A spoonfull of ‘mommy’ wisdom

My younger one – K is Nine now. I sure miss the days when I could scoop him up in my arms and cuddle him, rubbing my nose against the little hollow at the base of  his throat. It always brought out squeals of joy and shouts of mock anger “mumma let me down” that spurred me to cuddle him even more. He would then wrap his little chubby feet around my waist holding me tight throwing his head back so it hung in the air, waiting for the spin he loved to get . Round we whooshed through the air before collapsing on the bed,  breathless with laughter, dizzy with the spinning and very very happy.

God knows I cant do that to him anymore! (He weighs about 35 kgs now :) )  I sorely miss his baby- hood. Carrying him in my arms, rocking him to sleep in my laps, nuzzling him in the crook of my arm while we sat on a rocking chair reading his favorite book, letting him lie on my stomach as we napped on lazy summer afternoons.

“They grow up too fast, enjoy them while they are young!” I heard that a bit too often in those wonderful ‘baby filled’ days. The wistfulness and the look of longing that accompanied those words of advice did seem genuine. But to me engulfed with baby things of my two almost twin kids (They are a year and few months apart!!!) it never really rang a bell. I am glad to say I did enjoy them – We had countless soapy bubble filled bath sessions, and endless gibberish filled conversations, we had long bumpy pram walks and horribly out of tune singing sessions. It was a mad, fun filled time. But it was not all fun!

There were days i was so tired that I could have slept standing up. Days when the diaper basket was overflowing and all the milk bottles lay used up & dirty and days when the kids wouldn’t stop crying. Days when I fervently  wished to god that I could somehow grow either an extra pair of hands or an extra lap to accommodate both my little ones at the same time and the ability to stay up three days without a wink of sleep.

In retrospect I realize now that the frustrations were caused more because of my ideas of what ‘should’ be. Kids should eat healthy, home cooked elaborate meals with greens and as many other colours as possible. They should drink at  least three glasses of milk – preferably unsweetened. Kids should not watch TV while they ate. They should stay away from mud and dirt and germs that lurk everywhere ready to grab them….The list was endless and it made my ‘new-mommy’ life difficult.

If I knew then what i know now – That kids are strong and buoyant. That as long as they get kindness , small doses of spirituality and a lot of unconditional love they will thrive. That regardless of the hundreds of psychological theories that talk about thousands of ways parents screw up their kids lives forever in reality there is not much that we can do wrong. As long as we understand them and care for them and let them be.

I am glad I have learned my lesson now. I realize with gratitude that nine is still not ‘too old’. That there are many days even now when he throws his still chubby arms around me  and sleeps blissfully using my arm as a makeshift pillow. On days like these, no matter how much my arm hurts I never pull it away. Because I am old now and I have learned my lessons and I know that soon this too will pass. And before it does, before it becomes another of those long list of ‘happy memories’ I want to hold on to it, live it and savor it.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Woke up to this news on the front page yesterday! A 35 year old mom feeds her 4 year old and 1 year old daughters rusted nails in their glass of milk, causing them to choke and die. After they die, she sleeps in the same bed as the dead girls for two days, before disposing off the bodies in a nearby well.

Not the kind of story one wants to wake up to on any day. But also not the kind of story one can read and forget! What lead Sunita (the mother) to such a violent crime? Is she truly a ‘heartless’ mother or just severely ‘mentally disturbed’? The story of the ‘killer mother’ made headlines in almost all the papers. One of the local dailies also carried a picture of the father. He had told the newspaper how between him and his three brothers his two daughters were the only ‘girls’ and now the family had no daughters! He blamed Sunita for what had happened accusing her of mental instability saying that she had made an attempt to kill the girls earlier too.

Shocked and intrigued, I read all the following stories on the event. It emerged that

Sunita’s husband and in-laws used to harass her for giving birth to girls.

Her husband worked as a salesman and also got some rental income making approximately 7-8 thousand a month. He spent most of it on alcohol and did not give her any/ enough money for running the home. The police found nothing to eat in her one room home except 200 gm of stinking wheat flour.  The milk she had fed the girls had been ‘borrowed’ from a neighbor. On being asked why she did what she did, Sunita told the police that the girls were always hungry! She could not take it anymore!

Can  Sunita really be blamed for what happened? Isn’t Sunita’s husband responsible for the murders? Though he did not actually feed them the nails, he did not leave much else to feed them with!

Or her in-laws her family and neighbours? Everyone of these was aware of the cruelties that Sunita was undergoing. Could nobody stand up for her?

What about the role of the local administration or government? Why is there no place in our cities and town that a  woman can go to, to get food and shelter for her starving children and  herself?

Or the local police ? In desperate times, shouldn’t a woman like Sunita be able to turn to the police for help? The fact of the matter is that no woman feels safe stepping into a police station! Unless she has a politician or bureaucrat father/ brother/ husband! In all probability if Sunita had taken her complaint of harassment to the police she would have been sent right back. Policemen don’t want to waste their time handling ‘silly domestic matters’! I once met a lady whose second husband was threatening to sleep with her teenage daughter from her first marriage. He was beating her regularly and she was afraid she would not be able to hold him off much longer. When she went to the police, they told her “Has he slept with her till now? Come to us after he does it!” Huh???

Later, as I step out of my home to drop my son to school, we come across a large crowd of school going children. It is a ‘save girls rally’! The local MLA is addressing the children proclaiming loudly that “Girls have as much a right to be born as boys”

All I can think is

Yes! they do Mr MLA, but they also have a right to live after they are born!

If they have to live their lives hiding from filthy stares and groping hands. If they have to live their lives being tortured and hated for no fault of theirs. If they have to live their lives at the mercy of violent and abusive men who treat them like little more than animals. Maybe, just maybe, they are better dead than born!!

My heart goes out to Sunita and to thousands of women like her. Women who are tortured and beaten by their husbands and in-laws to a state that they can no longer think straight. When there seems no way out but to either kill oneself or the ‘unwanted’ children or both!!!

A smaller news in the same paper grabs my attention too. The state has a new Director General of Police. He says his priority is ‘Women’s Safety’. I wish I could believe him. But alas! I have seen too many of them say the same thing for too many years now. I will believe them when I see a change!

mom kills daughters

As of now I just pray. For Sunita, in the jail. And for her innocent daughters. Wherever they are. I hope they understand that even behind this violent-violent act was hidden an unfortunate mother’s endless love!

The Reading Child

“Children these days don’t read” is a common complaint nowadays. Teachers, parents and people in general are always complaining about the absence of reading habit amongst today’s children. As a parent of two little bookworms I am often asked what I did to encourage the ‘reading habit’?

“Nothing”, I reply . Or actually nothing that seemed like work to do!

I take pleasure in reading. It is my favorite pass time and so from the day I conceived ‘M’ I began to read to her. I wasn’t doing this as a mission or with an aim to gain something. I began to do it because it was fun.

Just when I discovered I was pregnant, I came across a book from Scholastic called ‘Read To Your Bunny’. It was the cutest picture book ever . It said “Read to your bunny often…it’s twenty minutes of fun… It’s twenty minutes of moonshine and twenty minutes of sun… something , something, something…and ended with …soon your bunny will read to you.”

read to bunny

Each night I read this little ditty out to the tiny one still in my tummy. Looking back it seems a bit crazy. I can now picture how completely idiotic I must have looked to an onlooker. A thirty year old holding a picture book reading out silly ditties to her oversized tummy. Back then in the midst of the new mummyhood bug I didn’t care! It seemed like the most usual thing to do.

After M was born our reading session continued almost without a pause. Regardless of how old or actually how young M was, and whether she was or wasn’t comprehending anything, I kept reading to her. I did it more as a method of bonding. It wasn’t designed to trigger her intelligence or catapult her into the world of geniuses! It was just fun and the only way I really knew to spend quality time with her. I am not big on gibberish talk and coochie cooing so reading provided me a ‘saner’ option for connecting with my little one.

I am not sure if it was this early exposure to books that made ‘M’ a bookworm. Maybe she would have loved books even if she hadn’t seen one till she was five!I know of some friends’ children who have been bitten by the reading bug after having led a ‘book-less’ life till they were much older and some who have been surrounded by books but haven’t picked up the reading habit. So like anything else it is pretty much a gamble! A gamble in which the stakes seem to be high. Teachers across the board seem to agree that children who are readers tend to be able to focus better, grasp more and have a stronger hold on language.

My own experience is that children who are ‘readers’ know more about the world. They understand situations and emotional dilemmas better. The right kind of books can help make kids more capable of dealing with challenging situations and making mature decisions. Most importantly I know from experience that a child who loves books is never without a friend. I am glad that my children read because it keeps them aware and sharp. But most of all I am happy they read because I know that no matter where they are, with a book by their side they will never be alone.

Life is full of challenges. Books provide not only escape and relief from these challenges but sometimes powerful insight and wisdom based on others experiences and thoughts. And I hope that when faced with choices that require them to make difficult decisions, books will provide my children the extra leverage they need to make the right decision. I also pray that no matter how harsh life’s realities get my kids will always have at their beck and call a world of fantasy and comic relief that makes every trouble of theirs appear small.

Books have been my friends and guides in times when no one was and I am relieved to see them extend the same hand of friendship to my little ones. My kids and me are truly blessed.

 This post was written for Parentous . Parentous is the fastest growing parenting community in India. You must head to their amazing site for many more interesting articles on all aspects of parenting.

Questions that demand answers

“My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

 This post is part of an interesting exercise by Blogadda. Different teams compete in a fiction writing competition . Each team member continues the story from where the earlier one left off.

maximus dramaticus This is the 27th episode of this story. Read the previous part of this story here “One mystery is solved but it carries another mystery,” Aryan said on the phone when Tara narrated him the entire incident. “What is that asked Tara?” Why does Lallan want to kidnap you? It obviously has something to do with Shekhar? What is it that Lallan still wants from Shekhar? He has already promised Lallan the house. He has also ensured Lalllan that he will no longer be involved in drug dealing. So what is it that Shekhar is still holding? It has to be something big that can be a threat to Lallan? Tara had no answer to that question. Aryan was not saying it, but Tara understood what he was implying. No matter how much she wanted to forgive Shekhar and move on it was obvious that there was still something more that he was hiding. He hadn’t come completely clean. Tara could bear this no longer. “Aryan, I am going to speak to Shekhar right now. I deserve to know everything. That’s the only way we can win this war” “No Tara, wait for me. Let me reach the house. We will speak with Shekhar together.” Tara conceded that it may be a good idea to wait for Aryan. He would be in a better position to analyze what Shekar told them than herself. She was too emotionally involved with Shekhar to listen to him objectively. She decided to wait for Aryan. Cyrus left the house to drop Jennifer to her hotel. Shekhar and Roohi went to the bedroom to sleep. Tara sat alone waiting for Aryan to reach. Tara’s mind drifted to the ten years of her marriage with Shekhar. He had always been a very devoted husband. Maybe, too devoted. He brought her expensive gifts for her birthdays. They always went on a fancy holiday for their anniversaries. While Tara enjoyed all the attention she often reprimanded Shekhar on his expensive tastes. Usually he ignored her comments on the matter. A few times she had even demanded to be told where he found so much money from? He always attributed it to some publisher. At that time Tara never gave much thought to the matter. She just thought that Shekhar was indeed lucky to get the kind of deals that he managed to get from publishing houses. “My love for Shekhar had blinded me! How could I a journalist myself believe that all that money just came out of nowhere. That this house in Chuna mandi was a ‘gift’ from a heirless uncle! Bullshit!” —————————————————————————————————————– Jennifer and Cyrus reached the hotel. As Cyrus was turning to leave Jennifer asked him if he would stay with her that night. “I am a bit scared Cyrus. Having you with me will give me strength.” Cyrus thought about it. “And I also need to tell you what really happened. The diary was a fake but the real story needs to be revealed. And I want to tell it to you. No matter what you think about me after knowing. I want to be honest with you. Completely honest.” Said Jennifer Cyrus agreed. Once in the room Jennifer went into the bathroom to freshen up. Her phone was lying on the bed. Cyrus could not resist picking it up. As he scrolled through the call details he saw that the last few calls were from Lallan. Just then Jennifer stepped out. She took the phone from Cyrus and said “ No calls tonight. No distractions. Tonight let’s just devote to listening to each other.” Saying this she switched off her phone and reaching out to Cyrus’s phone switched it off too.”


When Aryan reached the Chuna Mandi house he found Tara in deep thought. On seeing Aryan she sprang up. “Shekhar is sleeping in the room with Roohi. Aryan, you wait here I will go and wake him up and we can talk right here. That way Roohi will not be disturbed.” Aryan nodded in agreement. No sooner had Tara left the room that she came back distraught. “Shekhar is not in the room! Where could he have gone? ” “Have you checked for a note?” Asked Aryan.


Meanwhile Samantha and lallan were having a heated argument. “No he will not be harmed.” Said Samantha “But he is our weakest link now. He knows too much about everything. Keeping him alive is not wise.” Said lallan “There are other ways of buying his silence. Cyrus, Tara or even Roohi!” said Samantha “The minute we harm Tara or Roohi, Shekhar will become a wild bull. And wild bulls are difficult to control. No it is better that Shekhar goes. His time has come.” Saying this he left the room. Samantha slumped in the couch. She had seen the determination in lallan’s eyes and there was a truth to what he said. She was filled with apprehension. She knew what Lallan was capable of. Hadn’t she seen him operate closely for last so many years? Lallan was a devil. “When one partners with the devil one has to pay the price of it!” She had payed her price. She had lost her innocence. She had become a monster. A monster who had chosen power and money over love. And she had been content with the choice she had made. Until Shekhar came back! Shekhar’s return to Delhi, being in touch with him again, seeing him regularly had made her start wondering if her decision had been so correct. She looked at the room around her. The plush couches, the silk bedspreads, the large portrait on her wall – symbols of her achievements did not seem to provide her the same comfort anymore. She looked at the large solitaire on her ring finger. The stone that had given her the power to rule. But in her eyes today it’s white glow was tinged with red.


Back at the hotel Jennifer was telling Cyrus her story. Her true story. “As I had told you earlier I lived in the naval camp with my parents. I used to go cycling in the colony. There was a lonely road in our colony that ran along the coastline. I used to love watching the sea and would often stop there to gaze at the waves. Once when I was sitting there, my cycle leaning against a tree, a young officer approached me. He was handsome and smart and soon we started meeting at the same point almost every day. I fell in love with him and being in love I…” She did not know how to say the words. Knowing Cyrus’s feeling for her. “You made love?” completed Cyrus “Yes!” said Jennifer hesitantly. “I was young and I thought we were in love. And it seemed right back then. I only realized later that I had fallen into a trap. My photographs were clicked and circulated in the camp. When I got to know I demanded that they be deleted. He called me to his house saying that he wanted to show me that he had deleted everything from his mobile and apologize. When I went to his home he was not alone. There were two other men. I tried my best to get away but I was no match for those men. From then on I became a puppet in their hands. These men were into drugs and often forced me to accompany them to rave parties. It was at one such party that I met Lallan.” “As I had told you earlier Lallan approached me as a fashion photographer. I was going through hell and had nobody to lean on. Lallan gained my confidence. When I told him about the three men he said he would help me get rid of them. I was desperate. Their abuse was increasing and so was my anger and frustration. So when Lallan gave me the razor and told me to kill them I thought he was helping me to escape. But how wrong I was!!!” “Lallan drove me to the officers house that night. I was very nervous. He said he would wait outside in the car for me and would help me to escape after the murder. It seemed foolproof to me. All I had to do was to slit the throats of my three tormentors take their mobiles and run away with Lallan to Kochi. Lallan told me that Kochi was his birthplace. Once there we could marry and live happily ever after.” “But ‘happily ever after’ was not in god’s plans for me. I killed my three tormenters to fall into the clutches of an even bigger devil. From that day onwards Lallan became my master. I had handed over the men’s mobiles to him trusting him to destroy them. But he kept them ‘safe’ as evidence against me. He had also managed to get a video of me entering the house of that officer on the night of the murder. I was completely trapped.” “ Lallan made me kill 5 more people. He would introduce me to the ‘target’. Once I had gained the target’s confidence I had to sleep with him. And then kill him. Lallan would be waiting outside to ‘help me escape’ or rather to ensure that I did not escape” “It had become a nightmare. I was losing my sanity. When Lallan gave me the sixth target I was unable to complete the job. Instead of killing the ‘target’ I slashed my own wrist. As the blood oozed out of my veins I felt peace. At last I was going to be free. But luck has never been on my side. Lallan had peeped in from the window to see if I was doing my job. He killed the ‘target’ and brought me out.” “I did not want to be saved. I did not want to live anymore. But Lallan was determined to keep me alive. I had become his hen who lay golden eggs. And my death would be a major loss.” “But I too had reached my limit. I refused to kill anyone anymore. Lallan may have realized too that I had reached breaking point. He agreed to let me go.” Cyrus had been quiet during the whole narration. His heart went out to Jenny. How much she had suffered. Yes she had committed murders eight murders actually but was she a killer? His heart said no! She was a victim herself. A victim of unscrupulous men, who had no qualms about using her weakness for their advantage. Now Cyrus spoke up “But why would Lallan leave you? Wouldn’t it be better to let you die?” Jennifer sighed, “Men like Lallan are shrewd. He kept me alive so he could use me if and when needed. He said if I killed myself he would release all the evidence he held. I would be branded a murderer. Death would release me from Lallan’s trap but it would bring shame on my parents and family. I have a younger sister, what kind of life she would have if the world got to know that her elder sister was a cold-blooded murderer.” Jennifer fell quiet. Even her sobbing had subsided. A gloom fell over the room Cyrus wondered “Was there a way of saving his Jennifer? Could he still love Jennifer after knowing her gory past? Could he live with someone who had taken lives?” Life has a way of throwing questions at you that you can not answer

The next part of the story will be available  Here

maximus dramaticus

In pursuit of ‘happiness’

 “My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”


 This post is part of an interesting exercise by Blogadda. Different teams compete in a fiction writing competition . Each team member continues the story from where the earlier one left off.

maximus dramaticus

The logo of our team for the blogadda challenge

Read the previous  part of this story here – connections and more

Madam S was not a woman to talk about her self to anyone. And Lallan was no exception. She had not shared with him about her past.

Her past…
Samantha thought about it lesser and lesser these days. So that it seemed to not belong to her any longer. It was indeed difficult to imagine even for her the time when she was Seema. Yes that was the name her parents had given her. Fresh faced and innocent, determine to prove herself she had come to Delhi University to study but had fallen in the clutches of Percival or Professor Paresh Borah, as he began to call himself later.

He had used her and abused her and laid out a trap that would have been impossible to get out of ever for anyone. But she was a fighter. Samantha was. There was a time, long back when Samantha felt there was no way out for her. Percival had her in his clutches in every way. He had her pictures. Samantha smiled at the naivety of Seema! The girl who thought, that her pictures in compromising positions were the worst things in the world. Percival knew how to use that naiveté to his advantage. And he did! From being his plaything Seema, became the plaything of Percival’s top notch contacts. And from there on it was downhill all the way. The murders, the razor… These were all Percival’s gifts to her.

But was it all bad? Seema would have said yes. But Samantha was not sure anymore. She quite liked what she had become now. Strong, determined, powerful, cruel! Yes, cruel. What was wrong with being cruel anyway? Cruel ensured that one survived. And survival was most important wasn’t it?

That is why she had dumped Shekhar. Shekahar! Who had come as a breath of fresh air in her life at that time when she was in deepest despair. At the time of the murders…

She had been tempted then to give up everything and settle down with Shekhar. He would have managed it or so he said. But by then she had changed. She was Seema no longer. The middle class girl who wanted middle class things. She had become Samantha. She wanted power, money, and influence. Stuff that she could not get in the life that Shekhar offered. Shekhar though young and sincere would only be a drug peddler. Samantha’s journey to becoming Madam S required someone bigger and stronger. Someone, who would give her a name and status which would make her invincible.

Looking back she had no regrets. She got what she had bargained for. There had been moments of weakness. Like the time she got to know that Shekhar was engaged. She had felt a sense of loss then. Had even wanted him back for a time, but then good sense had prevailed. She had sacrificed petty pursuits like love and contentment for bigger goals like money and influence. And she was Happy. That she had become a ‘bitch’ in the process was inevitable.

A ‘bitch’ who had no qualms about trapping anyone not even Shekhar!


After hearing Jennifer’s story Tara and Cyrus became even more certain that if anyone could help them it would be Aryan. They left Roohi in Jennifer’s care and set off. Tara tried to contact Shekhar but his number was not reachable. She worried about him. The last few days had put a distance between them that seemed insurmountable. She just prayed that Aryan would be able to solve this mess and Shekhar and she would be able to return to their old lives soon.Where the only thing left to unearth were little Roohi’s latest hiding spots!

The next part of this story can be read here – Her paintbrush does it again


This is episode 18 in a story that is being written by 11 team members from different parts of the country. The exercise began last week. None of us knew each other before the commencement of this exercise. That itself makes this exercise interesting. For me, who stays a mile away from mystery stories with ghastly murders and coded messages, this exercise is a challenge of a different kind. It is a challenge to the writer in me. Can I write half hanging sentences with pointers that lead the reader in a certain direction without revealing much? More importantly , since each of us gets just a couple of  hours to read the previous writers work and build the story from there. Can I keep up? Can I build on characters I did not create, add details to situations someone else has conjured up and keep track of the ever-changing sequence that eleven different writers contribute to?  By the end of next week, which is when this challenge is expected to finish, I will know the answers. But for now let me say that though it is unnerving I am nevertheless enjoying this ride!

Teaching: A closer look at the most exalted profession on Teachers Day

Today is Teachers Day

It has become fashionable on days like today to write status messages, forward what’s app notes and other stuff exalting the teaching profession. This is not necessarily bad. Even if it is for a day at least there is some buzz given to the teaching profession once a year. At least there is some acknowledgement to the role they play in forming a society.

Teaching is a profession that is not very sought after in our country (by and large). You won’t see too many upper middle class men saying that they wish to teach. For young women though it is considered an ideal profession as it is ‘convenient’ for the family.
As part of a recent research assignment that involved talking to teachers and students in government schools and colleges about status of teachers. I was disillusioned to find the following:

  • Children of teachers do not wish to be teachers. Most of them opt for civil services, police service, bank service, MBA anything but teaching. It seems that the teaching job is not something they aspire to.
  • Most college students (Both girls and boys) said that teaching would be their last resort. In their words, “If we do not make it anywhere else”.
  • While earlier In-laws would not permit women to work. In today’s times of high prices and higher aspirations, a girl with a B. Ed. degree is the most attractive in the marriage market. During the course of our data collection we heard of instances where daughter in laws were being forced to take up teaching in middle or lower middle class families. In one of the B.ed. colleges we were told about a young woman who had gone into labour but her father in law insisted that she appear for her B.Ed interview before she go to the hospital. In laws seems to love ‘teacher’ daughter in laws because while they earn an additional income they are also conveniently available to do all the household jobs.
  • Teacher morale in Government schools and colleges is very low. While the pay is good, there are few or no incentives for performing better or working harder. Moreover there is political interference that leaves teachers at the mercy of middlemen and MLA’s / MPs who seldom have respect for teachers and often treat their transfers as a means of making money.

Teaching is not just a profession but a ‘calling’. It is in no way ‘lesser’ than a doctor or an engineer from IIT. It requires hard work and inexhaustible patience. It requires a loving heart and a desire to help, everyone!
Our ancient texts give ‘guru’ the highest position, putting a guru even before god. Sadly, but in the harsh modern world apart from a few elite institutions this is no longer the case. The profession has been mired – on the inside by teachers who do not really do justice to their work and on the outside by materialistic culture that puts money and power above everything else, even a ‘guru’.
There is an urgent need to correct this situation. A teacher who does not find dignity and take pride in his or her work is not going to be able to produce a generation that builds India into a superpower. Let us save our teachers, lets return them their respect, dignity and pride. Lets treat them with the reverence they truly deserve because in their hands lies our future.


PS: I also feel a bit piqued by messages and forwards that seem to suggest that all of us as mothers etc are teachers and thus the day is for all of us. I feel (maybe unjustifiably) that this attempt to widen the definition of a teacher somehow undermines what they do. All of us look after our children when they are ill do we send each other messages on Doctors day? A teacher is someone who has taken on the burden to b a guide to children who are complete strangers to him/ her. That is the beauty of it. To do this tiring, often ‘thankless’ job day in and day out for little people who are demanding/ often selfish/ and in no way related to you. Who will not in all probability bring you any extra reward or laurels, who will not take care of you when you are old and infirm , who will not take forward your family name. in short it is a labour of love. ‘Selfless’ love. Lets leave Teachers Day  for them and not attempt to partake of their glory. We have our ‘Mothers days’ and ‘Fathers days’ and all the days in between

platform no. 11 – part two

This is in continuation to the story written last week. The story began in response to a WOW prompt “And then I missed my train”. … The first part of the story was published on this blog. For those of you who missed it. Here is the link

But not all the teasing, the name calling, being branded a ‘coward’ or worse a ‘girl’ could get me to take the twelve-foot plunge. I have never accepted a challenge of drinking a bottle of beer in one breath or going up to a girl in the girls college next door and saying something flirty! Or even of throwing a chalk at Chaturvedi sir who used to teach us Hindi in class 11 and 12 when his back was turned towards us. I had never bunked a class and gone to the cinema or stolen money from the little tin box my mom keeps near the pooja area to buy some cigarettes.

In short I had never done anything out of the ordinary/ unexpected. And yet here I was recklessly taking off my apron and following this girl out of the door. I followed her onto the pavement. We walked silently together, me subtly leading the way. When we reached “Nathu’s dhaba” I stepped inside the shop. We walked past the shop front. One man sat on a stone platform in the corner, sweating over a large kadhai, from which emerged hot pooris. Two young boys sat cross-legged nearby rolling out the dough into perfect circles. Another young boy put the pooris into a woven bamboo basket and took them to the pot-bellied Nathu ji who sat lordlike behind the steel and glass counter kept on the other side of the shop front. From here he ladled his signature aloo subji into steel katoris and kept a sharp eye on the young boy as he carefully counted and kept six pooris in each plate. The waiters picked the ready ‘thalis’ and served them to the waiting customers. Ever so often Nathuji would put his hand into the electronically cooled glass counter and take out some milk cake. He weighed this carefully on the weighing scale kept on a table behind him and hand that over too to be served to a customer. He took a break from this only to count out the money that the waiter brought as customers finished their meal, paid up and returned burping and satisfied to their lives.

Unlike my cafe, the dhaba was almost full. We sat at the back on iron benches facing each other. A plastic table lay between us. A wall fan whirred near our heads but still could not drown out the noise of chatter and clinking of the utensils around us. I looked around and felt a bit ashamed. This was not the sort of place to bring a girl I thought. But then I used to bring Sonu here all the time. She loved the food. We always ate from the same plate. The first time I was conscious of the waiters shocked gaze and the sniggers as he pointed us out to his fellow waiters. But then I got used to it. It was intimate and pleasant and much cheaper. Extra pooris did not cost as much as an added plate! But then this was not my Sonu! Infact there was no ‘My Sonu’ anymore. Sonu had gotten married last month.

“Why did you let her get married to someone else?” Her question broke my reverie. I was ashamed. And a little bit angry. Why should she read my personal thoughts like this? It was not fair. “Sorry!” she said apologetically. Just then the waiter came asking for our order. Before I could say anything she said “One plate Aloo puri” to me she said “We will share!” I hadn’t expected this. She looked too sophisticated to be associating with the likes of me. Moreover I didn’t even know her name yet. “Gauri” She said. “That’s my name. Though now I am just called G. And I have no issues sharing a plate with you. If you don’t mind that is.” I kept quiet. I got the feeling that there was nothing to say. She seemed to know everything.

The food arrived. G dug in. I watched hesitantly. I felt shy to put my fingers in the katori she used. In answer to my thought she pushed the plate towards me. I took a tentative bite. But my mind was not on the food. “Who are you and how can you read my thoughts?” I asked silently. “ Let’s finish this and go somewhere quiet. I have a lot to tell you.” Replied G, aloud.

After a helping of extra pooris, G wanted some milkcake. I just wanted her to finish eating so I could know more about this mysterious woman. “Don’t be impatient she said with a laugh. One doesn’t get food like this every day! You eat some too” When we finished eating, I paid quickly and we made our way to an unkempt municipal garden located a small distance away.

G said, “Till two years back I lived in this world just like you. My father was an alcoholic and used to beat my mother every day. Tired of the unending beating one day my mother gave up. She ended her life. My brother too took to drinking and fell in bad company. He stopped coming home for days. That left only my father and me at home. It was hell. He lay in a drunken stupor all day. Whenever the effect of alcohol wore off he would start hurling abuses at me, throwing stuff and creating a ruckus. We were from a well off family and my mother had taught as a government teacher all her life. So there was enough saving for him to get his drinks. It was actually a relief when he would drink his quota again and pass off. I was a loner. Even though I went to college, I kept to myself and spoke to no one. “

“Then one day I met Uma in the library. Library was my favorite spot in the world. The silence of the books appealed to me. That day Uma approached me. “How are you Gauri?” She seemed to know everything about me. My drunk dad, my dead mom and my wayward brother. She could read my thoughts. It was unnerving at first. When she made me the offer, I thought about it. At first I was unsure even suspicious if it was some sort of a trick. But then I took it. “

“Offer? What offer?” By now I had become accustomed to not having the voice my thoughts. It was quite pleasant actually. To have someone who could read your mind. No need to say anything, explain oneself or play any games of social proprieties.

“The offer that I am going to make to you. But first the rules. You have to reply within twenty-four hours. You can not speak about this to anyone ever. Anyway if you do, no one will believe you. In fact they will think that you are crazy and lock you up in an asylum. Remember this chance comes to only a selected few and that too just once in their life time. If you do not accept the offer you will never get another chance ever. “

I had become nervous. My forehead was sweating profusely and I was sure my heart beats could be heard a kilometer away. I sensed that my life was going to change forever. Just how I wasn’t sure but I had no doubt that something significant was happening to me. I wanted to run away and never set eyes on this woman again. I wanted to stay and listen to every word she said. The fear and curiosity were tearing me apart.

“There is no point running away now. The offer has chosen you “

“But why me? “ I asked

“None of us know why we were chosen?”

“There are more? How many?”

“I am not sure. I have met about a hundred till now. There could be more, many more. We look ordinary just like any other person on the road. The only difference is that we can communicate with each other through our thoughts. “

“You can read my thoughts! Am I one of you already then?” I answered panicking somewhat.

“No , You are not. Though I can read your mind You can’t read my thoughts yet. You are a live contact. In fact you are my first live contact.”

Part III coming soon

Platform no. 11

And I missed my train…

I rushed to the railway station. Outside the jumble of auto rickshaws, horse carts, cycle rickshaws, passengers with big canvas bags presented a maze. As though by some magic I wove through them expertly. I sensed an extra sense within me as if the pull of G had filled my senses with an extra power. I sensed that the porter rolling his iron cart ladled with an odd assortment of trunks and suitcases followed by the fat woman with her two children would take a sudden turn and come directly in my course. I also somehow knew in advance that a boy would come running towards them and he would be forced to stop his rolling cart suddenly, throwing off the precariously placed luggage on the platform. With a sense of deja vu I watched the sequence of events unfold in front of my eyes. Could I really have known this would happen? Or was I just feeling this way in my excited state of mind?

I seemed to know exactly where platform eleven was supposed to be. Even though there were no signs to direct me. How could there be a sign the station had only eight platforms. Strange! you say! ya but then what about my meeting with G had not been strange?

I was a waiter in a cafe that sold everything from South Indian idlis to Punjabi Dal Makhani and American Burgers. I wasn’t proud of my job but one had to make a living and to do that this was as good a job as any. Born as the third child in  a poor farmer’s family on the outskirts of Rajasthan does not give one too much choice in terms of careers. I had been bright and managed to finish high school. Then I had gone to the government college in the district headquarter. Wanting to study further but having  no money I had been forced to come to Alwar. Here I had enrolled myself in MCom. and to make ends meet had taken up work as a waiter in a cafe in the main market area. Life was trudging along. It was not the life I wanted. Like everyone else my age  I too craved for a white-collar job, a car, a small house of my own … dreams of a middle class existence, ordinary in every way.

The ordinariness of my existence makes what happened to me that day even more extra ordinary. Like always I was cleaning the cafe in the morning. Business is slow in the morning so there are only a couple of us  on duty. Manohar and I are in charge of opening the shutters, dusting the tables, putting everything in order and serving the stray customers. Manohar was on leave so I was alone in the cafe. Nathuji, the assistant cook was there in the kitchen with a few of his cronies, shouting orders  and obscenities, FM played on a transistor in the kitchen but only faint shreds of the music could be heard outside in the hall. Just then the bell that tinkles each time a customer pushes open the door, jingled. I looked up to see a young woman walk in. She looked  around the hall for a waiter perhaps, on spotting me she smiled. I greeted her as I had been trained to do by the manager and pointed her towards a corner table. Then I hastened off to bring a glass of water and menu for my first customer of the day.

When I gave her the menu, she did not take it. “You tell me what to eat?” Oh! she was that type , I thought . The young and yuppie type that come into the cafe to sample something wonderful! Give me the local specialty types! Must be a tourist! I thought. Must have come to visit the sanctuary located a few kilometers away and wandered off to explore the local town! Something didn’t quite fit though. She didn’t have a camera though or the tell-tale bag behind her shoulders.

I rattled off a list of names of dishes… including almost everything on the menu, as I had been instructed to do. “Never tell a customer what is good. He will assume other things are bad.” was the dictum of the boss! “Keep your preferences out of the cafe.” He had said. If I were to be honest with her  I would have told her that if she wanted to eat something really delicious she ought to go to the halwai in the by-street at the next turn. Nathu ji halwai, in the next by-street ,  served an amazing aloo subji with pooris that were truly awesome and his milkcake was something to die for.

“You want to come” she said, pushing back the chair she was sitting in to get up. “Come… me… where?” I stammered somewhat startled.  “To the halwai on the next bystreet! the one who serves amazing subji , poori and milkcake!”

How did she know? Had I spoken aloud my thoughts? I looked around immediately. Just in case the manager had come in and heard the exchange. I would lose my job if he got to know that I had sent a customer somewhere else. “Don’t worry! she said. A slight mirth in her voice. You didn’t say anything. And by the way… I ma not a yuppie tourist and no, I am not here to go to the sanctuary. And though I don’t mind tasting some nice local delicacy that’s not the purpose I am here.”

I was stunned! Can this girl read my thoughts?

“Yes!” She said, smiling at the puzzlement on my face. “Now are you coming or not?” I really want to taste that milkcake!” I have looked back at that moment a million times in the last twenty-four hours. What made me take off the apron that was part of my uniform and rush behind her? I have never done a reckless thing in my life? I have never even jumped into the lake near my village. The one that has a  cliff looming over it. Almost all the village boys did it. It was like a rite of passage. ..


To be continued…

The WOW prompt this week was“And I missed my train…”

Wow prompts always get me thinking so I sat down to write this story, but then life came in the way. I guess weekends are not as free for moms!!! So I am leaving this here. An unfinished story , to be completed soon. If it catches your fancy do come and look me up in a couple of days. It will be ready to serve and piping hot!

 I have used a lot of  Hindi words in this post. I have to dash off now but will come back to translate them for those who are not familiar with hindi.That’s a promise!! :)




There’s a part in my heart

that sings ding-a-ling-a-ling

it says it misses everything

the joy, laughter & friendly baits

hushed conversations, impatient waits.

There’s a part of my heart

that’s forever an optimist

it draws suns, rainbows and endless bridges

this part goes rap-a-tap-tapa-a-tap-a-tap

how bad can it be?

another chance another dance

this is the only life I have you see

I am holding down this part

stifling it making sure its never free

some black holes swallow

the brightest suns

and unlike what  some wise men say

following ones heart doesn’t always pay.