy, i groaned inwards. My displeasure failed to impress upon the enthusiastic trio and off we went to Riyadh zoo, flagging a taxi from our hotel. A Pakistani driver who ferried us, had a taxi that was befitting a zoo environment- the car reeked of age and the leather seat covers were tattered beyond recognition. We continued our journey in stoic silence, as L always bids us to keep our mouths tightly shut in any public transport.

The entrance to the zoo looked plain ordinary and what more can one expect from a zoo in the middle of a desert? All i hoped to see were monkeys full of bones, a few camels and innumerable stray cats! But the moment we stepped in the zoo, there was a shocking greenery all around. The entrance hosted a small lake where beautiful flamingos and other water birds were splashing by, unaware of the searing heat outside. A trio of seals were snoring on platforms around a climate controlled pool. The air conditioners were working overdrive. Surprisingly, i did not notice any foul stench that usually emanates from a zoo...
Blissfully asleep- seals in Riyadh Zoo

Then came the enclosure of African elephant. It was a calf, he strutted around the ground supervised by his Malayali ambari ( mahout)! The gentleman was much impressed by Indians waving at his pet(!) that he let me film the pachyderm closer. The antics of the elephant was interesting that i spent much time watching him. Only when L chided me for my love for the jumbo, did i move.
There is our African elephant with his Keralite Mahout
Landscaping of the zoo has been done with an eye for detail with a tiny stream  flowing through the lush green man-made oasis. The entire spread of 55 acres is a treat to weary eyes that behold the miles and miles of desert sand. Zebras, bactrian camels ( two humped camels), a tiny pony, giraffes and foxes lazed by in their enclosures. There was even a pair of lions and a Bengal tiger sleeping peacefully! Thankfully, the lions, tiger, leopards and the ilk looked robust, not the tired and half dead circus ones we get to see in zoos of India!

Bactrian camel and pony- The wall in the background is their airconditioned stall!

This cute fella did not like me clicking him!
Puff adder- after his hearty meal of a few mice!
Orangutan and his antics- Riyadh zoo.
After visiting the snakes, monkeys and birds, we were tired and had to find solace in soft drinks. The stall was run by a Tamil, we found it entertaining to have small talk with him. We sat then, taking stock of the lush green scenery around us. The little stream and its green waters remained placid as the hot afternoon sun blazed on above. Ducks waddled in the stream and a cool breeze blew from somewhere- imagine a breeze in the middle of a hot Arabian desert! The hard work and care given to the greenery and the animals in the zoo is just outstanding, i must say!

Relaxing by the stream

Another view- Riyadh zoo and its lawns

Green waters and ducks waddling

Memorable visit it was and i wish our Indian counterparts do learn from zoos world wide regarding maintenance of the zoo, its environs and the poor animals housed therein. Though i am not a great admirer of animals in captivity, a zoo does have educational value for the young, i must admit. And i wish as grown ups we relive a few moments of our childhood when we visit such zoos with our little ones!

Friday, 4 November 2011


This incident happened way back in 1994 when i was in my senior schooling years. We went on a youth camp to a remote village in Andhra- TN border and really had the best time of our life. Playing games, pranks, competitions and dances i just felt wonderful after a long time. One morning we had a renown psychiatrist addressing us. There we sat, listening carefully what he had to say about concentrating on studies and later on the topic moved to the various distractions we had when we studied. It was then suddenly pushed to the topic of premarital sex. I could feel the air bristle with tension when students put anonymous questions on sexuality, contraceptives and premarital affairs.

A small town girl who left to study in the city, ( you can watch the same scene in many Bollywood and Kollywood movies!)  i felt pretty awful and embarrassed to be discussing these issues in an open circle. And i was shocked, you can say shell shocked listening to the questions raised. My idea of sex and sexuality was limited to watching movies and reading Millsandboon strictly!

Cartoon courtesy-

The embarrassment continued when we, the girls, were supplied with sanitary napkins by a manufacturer. Hijacking the solitary napkin in the secret pocket of my uniform salwar was by itself an adventure! Giggling and whispering, we safely transported it, hiding from the prying eyes of the guys of the class. I still remember vividly how we girls shifted a girl from our class to the ladies restroom who had spoiled her dress...the hushed tones, the sweat and the shivering hands! And why would these sanitary napkins be named- Hush, whisper, private, intimacy???

And how the world has changed today? Discussing sex is not considered a taboo anymore, as is evident now. And 'transporting' a sanitary pad is not an arduous task. Amma and her ilk are going to supply them free of cost to all female students in schools through teachers- errrr...come again, teachers, you said? So, from now on, teachers would be distributing notebooks and sanitary pads...What a novel idea! Freebies starting from sanitary napkins to mixers, grinders and cows, goats??? Children these days are more intelligent than us, they are swift learners when it comes to sexuality than algebras and theorems. Sex education in schools was a much discussed issue during my school days and now it has fizzled out. CBSE holds sex education as an optional subject and i wonder if anything worthwhile is taught in schools. And at times i myself am confused what is to be taught to our teens- safe sex or abstinence? 

The Maharashtra Government has banned sex education in all schools, citing reasons it 'corrupts' the children. I wouldn't say that is wise, because if classrooms don't teach them, our idiot boxes and peer circles will do that- nefariously! A friend lamented once that her five year old daughter wanted to know what that blue liquid being absorbed in a napkin was- seeing a TV commercial. She was too stunned to reply. But is that a solution? It is better we take kids to our side and explain what is required for them to be known for their age, depending on their maturity levels. Who would be a better teacher than us, parents- their first teachers?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Calls- unsolicited!

Shocker 1:

The moment my head hit the pillow, i was asleep. Somewhere far from me, i could hear my mobile's ring ring. Too sleepy to open my eyes, i fumbled for it on the pillow nearby. After a few seconds of groping in the dark, i opened my right eye a wee bit and looked at the clock. It read 10.30 pm. Now my search was almost frantic, lest the incessant ring wake up L peacefully snoring nearby. I finally got hold of the silly thing and wrung its neck- i meant pressed the green button. The voice on the other side was chirpy, too bright for a late night call. The person calling wanted to know his berth number for Rockfort Express about to leave from the platform. Now this person was one of my friend's friend and could have got my number from her, but frankly, is night 10.30 a right time to call a total stranger and ask if their ticket got confirmed? Probably the person thought of me as a super computer that remembers every PNR she comes across on a day. 

And what guts he had to remind me- " Madam, i booked my ticket in your counter two days back". Oh wow! his IQ amazed me so much. I book tickets for an average of 100 people a day and how do i remember this particular person and his berth number? I sat there staring stupidly at the mobile and managed to say- " Please check the chart on the station entrance" and tried to dutifully get back to sleep. That is when my own James Bond woke up and asked the momentary question- " Who is that?" By the time i could explain who it was and what he wanted, L was almost nearing boiling point! 

Shocker 2:

There was another incident a few months back. Poor me was admitted in a hospital for a surgery and was recuperating the same day. Thinking his darling daughter would need a mobile in case of an emergency, Daddy left my mobile near the bed stand. I lay there in the hospital looking blank at the ceiling as my memory faded in and out- the after effect of anesthesia. My right hand punctured and IV fluid administered, i could barely keep myself sane. Daddy had gone to buy me some medicines. 

That is when the mobile chose to ring. After the same legendary groping, i found it and after great difficulty lifted it with my good left arm. The other side cooed a good morning. " Madam, we are calling from XYZ insurance. Anything might happen to us at any moment. So, please subscribe for our company's insurance plan". My foot, i was already sick to the core, slipping in and out of consciousness and God only knows the expletives that marketing executive might have heard that day! And funnily enough, i was so fuzzy, yet i remembered all those expletives banned ages ago, by Mom at home! That meant i was doing just great!

Shocker 3:

This happened a few years back. A hot summer afternoon and we were all dozing at home when the phone rang. Dad who was sleeping nearby picked it up and sat bolt upright. He kept saying- " Oh", " great", " so?" and "ok, ok" so many times that i too woke up from my slumber, thinking he hit the jackpot. And when he handed over the phone to me, looking quizzically at him, i picked it up. The lady on the other side informed dad won a lucky draw and wanted to know if he had any summer vacation programs and i said a big NO. 

She babbled her company was providing a package- 4 days, three nights stay in Goa for a couple, free of cost! There was a little problem though- they wanted Dad to go with his wife. With our Mom dead and gone for five years then, i mustered all my patience and asked if he could go alone, for which the reply was the negative. Negative again, when i asked if someone else from our family could accompany him. That is when she and her sing song voice got to my nerves and i blurted out- " No problem madam, by the way, what are your plans this summer?" That is when i heard the WHAM of the receiver banged on my ears! 

The DNC letters of my mobile have almost worn out of sending Do Not Call SMS to my network provider ( he must probably be snoring away in his Antilla when i answer unwanted calls- how dare he?). They eat away your money and provide your numbers to unwanted marketing agencies who in turn call at the most inopportune moments selling anything under the sun! It is always Sunday afternoon 3 O' clock to sell mutual funds, loans and Monday morning 10 O' clock for holiday time shares;) And it is always a crowded wedding hall when they call up for your salary details regarding the bank loan you dread! So ladies and gentlemen, calling me the next time to sell insurance, mutual fund, cars, loans, jewellery, designer wear or inner wear- beware! I am going to sue you! You heard it right- SUE YOU.