Friday, December 31, 2010


Note: This story contains some adult (A) content. Please read further only if you are eligible. Thank you.

She held his hands out just before he was about to move it inside her panties. She knew where he was leading to… she had known it from all the previous encounters, not with him but many men she had been with. And to all those men she did exactly the same. When they were ready… almost ready to get in, she would hold them on. Just there. And would run out of bed, at times apologizing and other times just lost; leaving all those men either amused or angry and bewildered. Tonight she did that again. She had just ran out of Rajesh’ bed and was dressing herself up when he asked, “What’s this? And why?”

“No reasons. I need to go home. Urgently…”

“But why? You said you will be staying here tonight!”

“Yes... I know I said that. But I also know that I need to go from here... right now.”

“But its 11:30 in night and it’s pretty late for you to leave... and I’m not letting you go anywhere. If you are scared...”

She cut him down, “I am not scared, for god’s sake! I just want to go home.”

“This is crazy! If you want me not to touch you, that fine. You can sleep in the other room. I won’t do anything… I really...”

“I am ready,” she just had buttoned her shirt, “you mind opening the door for me?”

“But it’s too late! It’s so damn late!!! You won’t get any transport!!”

“I can hear rickshaws outside… I guess that won’t be a problem,” she looked at him, “please.”

“But why? What happened? I don’t understand this.”

“You don’t have to understand anything, Rajesh. Just let me go, please.”

She ran out of his room, towards the main door. He came running after her, “please!! It’s pretty late. It’s not safe!”

“If you keep me engaged in further conversation, it’s gonna be further late,” she looked stone-faced at him, “open the door, please.”

“I am not letting you go anywhere, at this hour. You sleep in the other room. And you can go in the morning at whatever time you want.”

“That’s not happening Rajesh. I have to go now. I NEED to go now…,” she paused, “I WILL go now, Rajesh. Please open the door.”

“All right!” he gave up, went back to his room, put his pants on and got the keys. Down the stairs, he started his bike.

“You don’t have to drop me anywhere, Rajesh. I will get a rickshaw.”

He had already started the engine. “Sit on.”

She quietly sat on the back seat. When he moved the vehicle on she said, “I am sorry if it hurts you... In fact I know it does hurt you. And I am really sorry.” He didn’t respond. He drove her to her home. When she got off the bike, she only said, “Thank you. And sorry.” Before he could respond, she had already moved into her building.

When he reached home, he texted her, “tis’ crazy. If thr ws smthng wrong, u cd have told me. Bt tis is damn crazy!”

She clicked on the reply button, then waited for a moment to pass, and typed in, “Sry. U’r a sweet guy. Gn.”

“What is it?” she thought, “Why do I do it - with all those men lying next to me in their bed; naked and high on their testosterones… and most of them pretty sweet to me? What is it?”


Next morning Nalini was sitting a psychologist’s clinic. The nameplate read – Dr. Mitali Thakkar.

“I need answers. Answers to my own behavior. Because I don’t do it to them by choice. I mean though I do it by choice in that moment, I really don’t know if I want it that way in the entirety of the situation,” she paused and looked up at the doctor, “I am not sure if you are capable of providing me with it. But I want you to try. I want to try.”

“All right. Go on.”

Then she narrated some of her experiences, some in their exactness, some roughly because she would not remember them in precision.

“What do you think when you take that decision?”

“Decision of what?”

“Of running out of someone’s bed.”

“I don’t think of anything. It just happens.”

“Okay. Tell me something about your past.”
“What about my past?”

“Something… anything… like where have you lived… who all you had in your family… what were your relationships like…”

“I don’t find it relevant.”

“Leave it for me to decide, please?”

Nalini suddenly got up, “I don’t think it will help. How much and where am I suppose to pay?”

“You need help Nalini. And we can solve it together for you.”

“Where should I pay?”

Mitali looked up and sighed, “You may please meet the receptionist.”

“Thank you.”

In the train back home, Nalini tried to recall the child’s face from that night. But she couldn’t. She could only visualize the dark room and a girl, all of nine, sitting on her bed, sobbing badly but silently, in an effortful manner. She could just imagine how her face would have looked. Our memories contain mostly the actions we take in response to the situations we are thrown up in. Our own expressions are just felt and not seen as we don’t live in front of mirrors all the time.

When she reached home, she unlocked the door, went straight to her bed, covered her face in the pillow and wept. It was almost midnight when she woke up. While she was walking to the washroom, that night flashed up again.

She had just woken up in midnight to go to washroom. She had heard a moan from her sister’s room. She softly walked to her room and from the keyhole she saw her, caught under her brother-in-law, naked and in pain. When he forced himself inside her she exhaled loudly. To Nalini it appeared as a painful cry. She had run back to her room, petrified and indecisive. She had spent that night sitting stiffly in her room. Next morning she was told that Shalini had killed herself. But she knew it wasn’t a suicide but a murder.


Next day she was sitting in the Dr. Mitali’s clinic again.

“Are you scared Nalini?” asked Mitali once she was narrated with the account of Nalini’s childhood experience.

“Scared of what?”

“Of being fucked?”

“I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t kill, Nalini. It didn’t kill your sister for sure. If that’s what is bothering you, you need to know what exactly killed her. Find out what killed her. But don’t kill your existence with your assumptions… your assumed experience. We need corrections in our experiences, all the time, Nalini. Our past should never decide who we are going to be in future. It’s our present that should play this role. Correct it now.”

Sometimes we are so badly trapped in our past that we don’t realize it’s not our behavior but just a response to an event from the past that we are living with. Many times such a response or a series of responses gives an impression of our personality. However we actually don’t be that person. This leads to a dichotomous life. And to move out from this dichotomy, we need to go back to the same past... to break free from that moment … in order to live a life as our real personality would define and not the responses from the past.

While leaving from the clinic, Nalini remembered only one thing from the discussion, “Find out what killed her.”

It’s one thing to know what is right. And quite another to do the right thing, more so in its exactness. What if he actually killed her? What if he killed her and still lies to me? And what if he really didn’t kill her?

How does one suddenly negate something that was believed to be true for so many years? How does one forget and forgive so easily when all these years were filled with extreme hatred? If we realize it’s our mistake, at times, it’s still easy to forgive the second person, but not so easy to forgive ourselves for the grudge we hold falsely against that person. Sometimes we are not so much concerned about letting go our ego or shredding off our beliefs as we are about the way we would behave when done in presence of someone else. And it’s a huge decision to make when you have to choose between the past on which you base your existence and the future you wish to have for yourself. But at the end of the day we always realize that hatred for whatever reason is not as much a punishment for the offender as it is for the imposer.


When she rang the doorbell, a lady in her forties opened the door, “Does Mr. Sandeep Goel lives here?”

“Yes, he does. May I know who are you please?”

“I am Nalini. Nalini Mehrotra,” she hesitated in elaborating her introduction but then looking at the lady’s puzzled face, she said, “I am Shalini’s… Mr. Goel’s ex wife’s… sister.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the lady, “please come in.” She went inside the bedroom. After sometime, Sandeep came out. When they looked at each other, there wasn’t a sense of recognition. It was like they were meeting as strangers.

Post lunch Sandeep suggested to go for a walk. He asked Nalini to come along. Once on the road, she asked, “Why? And how?”

“I know you always believed that I killed her. But that’s not true,” he paused, “not entirely… and not technically, for sure.”

“What had happened that night?”

“Your sister was always very possessive about me... about everything. And this behavior of hers had started straining our relationship. But since I knew she was madly in love with me and so was I with her, we would always make up. However our fights kept on increasing. And to avoid them I started spending more time in office where I met Nisha. She would listen to my problems and slowly we grew into friends. That night when we were making love my phone beeped for a message. I ignored. But Shalini couldn’t. This I learnt later when Nisha informed me the next day that she had received a message from my cell saying, ‘Bitch. So that’s you. You wanna have him? Have him forever.’ The next morning we found Shalini dead in the bathroom. She didn’t give me even a chance to explain. I was…”

Nalini was lost. She didn’t care to listen beyond this. For her the story was over. She got up and started walking. Sandeep walked fast to catch up with her. Once close enough, he said, “I loved her too, Nalini.”

Nalini turned back, looked at him for a moment and said, “I am sure you did.” She will-ed out a smile for him, a smile that said, “I don’t hate you… not anymore. I forgive you… to forgive myself,” and turned back. She walked few steps forward, turned again and said, “I am sorry.” When she walked on, she felt clean.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A suicide’s soliloquy

“What would have been a better way to die? With… or without that kiss?” He thought and smiled. He knew his answer. He looked at the smuggled blade and a packet of rat poison that he had received in exchange of some loose cash from the night security guard. He thought of that evening.


He walked in his empty room, with a heart full of shit. Standing few steps in, he looked around. Everything appeared to be in big mess. Some used plates were lying on the couch which was just about to break. The bed was undone as if someone had just left after a wild sexual encounter. Some books and CDs were thrown on the floor by the side of an open laptop. A half-filled beer bottle was kept on the other side of the bed along with a used glass.

He took a deep breath and jumped onto the bed and turned to the window. It was a full-moon night and the moon was hanging bright in the sky between the high-rise buildings on the other side of the road. His face bore no expression, only a hint of a smile that was not sure of its existence and so was not able to exhibit itself completely.

He said, “At 29, suicide is not a great idea. But is definitely one of those ideas that linger around in my mind. No.. no.. Its not like as if I am frustrated of life or something. It’s just that… life is cool, but there’s something is missing… I don’t know what it is… but I can feel it.”

“The purpose, you mean?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

He was responded with an ‘A ha’.

He continued, “At 29, I don’t know where this life is headed towards. I don’t know if the past years were worth the expense they incurred, whether they made sense to me or to anybody in this world. I don’t know whether I am lost or confused… or just going through that phase, called ‘Quarter Life Crisis’. You know how it is. Your family says you are grown up, so you may have to chuck those things which you have been enjoying till now. You are made aware of responsibilities, of which you just had a hint till now. Your buddies, whom you took for granted, are getting married and owning up to those same responsibilities, which you are reluctant to own up to, and they tell you, “Dude, everyone has to grow up and be responsible towards life at some point of time.” And this they say with a nice, big smile on their face. You feel as if you are the most irresponsible person around. You are shocked because these are the same people, with whom you had dreamt a really carefree and INDEPENDENT way of life.

“Independence. It’s a nice word. Someone has said, ‘You are born free, but everywhere you are in chains.’ It appears true now. If am at work, I am told - you are free to do it your way, just ensure that it falls within company policies, doesn’t shock people (most of them don’t appreciate the shock they receive from the originality of an idea) and is liked by your boss. I feel like saying, ‘Fuck you and the freedom you offer!’

“With family, am constantly being reminded, ‘You are no more a kid. You need to take care of your aging parents. Also, you have to be a little responsible to your siblings and their families, and families of their families and so on. You need to learn to be a little social. We don’t mean to debar you from your independence but you will be married soon, so start being a little social.’ And by being ‘being social’ they mean, I should start attending marriage of my cousins where I just don’t find a connect, being in family prayer ceremonies where I just can’t relate with god, initiate and hold a conversation to relatives I just don’t relate with, and so on. Here again, I feel like shouting, ‘Get lost! Let me be alone!’

“And then, your own personal life. You have a girl who will calls you or messages you not for the reason that she wanted to do just that but she wanted to get a response in return. She will make a call and will have nothing to talk about, except a pile of expectations from you to keep talking, even if you are coming back from a hectic day. And if you don’t she will ensure to screw up your evening or night, whatever the time be, by numerous such things as – You don’t care for me, you don’t really love me, you don’t do this and you don’t do that, blah, blah, blah blah! (In some cases, it’s just opposite where some guys do that to their gals). Well, this is still better than not having a girl at all for some because in that case, people around will ensure you are either tagged to be impotent or a gay. But fuck those people; I broke up with my gal last week.”

He looked up at the fan. He was smiling, but smile itself couldn’t feel its existence on his face.

“And with all that, you have your dreams; dreams of doing something big, something grand in life. And you feel and you see that big, grand dream just resting mere as a dream, going nowhere from nowhere. Every morning, you wake up with this thought, today is the day. And every night you sleep with the thought, tomorrow I will fix everything. And with each day passing, everything remains unfixed.”

“So with this unfixed life, I check out for options,” he stretched his hands on both sides, “And that’s where this option of terminating it here, with some unfulfilled dreams, but my independence still in my control, appears in my mind. As a child, I always thought suicide is a coward’s behavior. But today, I have a different opinion. It’s not like that. Sometimes, you don’t have to be frustrated or exhausted with life to end it. At times the pointlessness of its existence is enough. And you know what, with this reason, you don’t really feel sad when you decide to end it. In fact, feelings seize to exist. And in such situation, what can be better than being responsible to your own life and its termination?”

After this long speech, he was still responded with an ‘A ha’.

He smiled and told his mind, “If you have nothing better to offer, you have the option of keeping your trap shut rather than irritating me with your ‘A ha’s’.”

He walked into the kitchen and looked around. There was a knife on the self and rat’s poison in the drawer below. “The knife or the rat’s poison,” he laughed aloud, “If I choose any one today that will be my last INDEPENDENT choice!”

But he didn’t choose any. He walked out of the kitchen, put on a pair of jeans, a loose T-Shirt and a pair of floaters and walked out of the room. He avoided the lift as it would have posed a chance for him to face some other human beings that he happily wanted to avoid. So he walked down the stairs. Out of his building was a smaller garden in the compound. Families from the buildings would come post dinner would come down, all with different intentions – some for quite walks, some to hang around and yet some others to do their last minute gossips before they would go to bed.

“Why did I come out of kitchen? What was it that held me back? When does life exactly become pointless?” He asked his mind, who then answered, “Everything else, I guess, can be redone, recreated. But when the ability to love dries dead, that’s when the life exactly becomes pointless. Mind it, I mean ‘dead’ and not ‘temporarily ill’.”

“Hmmm…” he gasped and walked up to a bench to sit for some time, quietly. He was a good observer; he could observe people’s behavior for hours. He moved from person to person, from expression to expression, some expressed ones some in an attempt to be hidden. He then stopped at a face. The only thing he had noticed was her smile and next thing realized was him standing in front of her.

“I want to kiss your smile.” He pronounced with authority, standing tall in front of her.

She looked up. The smiled started diminishing.

“No… no… don’t kill that smile. That makes you the most beautiful girl I have ever seen…,” before he could finish, she busted into a grand laughter. When the sound of the laughter fizzled into the evening air, she let the smile remain on her face and asked him, “What?”
He repeated himself, “I want to kiss your smile.”

“Here, in this garden, with so many people around?”

“I don’t care.”

Keeping her smile intact, she moved her upper body back, and rested her palms on the ground to support it. She lifted her face up towards the sky, with her eyes closed, and said, “Then go ahead.”

He was about to reach for her lips that she asked, “What if in middle of the kiss I decide to wade off the smile?”

“You will not do that.”

Her smile broadened.

He carefully placed his thick lips on her soft ones… deep… intense… and lost; lost enough to realize that people had already started crowding around them. Children were grinning, young adults were whistling and old people were just shocked. Well, it was not just a guy and girl kissing in middle of a garden; it was a twenty nine years’ old man kissing a girl, a little older than half his age.

The girl pushed the man gently when she heard a harsh voice running towards her. It was her mother who was informed by her neighbor that her daughter was doing this shit in the garden, that too openly. The mother started shouting and crying and gesturing. By now, most of the adults gathered around them. The mother pronounced, “Oh my god, now little children can’t play in a garden. These rapists will not leave any place for us, the civilized people,” and she went on crying. The father and the brother came running; they looked at the mother, then at the girl, the man and the crowd. Then they looked at each other and started beating the man. Other males in the crowd joined.

During all this, one responsible citizen called up the police. He got arrested. In the entire trial he didn’t speak anything. He was charged with an attempt to rape and was pronounced with an imprisonment of 8 years.


In last three years and some months, the thought of suicide had never appeared in his mind. He was simply amused by the way jails functioned. He experienced a strange sense of freedom when he was jailed, inside a small dirty room with some bizarre co-existers. Last week was the first time, when in all these years, someone had come to see him.

“It took me two years to become legally adult and another one year and few months to trace you,” she told him.

“First part is okay; you couldn’t help but grow up. Second part was not required.”

“I am sorry.”

“This whole part is not required.”

“I will reopen the case and will set you free.”

“Please don’t do that. I am happy here. They give us free food.”



They didn’t say a word after that; just looked at each other for some time, without expressions, without any emotion.

“Can you recreate the magic of that smile?” he asked.

“I don’t think so. But I can try.”

“Please don’t. Such things are not created by hit-and-trial. They just appear, at times not to appear again.” After a pause, he said, “you should leave.”


She had turned and started to move away that something stuck in her mind and she asked, “Do you mind if I come to see you again next week, same day?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay,” she said, turned and walked out of the corridor.

A week had passed, if she would decide, he had to meet her tomorrow. He looked at the blade and the rat poison box again.

He told himself, “That was the last thing I had fallen in love with. It’s no more. She can’t smile that way again. I don’t really care what kinda person she is. I was never in love with her. I loved just that – A face full of smile. That’s gone. And with it went out, my ability to love.” He was sitting on the floor. All other co-existers were sleeping.

“There’s a fine difference between ‘Not able to love’ and ‘not want to love’. The ability to do something can only be known when it is experienced. And you can experience something only if you want to experience it. So my ability to love depends on my desire to love. But to choose not to desire is a way of cowardice or completion, who can know? I guess it’s an individual’s prerogative.” He tried to stretch his legs, but in that attempt he touched upon someone’s head. With a sudden reflex, he pulled his legs back up. He smiled, “Her smile was the last thing with which I fell in love. In these three years, I wasn’t sure if I will ever get to see that. I didn’t know it existed or died. I didn’t think on these lines. And I never fell in love with anything else. But today when I know that it’s gone, I feel as if my memories of that smile are murdered. When I think of it, I see ghosts of the dead smile. And I don’t want to live with ghosts. So I have two options; either I choose to love something new, move on in life with this thing called hope to find new love or I end this quest permanently. I choose the later.” He looked at the blade and the rat poison. He picked both up and cautiously moved to the toilet. After locking the door from inside, he announced to himself, “My last INDEPENDENT Choice!”

Next morning he was found dead in the filthy, red toilet. In a corner, a blooded blade and an empty rat poison bottle was found.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The city of hills and the sea - II

16 Jyotsna

My experiences with Mumbai have always been fodder for contemplation and debate whilst sitting at the narrow kitchen window of my apartment we now famously call ‘16Jyotsna’. 

‘16Jyotsna’ is so popular now that it’s a landmark for the delivery boys of my area. They happily deliver whatsoever, ever since my roommate has taught me to tip them adequately and I might add deservingly – given they religiously deliver the parcel all drenched in the heavy rains -- though we still debate whether tipping off waiters/delivery boys is a bribe or not.

‘16 Jyotsna’ is a one-BHK apartment (as per Mumbai’s standards of space, I can firmly say it’s luxuriously spacious). The abode of four young (well if you still consider 25+ to be young age, or else my next argument would be… we are young at heart!!!) bachelors. But this experience is not about my apartment or its residents. It’s about people -- endless in number and excitingly varied in behavior -- who ring our doorbell (annoyingly sometimes bang the door).

That Saturday evening had a perfect story-like setting…

The drizzling rain was falling to the ground in ever changing frequency. I was at home on a weekend - which was rare - even more so…Alone. After extending my afternoon nap into a full-fledged sleep, I was still lying in bed, lights switched off; looking out the window at the fading sunlight going off completely.
Such evenings at ‘16 Jyotsna’ have been utilized by me, to make those long weekend phone calls to my beloved family members scattered all across the country. I had just finished speaking with Maa. She informed me that her knee problem had re-aggravated and had been taken to a doctor. Sometimes it feels sad that despite all the love you have for your parents, you cannot actually do much, beyond sending them a few gifts once in a while. In my heart, I thanked my cousins who are there with my parents to help them out in such situations.

 With these thoughts on my mind, I was tossing in bed when the doorbell rang. Replying to hundreds (Ok… that’s an exaggeration!) of courier boys and bill collectors throughout the day, I was fed up of answering the doorbell.

“Not now, yaar!!” I groaned, as I dragged myself to the door when bell rang again.

Standing behind the grills of my door was an old lady. She looked caged, not though by the grills of my door but her own world of worries. She was carrying a few papers in her right hand and some money, clutched in her left. When I opened the grills, she felt assured that I would listen and so she said hopefully “I need help.” This was followed by silence, lasting for almost thirty seconds.

Finally I asked “How?”

“My husband is hospitalized in Rajawadi. Doctor says I need to buy these medicines,” she said extending the medical transcripts to me “as soon as possible. I don’t have sufficient money. Please help.”

No pretense. No blessings. No formalities of begging.

In the midst, of the festive Ganesh Pooja -- the biggest religio-cultural extravaganza of Mumbai -- which operates mostly on the money collected as “Chanda” from residents and donations received from various legal/illegal funds; here was this old lady at my door, trying to collect some “Chanda” for herself and not the Almighty Lord. How do I decide whether her case was genuine or she was just another thug who had mastered her art so well that it appeared real?

 I gave her long stare and then asked a few routine questions to appear as if I was inquiring about the case in detail.

She informed me that she had visited over a 100 houses since afternoon and could arrange for Rs. 850. The total cost of medicine was approximately Rs. 1500. She had Rs. 500 with herself. So she needed only Rs. 150.

Hmmm… not a great amount when you book a Multiplex ticket. But, when it has to go as pure alms and when you doubt the intentions of the recipient, it appears too much. I wasn’t sure what to do. It took almost 5 minutes of an intense internal conflict reflected through myriad facial expressions to reach that decision. Well, the decision was made, I asked her to wait there and returned to my room. Now the question was, how much? Looking into my wallet I calculated --

Assuming that her every word was true, I began carefully debating over the following --

She has been going around collecting money since afternoon which meant for almost six hours by then.
She has covered almost a 100 houses and managed to collect 850 bucks. That meant she will have to visit at least 20 more houses to gather the remaining Rs 150.Judging by her looks, she must have been over 50 years. All buildings in the vicinity have at least 3-4 floors. If she was climbing up and down all these buildings to get this money – considering her age also - can I believe that her problem is genuine?

I recalled what
 Maa once told me that she would only visit me in Mumbai when I change my residence since it’s very problematic for her to climb up to the third floor.

 And with this thought, all efforts towards any further reasoning vanished. I pulled out two hundred rupee notes and gave it to her. I tried to smile at her but since it didn’t come naturally so I scrapped the attempt. Just as I was about to close the door, she took out a fifty rupee note from her bag and extended it towards me, “Son, I need only 150 rupees. This will suffice. Thank you.”

I didn’t say anything and shut the door. But I stood there, behind the closed door, just for a while, feeling guilt and shame. I could hear the loud speakers playing “Bollywood-ised” prayers at the pandals of Lord Ganesh.

As I stood there, I recalled a similar evening from the recent past.

There were 4-5 teenage boys standing in front of me; the tallest and probably the oldest, with a checkbook; the shortest holding a miniature of the Lord Ganesh. I gave them a questioning look, to which the tallest guy replied, “We are from Navyuvak Ganesh Pooja Mandili. Like every year, this year too, we are organizing Ganesh Pooja in the society. We are here to collect funds from all residents.”

“But I don’t come for

“You can always come. It’s in your area. You should come. After all, almost every resident in this lane, and even some from lane no. 3 have given us funds,” he paused for a while to study if there was any
change in my expression. Finding none, he continued his list of justifications, “moreover…we don’t just take money from you, we also give you a receipt. So it’s very authentic. See!” He flashed his receipt book at me. I gestured my disinterest in the book.

This time, the kid with the Ganesh idol tried his luck, “You see sir… if you don’t support us… how will we be able to celebrate this festival, which is for no one but the Lord Ganesh? If we don’t, the Lord will be angry with the residents of this area.”

And then, all of them took turns to persuade me.

I smiled, amused by their attempt, went inside and took out a 50 rupee note from my wallet.

When I handed them the note, there was grimace on their faces. Something they wanted to say, but couldn’t. They took the money and wrote me a receipt. While handing the receipt to me, the tallest guy finally spoke his mind, “No one gives such small amounts. We generally don’t take less than Rs. 101. Anyways, come and collect your prasad for sure.”

 A few days later, while returning from work, I saw a few of those same boys, all drunk, dancing to the tunes of modernized “aartis”.

Sitting at my kitchen window, I am still trying to figure out…

 “What decides genuineness? The receipt or refund?”

P.S.: This blog was entered in the Scribe Hunt by The Youth Express ( and has been adjusted as the 2nd runner up in "Personal Experiences" Category. The top image is downloaded and cropped from the Facebook page of the same.

To read other posts from The City of Hills and the Sea, click below:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Naxalism = A robin-hood-ish desire to equalize “classes” or a clear case of in-house terrorism?

My morning newspaper reported that Indian Central government is considering various plans for multidimensional operations in all affected states. While reading the news in auto rickshaw, I exhaled with “Fuck Naxalites”.

“Wo log yaha bhi aa rahe hai saab. Bahut jaldi, (they are coming here too, sir. Very soon),” my auto rickshaw driver informed me. In the rear-view mirror, I could only see his eyes. I could see certain confidence… certain surety in those eyes. It scared me and that scariness filled my heart with an instant hatred for him. I wanted to shout back with thousand questions aimed at his understanding on the subject but then decided against it. My only expression in disapproval of his surety was to be rude to him while paying my rickshaw fare.

However, his statement remained in my mind. When I got back home, I Googled “Naxalites” and was led to a wikipage. I was intrigued by its history. Something that started as early as in 1967 has no solution as yet. But then I laugh at myself by the realization that Kashmir issue had started in 1947, and by now we have just adjusted ourselves to live with its horrors, and terrorist events which offshoots from there, in and around our livelihoods.

A movement that started off to omit class-divide it India, or at least voice against it, is now creating more divides than ever and guess what, it has its origin to Communist Party of China (read Maoist), which in itself is originated from the ideas of Marx and Lenin! I am sure China could never use a weapon better than this ‘ideology’ against India. By the way, I must admit the kinda language used on wiki to describe their ideologies is exceptionally out-of-the-world; I had to read and reread entire article at least four times. I wonder, how they explain these high-funda concepts to those illiterate “lower class fighters”! Or do they care to explain anything?

Probably they had a reason to revolt. Probably they were oppressed for so long that they couldn’t take any more. Probably they contained their anger long enough to be contained any more. But probably, they were simply used for some personal and/or political mileage? Who knows?

It is sad to note that this movement started in West Bengal, a state that I and most of my fellow Indians regarded as the state of Intellectuals. The wikipage also has a map which shows various states being or about to be affected by this movement which tells me that the targeted districts includes few from Maharashtra and Eastern U.P.; former my place of residence, later my parents’. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Raj Thackeray has any plan to stop these “outsiders” from infiltrating into Maharashtra, because I am sure the U.P. government has none; she is busy making elephant idols.

Standing in middle of these racing thought-horses at midnight, I feel sorry for the kids from rural areas and Adivasi region where I teach conversational English with some of my colleagues. I wondered with my eyes wide and blank, “This is what we have in future for them?” Then, I smiled to myself, “at least they will be ‘English Speaking’ Naxalites who will be able to read wiki to understand the ideology they will subscribe to.”

P.S.: Two movies on this subject I came across:
1) “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” that you may like watching – well made, well acted and with beautiful music.
2) “Red Alert” that you may conveniently avoid – simply, a bad movie.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The city of hills and the sea – I


It was raining heavily and to board an overcrowded bus on Andheri-Asalpha-Ghatkopar route was a task in itself. But somehow I could get into and secure a place to stand in the corner, not very comfortably though. I plugged my earphones in and played “Mora Piya mose bolat nahi” in my cell phone. In few seconds I forgot that there were people overhauling at me, that there was bad odor all around, that I was half-rain-soaked, and that I had to buy a ticket for myself. I guess that’s how we adapt to in Mumbai; we stop caring about these small, small things in life in an attempt to identify the big picture. But many a times we end up living a life whose meaning either we don’t understand or we shrug off the desire to understand. Am not sure, which of these applies to me or whether it does apply at all but at an hour like that, I didn’t care to think about any such matter. So I started humming the song and turned my head from left to right, looking at people around me (I love watching people, their expressions – and expressionlessness and their behavior). In the midst of many faces, what I saw was a “situation”. There was this big man holding a boy, sitting at the window seat, by his collar and was shaking him left, right and center. I tried to make sense out of it, but it was a foolish attempt; one can’t make sense out of such situations.

I looked around. There were some people who were standing to observe the situation, and JUST observe! And still there were some, who didn’t care to observe and were involved in their routine of the bus travel, including the conductor, who was ignorantly issuing tickets to other passengers. Guess we all live by this thing called Routine. At times I wonder whether it was the “spirit of Mumbai” that encourages people to resume their routine even just an hour after a bomb is blasted or this compulsive addiction to their routines!

“What to do? What to do? What to do?” my mind raced, “Why everyone is so indifferent to this? Is not-to-react the most right way to react? Why no one is asking ‘what has happened’?” There were so many ‘What’s and ‘Why’s but no answers seen. And then I realized, “why am I expecting from others? What am I doing to this?” Almost fifteen minutes had passed since I had seen this situation out there and I was still standing at my secured position.

“Why? Isn’t it the most practical thing to do? After all that’s not my problem so why the hell should I get into it? He is a big guy. What if he bashes me too? That may intensify the situation, so why not chuck it? And the boy being beaten up should be courageous enough to stand up and bash back this hooligan. He should stand up for himself. That’s what this city is all about right, to stand for your own cause? I don’t know what this city is all about. All I know is that I don’t want to get into it. My bus stop will arrive in sometime and I will go home and sleep. I am already tired of the day’s work and don’t wish to take anything more,” with this I lowered myself to look out of the window and told myself, “Another ten minutes and my stop will arrive. I better move towards the exit.” On the way to the front exit, something stuck within me. I just stopped at the site of this situation, as if my standing there alone will stop that bastard from bullying the boy. But I couldn’t stand there for long because it had no effect on him and I couldn’t take my own cowardice to speak up against something I truly believed was wrong. I moved two steps further, then thought, “if not now, then when? If not you, then who?” The faces of children, with whom I interact during my volunteering classes and deliver sessions of truth, bravery and life appeared in my mind. It all appeared hollow in that moment.

I stopped and turned to the guy who was sitting in front of that boy. “What has happened?” I was loud enough to ensure that the buffoon hears me out. Before that man could speak out, he shouted something in Marathi which I didn’t understand. I asked that fellow again. He said, “It seems this kid said something to him... some abuse while boarding the bus and this fellow is beating him since then.”

When I asked that boy to say sorry and end this whole issue, everyone around informed me that he already had. I asked that buffoon, what his problem was then. He said, “A sorry doesn’t work here. And then again started shouting in Marathi.” By that time, people started scolding him.

“Then what matters to you?”

“How much more you gonna beat that kid for whatever he said?”

“Have you not done enough already?”

Meanwhile, my stop had arrived. The bus stopped but I wasn’t sure if I should get down. I wanted this to end before I leave. But then decided against it and almost ran to the door and jumped out of the bus since it had started already.

When the bus passed by me, I didn’t look inside. I wanted to believe that the issue was resolved, that the man must have stopped beating that boy and that if it happened so, I had a role to play. But deep inside my heart, I knew I could have done better, much earlier and more significant. Who is to blame; the practical Mumbaikar (well that’s another debate whether I can call myself a Mumbaikar since neither I nor my parents) inside me or the weakling who dared not to stand for what he believed in, at the right time?

P.S.: To read more on Mumbai, you may please read a series, called encounters with maximum city by Nilay.

To read other posts from The City of Hills and the Sea, click below:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A city of hills and the sea

It has been six years since I arrived in this city. And in all these years my love with city has blossomed exponentially. It’s like the love in a family – that despite knowing the badness of a member, we do not stop loving him or her. Same goes for this city. I talk about the bad roads, the bomb blasts, the political nuisance, the pollution, the population and the chaos but at the end of it all I don’t forget to mention – But this is my sweetheart city.

I am not very sure what is it that I can account my love for; but the extremity with which this city survives is amazing. Be it the slums contrasted to the 5-star hotels or the rich, tall buildings standing next to a series of chawls. Be it the underworld, the political goons and corrupt officials on one side and honest, aware and law abiding citizens on the other. Be it the potholed roads (and even the so called highways) or some nice, memory-stricken lanes in south Mumbai. And of course, a series of hills (which are either being cut down monstrously or being converted into hill towns) and a deep sea that surrounds it from almost three sides!!! Extreme contrasts, that’s what this city is made up of and its rules of survival remain enigmatic for this reason.

To explore my mesmerized self, I plan to write a series of stories. Please note, I don’t say ‘articles’ as I am a compulsive fictionist. However, I will try my best to retain the originality and the essence of situations and the characters. Since this would be compilation of experiences and not incidences, I would prefer to write in first person. And yes, I don’t intend to plan this series. It may come every day, and at times it may not come even for months. Coz, that’s the way I write. And neither will it have fixed number of episodes. It can’t, as my affair with the city is everlasting.

To make this series more comprehensive, I invite you all to share YOUR experiences, the love-hate stories, with this city. Let’s participate for this city of hills and the sea; the city, you and I love!

So here comes the first story of this series, titled as “Weaklings?” Read out and let me know your views. [Will post tomorrow, going for a movie now :)]

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Judgment

11:46 PM, 12th Feb, 2007

Lt Col. R. K. Rathore, the judge for the case of Captain Vijayendra Singh, was in a serious dilemma. He had handled many cases in his career with severe complexities. But this one was different. Not complex, but just different.

How does one court marshal a soldier who deserves a Vir Charka? What if I make a wrong decision? It has the power to kill the faith this soldier would have in judicial system if he is ‘not guilty but punished’ or spoil the culture of military if he is ‘guilty but not punished’. And moreover it is not the case of right versus wrong; but right against more right. In such case, how does one evaluates and decrees the right degree of punishment?

01:14 AM, 21st Aug, 2006

It was raining heavily in the upper range of Himalayas in Arunanchal Pradesh, near the China (Tibet)-India border. In such opaque rains, it is not expected from both parties to infiltrate, but the greed of power is such that it breaches any such expectations.

Captain Vijayendra Singh was walking in the dense, dark and damp forest with his troupe of three soldiers; all drenched in the rains. After a few rounds of patrolling, they mutually decided that all was pretty okay and they could rest for a while. They sat down, opened the beer bottles and took a sip each. The weather was frigid and the rains had made it worse. They all sensed hunger, almost at the same time. None was carrying anything to eat, except Vijayendra. He smiled and pulled a small packet out. Everyone looked at everyone else, though no one could actually see anyone. The packet contained Cocaine; raw and real. He placed the powder in everyone’s hand and asked them to take a piece of paper, roll it and suck it in. “It will help you beat your appetite and keep you awake,” he said. The troupe followed its captain directive and closed their eyes after the processing was over. They didn’t realize whether it was just a moment or a lifetime that had passed before they opened their eyes after hearing the sound of bullet. They immediately ran to hide behind a safe place and once settled, indentified the direction of the fire. It was north. And it appeared that the enemy was approaching nearer. The troupe looked at Vijayendra, who was trying to connect to the base through wireless, for command. No connection. He looked at his team with a straight face. “Do or die! Farewell, soldiers,” he told them and then directed all in different directions, taking the front position himself. It appeared there were more than fifteen from the enemy troupe. He told himself, “Wo pandrah, hum char? Bahut naainsaafi hai!! (They fifteen, we only four? Not fair!)” and smiled to his untimely and poor sense of humor. After that what followed was firing, and more firing; deaths, and more deaths.

It was the time of dawn in the land of dawn-lit mountains (that is the meaning of ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ in Sanskrit) that Vijayendra realized the firing had stopped. He tried his wireless again and was successful in being connected this time. He briefed his base team about the happenings of the last night, put the wireless off and closed his eyes. He could feel nine bullets in different parts of his body. Suddenly the absence of his troupe struck him. No one was seen around. He tried getting up, but couldn’t. In around two hour’s time, the base team arrived and captured the area. He was taken to army hospital where he was told that his entire troupe, except him, was martyred on the battlefield, killing a total of 23 soldiers and 3 half dead. A proud smiled appeared on his half-woken face.

The next day, newspapers had carried the story of Indian soldiers’ gallantry and had informed that Captain Vijayendra Singh may be honored with Vir Chakra.

03:35 PM, 25th Oct, 2006

The doctor entered in Captain Vijayendra Singh’s room, closed the door behind, and asked him to sign on a few discharge formalities. While Vijayendra was signing the papers, doctor asked, “Did you intake any drug that night?”

Vijayendra looked up and stared at the doctor’s face for a minute, without any response and without any remorse. Sometimes to lie or not to lie becomes a huge decision in itself. But he took his decision and nodded in a “yes”.

“Your reports show that. And so does the postmortem for the other three,” informed the doc.

10:00 AM, 4th Dec, 2006

While the nomination of Captain Singh was in consideration, one of the regiments filed a case of his “drug abuse on duty” in the court marshal. Since then Vijayendra was made inaccessible to public and media, who were informed that the captain had to be admitted again and yet unrecovered.

01:00 AM, 13th Feb, 2007

What is more right? To save one’s country or to not use (or abuse) any drug on duty? The court can offer only legal judgment, but who can deliver a moral judgment on this? In courts, we deal with events and their evidences. They are the only logical blocks to reach a conclusion. How often we consider a ‘circumstance’? He took Cocaine on duty; that’s, for sure, is a crime. But was he not forced into it by the circumstance he was sent into, by the same entity, called duty? Did he do it for the pleasure this drug offered or in response to the immediacy that circumstances created? Who knows? And by the logic of law, possessing the drug by itself is a crime and the person who does, becomes an integral part of illegal drug trafficking. Charges are many, arguments are many and so are counter arguments. The question remains is, whether he was eligible for Vir Charka as he and his troupe of three had killed, with élan, twenty three enemies and got arrested three. The argument is whether he was the veer (brave) who killed the enemies or it was his inflated sense which was stimulated by the drug usage? In a film, for a drunken scene, if an actor takes in a peg and acts, who would know the beauty of the scene is by the efforts of the actor or the drink?

Lt Col. Rathore thought of the last time Vijayendra had looked at him in the courtroom. It was the look which said, “I wish to live a life or die a death; but not to live a death, please!” He knew exactly what a court marshal meant.

On his bed, Lt Col Rathore closed his eyes and pulled the sheet up over his face and told himself, “Tomorrow… I need to take a decision. I don’t know what it would be, but God… please help me to take the most right one.”

10:00 AM 14th Feb, 2007

Lt Col. R. K. Rathore walked into a packed courtroom. While the media outside still awaited the announcement of Vir Chakra to Captain Vijayendra Singh, from the whispers around and previous discussions with his counterparts, Lt Col. Rathore knew that the armed forces had already declared Vijayendra guilty. “Which stream of thoughts am I going to flow with today?” He wouldn’t know.

Sitting in the judge’s chair, he listened to last few arguments for and against the case with a stone face for approximately forty five minutes. Then there was a silence for a minute and few minutes of whispers before he announced, “GUILTY!

“Captain Vijayendra Singh has breached all codes of conduct for Indian Army and has set a horrendous example to our fellow soldiers by abusing drugs on duty. Not only that, he has been found forcing it to his troupe and misusing the power of his captainship. This has brought utter shame to all of us. Not only that, he has, in fact, brutally murdered the dignity that armed forces withhold in the public eye. And for this extreme crime, he is to be hanged, till death.”

There was an air of shock in that room. Everyone knew, and wished, Vijayendra to be pronounced as guilty. But a death sentence? That did not figure in wildest of anyone’s dreams.
“Captain Singh, do you have to say anything?” asked the judge.

“No, sir,” said Vijayendra and tried his best to smile. This was the first time that he had uttered something during the entire trial. Only two people in the courtroom knew this was the best possible judgment; to die a death.

08:00 AM 15th Feb, 2007

The morning newspapers read, “Captain Vijayendra Singh, who had fought bravely on field was declared a martyr after he could not recover from his ruptured body, yesterday. Captain Singh and his troupe of three soldiers had killed 23 enemy soldiers in a battle on 21st Aug, 2006 and had got arrested 3 of them. The Armed forces has declared to honor his gallantry with Param Vir Chakra, the highest military decoration awarded for the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Survival of the fittest?

In a summer afternoon, when their mothers and elder sisters were taking a nap and their fathers and elder brothers were out for work, seven children from the neighborhood came out of their homes and gathered around the sand heap collected to make a building nearby. They were all in the age range of six to nine and would generally get together to spend their afternoon in the summer vacations.

Uday, the eight years old and the fattest amongst all said, “listen! Today, let’s make a house out of the sand.”

Everyone agreed and took their positions. Uday ran to push Rishabh who was standing near the area where the sand was a little moist and could hold for longer. “Hey move some place else,” he called out. Rishabh looked at him and slowly moved away to scout for another location.

They all put their one foot into the sand and started piling up on it. With each repetition, they would settle the sand with their both hands. Once they would be sure that it was set and they could move their foot out, they would slowly drag it out. For some it would stand, for others it would fall. For those it fell they would start all over again.

Subodh, the six years old kid with a thin face and even thinner body was sitting in an extreme corner. Every other kid thought that would be the most inappropriate place to work. He tried several times but the sand was so dry that it would fall every time. He looked around to find some water to moisten the sand but there was none. He scratched his head and wiped the sweat with his neatly folded handkerchief. With a repeat of this activity, his hanky was pretty much wet. An idea suddenly stuck him. He drenched his hanky to pour down his sweat into the sand. Only two-three drops came out. Then with his thumb, he wiped his forehead to get some more drops. From this another idea erupted. He spitted in the sand. And that was it. He mixed his saliva properly in the sand he wished to use. Then he placed his foot again and started piling up the moistened sand. He was sure it would hold now. Then he constructed small pillars out of the remained moist sand and placed them carefully on the sides of his foot that would make the opening for the gate. Then carefully, he took his foot out. Woila! The foot cave stood still. He then took some dry sand on his palm and gently patted on the roof and walls of the cave from inside. Then he made some designs on the roof with dry sand available around. Finally he spitted some more to make walls around his cave. Then he picked up a waste piece of paper lying around and took out his small pencil to write on it. He wrote, “For my maa and papa. From your dear son, Subodh.” and placed on the gates of the cave near the pillars. When he got up, there was a satisfied look on his face.

Till then everyone was done, few successful and other unsuccessful and given up. They were all going around what others had made. Rocky, the seven years old with spiky hairs, ran to see what Subodh had made when he saw him standing. When he first looked at creation he gasped and shouted aloud, “Oh my god! This is so beautiful!!!” With this all other children ran towards him.

“Wow! This is really good yaar!”

“How could you make it on this side? It was so dry!!”

“Subodh is a genius!”

Uday pulled every one out to see the cave closely. Once studied properly, he said to all kids, “All right! This is good. And good things should belong to everyone. Hence Subodh can’t make it for his parents only. Our parents also deserve good caves.”

Rishabh started to speak, “But this is made by Subodh and…”

“Do you want me to break your head?” asked Uday, and then as if he was the king and others his subjects he addressed all, “See, I can prove it’s not Subodh’s property.” Then he turned to Subodh and asked, “Tell me Subodh, does the sand you used belong to you?”

Subodh nodded his head from left to right in a ‘no’.

“How did you moisten the sand?”

“With my saliva.”

Rishabh thought, “Now that is purely his.”

“Al right. Do you know how the saliva is formed?” asked Uday and paused for a while. On seeing that Rishabh was about to answer him he answered himself in a louder voice to stop him from speaking anything. “It is formed from the water that we drink. This water comes in our taps for free. So it belongs to no one. Hence the spit you used does not belong to you. And the labor? That too is a result of the energy that you get from the food you eat that is grown by farmers in the ground which belongs to on one.”

He was interrupted by Rishabh again, “but his parents must have paid for that food and hence it belongs…”

Uday once again cut Rishabh’s point and announced to all, “We are not to bring the matters of money ever. My mother says it’s the root of all evils. And only evil people talk about evil things. Hence Rishabh is an evil. And all evil must be destroyed.” And with this he ran towards Rishabh who had already started running to save himself. All other children were very confused on what was happening. To avoid any stress on their mind, they assumed following the runner and the chaser as the most apt thing to do.

After he had chased Rishabh away, Uday stopped, took a deep breath and turned back. He looked at all those who were following him and smiled, “it’s good when people follow you.” He then raised his hand as a signal to stop and said once again, “every good thing belongs to everyone no matter who built it. So let’s go and claim our right on that cave. When they all returned to the original place, they found no cave there. When they looked around, they could see Subodh, walking slowly, his feet full of sand, his hand carrying a piece of paper, his body language angry and confused, talking to himself, was going away.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Storyteller

The afternoon was hot. The grasses on the field had gone yellow, offering a golden touch to the scene. Against the field, stood the majestic house of Zamindar Sunil Singh. Early morning the servants in the house would open all the doors and windows to let the sun come in, except those which belonged to the room on the second floor, left corner of the house. The room, if opened would open to a small balcony, the door to which usually opened at the onset of afternoon. And this was the time.

Vasundhara opened the door and came out. She leaned on the railing for a moment and looked out to the open field. She went in and opened the windows. The room was fully lit now. She walked to the bed where Priyambada was still sleeping. She woke her up, “Get up, sweetheart! See, sun uncle has arrived in your room. Say hello to him.”

“Didi… Let me sleep for five minutes more naa, pleaseeeeee!!”

“No Priya, it’s already very late. Get up fast. Your father must be coming in for lunch.”

Priyambada half opened her eyes and negotiated, “Okay, four minutes?”

“No baby, you need to get up now,” said Vasundhara and pulled her in her hap.

She dragged the wheel chair from behind the curtains and placed Priyambada on it carefully. Then resting her knees to the ground, she pulled up her face up and said, “Baby you are so beautiful. Let’s wash your face to give a wonderful glow. Okay?” Priyambada smiled in her reply.

Zamindar Sunil Singh was a rich man. He was married twice but currently lived life of a widower. His first marriage was against his parents will and since it was not performed in the social function but in a temple, no one really gave any sanction to that. Sunil lived with his wife in a small cottage in the outskirts of the village. His wife died in the first few months of their marriage without leaving any significant memories. After two years, surrendering to continuous pestering of his family, Sunil Singh married again to a beautiful woman. They were happily married and were expecting a baby when his second wife learnt about his infidelity. She had died soon after the delivery of her first child.

Lunch with Zamindar Sunil Singh was a custom. That was only time in a day when Priyambada would see her father. And as a practice they would never talk while eating. Each day after food, her father would ask, “How are you feeling today, darling?”

“I am good, father,” would be her short reply.

In rest of the waking hours Vasundhara was her only and dearly beloved companion. After the demise of his wife, Zamindar had appointed Vasundhara to take care of his polio-hit child. And it was not only polio which concerned Priyambada. She was also living with a great degree of weakness and reduced body mass. Doctors in and around the village found themselves incapable of helping her to recover. They could only reduce her pain to the extent that she could bear it in performing her daily routine tasks.

Vasundhara seated Priyambada on the wheel chair again and started moving to her room. From the corner of her eyes, she noticed that she was being watched. She assumed it was not her but his daughter on the chair, whom he was watching.

Her room was the only world Priyambada knew. Her balcony was the gateway from her world to the world of others, a journey that she traveled through the tales told by Vasundhara.

“Vasundhara didi, will we play the story game today?” asked Priyambada when she was carefully placed on her bed.

“Yes, my darling, today I will tell you a special tale. A tale of a princess.”

“Princess! Wow!”

“Yes, a little, cute princess, just like you.”

“Was she also handicap, just like me?”

To this Vasundhara couldn’t reply. She caressed her head through her hairs and said, “You are the sweetest girl in this world, my darling!”

Then she began the story.

“In the month of January, in extremely cold weather, was born a cute princess to Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Rani Phoolmati.”

“Didi, how is a child born?” asked Priyambada.

“Well, God puts the baby in mother’s womb. The baby lives there for some time and then comes out when she is ready.”

“But why does God put the baby only in mother’s womb and not father’s?”

“Hmmm… good question. May be your teacher, when you will go to school, can answer this.”

“But pitaji says I will not go to school. Then how will I learn?”

“No Priya, we will take you to the school.” And in an attempt to change the topic she asked, “Now shall I continue the story?”

“Yes, please,” she smiled.

“They named the little child as Saraswati. They wished their daughter to be the most learned person in the kingdom. When she grew up, they appointed a teacher for her. One day, her teacher brought along a young boy who was very intelligent and honest. Saraswati liked his company a lot. Two of them, had good time learning, playing and growing up together. But when Maharaja Ranbir Singh got to know about this, he threw the teacher and the boy out of his house.”

It was almost a routine game for them, in which Vasundhara would narrate a story to Priyambada, after which the little girl would extrapolate and present an extension of the story from her viewpoint. Priyambada loved this play. In the darkness of her existence, these were the only few moments that would infuse a light of creativity. There were times when Priyambada would beautifully twine her own little life experiences with fantasy.

When Vasundhara ended her story at the point where the princess finds her prince again and lives happily ever after, Priyambada gave her narration.

“The princess, one night wished to go to the bathroom. The night was dark and the prince was out on war. She tried locating the lantern, but couldn’t. She called for her servant, but no one arrived. She felt an urgency to run. On the way, she banged into the table, fell down and hurt herself. Neither could she move, nor hold on to the urgency to urinate. She peed lying on the floor. She cried, but no one heard. The next afternoon, when the prince arrived, he found her dear princess on the floor, all messy and stingy. He held her by his strong arms and lifted her up, took her to the washroom, cleaned her and changed her dress. All this while, the princess didn’t speak a word. Her eyes were swollen and were full of tears. When the prince placed her on the bed, looked in her eyes, and caressed her hairs, she closed her eyes and cried; cried aloud. But this cry was not filled with pain but joy. The teardrops flew down from the corner of her closed eyes.”

Priyambada looked at Vasundhara who was lost in the reiteration of past, but in way that it held the capacity of not appearing as being one.

“I think the compassion grows stronger when the relationship goes through the moments of pain,” said Priyambada.

“How in her age?” wondered Vasundhara.

The evening had arrived. They loved to watch the setting sun. In those hours, they would not talk to each other, but just stare in the sky. We spend our present either in our past or future. There are very few moments that contain the exactness of the present and those are the only moments in which we live. These two ladies would spend these long evenings in the exactitude of the present, watching sun’s minutest gesticulations.

Before she would leave for the day, Vasundhara would switch on the television and increase the volume to a little higher note than required. This was to ensure that loneliness in the house is beaten by the noise.


It was the month of July and was raining heavily. The problem with rainy season is, its not clear when the afternoon ends and evening starts or when evenings merge into night for it to envelop the earth.

After their lunch, Priyambada said, “Didi, I want to play the story game.”

“Yes, Priya. Let’s go to your room and we will play.”

“No I want to play here. I want to show our game to Pitaji.”

“No Priya, your father is busy. Let’s go.”

Pitaji, would you not like to listen to our stories? Are you very busy?” she asked her father.

Mr. Singh looked at her in a way that at times we look at something with no intention of looking at it. He said, “Yes, sweetheart, why not? I would love to listen to your stories.”

“Now didi, you tell me one story and I will tell you one.”

Vasundhara was not sure. She felt a bit suffocated in the room. She wanted to run out as fast as she could. It was a feeling similar to what a c would have felt in the vicinity of a tiger, after being attacked by him once, not killed but hurt badly. Her mind raced like a wild horse, but she pretended to be calm and smiled at Priyambada.

“Okay, today I will tell you a story of a king.”

Priyambada heard the story in all her earnestness. She was not questioning as she usually did. Neither did she appear trying to find clues for her extrapolation. That’s how we behave when we have our say ready.

When Vasundhara finished her story, she looked at Priyambada. Her face was emotionless, her eyes distant. She looked like a grown up girl, jailed in the body of a child. She whispered, “Priya?”

“Yes didi, now my turn,” she paused for some moments, took a deep breath, “It goes like this,” she begun.

“It was the month of July and every day, it rained heavily. The queen had gone to her mother’s home for a month. She had left her ten years old son with his nurse. One night the son heard a cry. It was like a whisper, a deep painful whisper. But before he could locate its direction, it was gone. This repeated for quite some days before that one night.

The night was dark black, as your hairs, didi. The son got up to use the washroom. While peeing, he heard that whisper again. It was very clear and appeared to be very near. He tried looking around but the darkness didn’t allow him to see anything. He came to his room and opened his door. He walked up slowly and reached the stairs that led to the hall. Just at the start of the stairs, was the study room for the king. He stopped. He could hear the whispers more clearly now. It appeared that someone was moaning which was being obstructed forcefully. He recognized the voice. It was his nurse’s. After a while he sensed someone coming out of the room and walking down into the hall. In the light of the hall, he realized it was his father.

Next day, when the boy met his nurse, she was not at her usual. She was not even looking into his eyes. She wished to finish her work fast and go back home before evening. The boy didn’t ask much. He knew what she was going through and didn’t wish to shatter her. In evening when he met his father, he found him in his usual self. He walked up to him, slapped him tight, rushed to his room and cut his vein. He couldn’t live the shame of being a rapist’s son,” she paused for a while and then said, “The irony of a rape is that, usually, it makes the victim guiltier than rapist.”

She looked at Vasundhara. She was looking down at her feet, holding his right hand in the left, tightly closed. She then looked at his father. He was busy with his hookah.

Priyambada smiled and said, “The story ends here.”

“Okay. Go to your room now,” said her father.

Vasundhara took Priyambada to her room, placed her in bed, switched on the television, closed the doors and left for her home.

She knew who the story was about. The thought of last night generated a strong shiver. She was trying to figure out how did Priyambada got to know about it. She tried her best but couldn’t gather much. Sometimes, our pain, our sadness is so profound that we don’t care to think anything beyond that. And the pain of being raped is something that no one can empathize with, no one can share. It’s exclusive for the sufferer.

It was around eight past evening. Vasundhara was lying on her jute bed, still shivering. Outside, it was drizzling. She avoided closing her eyes because she didn’t wish to think of last night. But the eyes were not the culprits, she realized, as with eyes wide open too, she could only think of the last night. She thought of Priyambada and her story, “With what face will I go in front of her again? She knows it. She knows it in every detail. She was the prince of her story… She was the prince…” she was stiffened in her bed for a second. And in the next instant she almost jumped from the bed and ran towards the Zamindar’s house. She ran and ran and when arrived at the door, she banged on it restlessly. The old gatekeeper, a lantern in one hand, opened the door, “Vasundhara bitia, so late in night?”

She didn’t care to respond. She snatched the lantern from him and ran the stairs up to Priyambada’s room. She was not in her bed. She looked around. She was not seen. She rushed to the bathroom. She was not there too. Her wheelchair was not seen. Then a mild stroke of rainy wind opened and closed the balcony door. Vasundhara pulled the lantern up and cautiously walked up to the door. She pushed the door open. The wheel chair was lying next to the balcony railing. Priyambada was not seen. A thought appeared in Vasundhara’s mind which she shrugged off immediately. She closed her eyes. She didn’t wish to move; neither did she wish to see.

“What happened bitia?” asked the gatekeeper who had arrived there by then.

Vasundhara opened her eyes and looked at him. Then she walked to the railing, moved the lantern out and looked down.

The lantern crashed on the ground followed by the echo of pain and guilt through the drizzles of the night.