A Mother’s Regret

It’s the paradox that all parents are faced with. The time when our kids are young, is also the time when we are just setting up home, establishing our careers, getting a grip on our adult responsibilities. Between the constant juggling that household chores, career requirements and social responsibilities demand, time  slips by. And before we know it, our kids are grown up! Raised by doting grandparents, if we are lucky! or in the company of maids and other hired help.

I had my two kids, back to back. Kabir, my younger one is just Nineteen months younger than his sister Maya. The first three years of their lives together are a blur! The details lost in the endless stream of dirty bottles and soiled diapers.  I remember, my predominant thought from that time was of getting away! Getting away from the seemingly endless cries to be fed, burped, cleaned or put to bed. And even from their cute but incessant, high pitched childish prattle.  I craved for silence. For a day, an hour, even a few minutes!  I wasn’t a bad Mom! Just a harassed mom!

My best friend, those days was also a working mom. We shared notes about our sleep deprived lives. Bemoaning the endless list of tasks we faced each morning. It also upset us that we had very little time or energy left to concentrate on our hard earned careers.  We looked forward to the time when the kids would grow up and we could ‘reclaim’ our normal lives.

The friend’s son has now come to class five. This month he leaves home to join a prestigious residential school. She will finally have more ‘her’ time. More time to spend on her work and leisure!  But instead of rejoicing she can’t stop crying. I understand her sorrow completely. The thought that I will be in her place, seeing off my own little girl, next year fills me with dread. And, a sense of regret!  Here are a few words (Not really a poem!) that express my thoughts.

My little girl

All ready to fly

Now that it’s time to let go

I wonder why?

Why I didn’t?

Spend more time

Playing with dolls,

composing silly rhymes,

Sipping tea from little cups

Pretend playing and dressing up

Why didn’t I sit for more hours?

With her head on my laps

Mindless of my  chores

Playing childish games

“Peek a Boo”, “Guess that name”

Visiting the  “tickling monster “

Making funny faces, to hear her roar with laughter

Did I really get enough?

Bubble baths and cook ups

Neighborhood treks and sand play

Hopping races and modeling Clay

Sunday picnics, long evenings in the park

Surprise treats and heart to hearts

 Why we didn’t finger paint more often

Or just lie in bed and have more fun

I wish when I still had the time

 I’d scolded lesser and praised her more,

Corrected lesser and encouraged more,

Punished lesser and sympathized more

Scheduled lesser and indulged  more

 Why was I in such a hurry?

For her to read her own night time story

To feed herself

Choose her own dress

Get herself ready

Make her own decisions

Always in rush to make her independent!

 Now I miss the times she looked for me

Seeking me out for every thing

To fix a button or tie a lace

Make her hair or wipe her face

 Why did I waste all those precious hours

Getting angry, disciplining her hard

And that incessant chatter

That wouldn’t stop

Why didn’t I listen to it with all my heart?

 Cause fulfilling my other responsibilities

All my life I can spend

But my little girl

won’t come back now

Her childhood has come to an end

How were you placed time-wise when your children were young? Did you feel like you had enough time to enjoy their childhood with them? I would love to hear your experiences.


The Dress can be ‘Garbaged’

Couple of years back about this time I was raving and ranting about M leaving. It was all I could talk about or think about or ‘anything’ about. Two years hence I am ‘quieter’ ‘saner’ and infinitely ‘wiser’.

Which is to say…

My eyes don’t tear up each time I run into one of M’s old friends in the market.

I no longer feel guilty eating an ice cream or ordering Chinese because she is not there to share it with me.

I no longer wake up in the middle of the night convinced that something is seriously wrong with her and I just must know what it is right then and there!

I no longer drive around the boundary wall around her school (The boarding school she goes to is two kilometers from my home) hoping to somehow catch a glimpse of her over the fifteen feet tall stone wall .

Or go to someone’s place for the first time and burst into tears because their daughter is exactly M’s size!!

Ya, I know, I was stupid! And I am not proud about it, but whatever…

Here is what I still do
I still write her long long letters about everything that goes on in our lives.I send her copies of essays and debates I have written (even if the subjects are way beyond her 11 year old brains can possibly comprehend).
When she comes home I try to set aside everything and just be with her. Even if that means, sitting together on a couch and reading our respective books. I find the physical proximity not merely comforting but somehow ‘healing’.

I ‘tell’ her much lesser, we ‘ talk’ more.
She speaks lesser, but I listen more.

I find that now because my time with her is no longer consumed by the everyday nitty-gritty’s of homework to be done and disciplining to be achieved the conversations we do have, have more depth. Like the last time she was home she asked me, what I thought was a good age to be on Facebook/ Instagram.

I bit back an instant reply and asked her what her thoughts on the matter were. She recounted all the reasons she thought social media was not meant for kids her age.

I realized she didn’t need my ‘advice’. All she was looking for was a platform to practice airing her newly formed opinions. We talked about all the stuff that could go wrong on social media and had a good laugh at the expense of some youngsters we know who put up a dozen nerdy pictures of themselves for ‘public ‘ consumption everyday.

Somehow not living under the same roof has made us more ‘equal’. I am forced to look at her as an individuals and not merely an extension of me. An individual who has her own life, that she manages autonomously with almost no help or directions from my side

It is not to say that I no longer advice her. I do! But it is given like advice between two ‘equals’ … ‘friends’ perhaps! It doesn’t come with baggage of “have to listen” because I know that the minute she enters ‘her domain” i.e. her school, she will have to make her own judgments. My advice, no matter how sound may or may not seem appropriate and is thus trash-able completely (No questions asked!)
This is very different from the advice I gave her when she went to a day school. Back then, if the teacher hadn’t added the marks properly or a classmate had ‘borrowed’ a favorite book and not returned it. She was questioned the moment she reached home. “Did you speak to M’am so and so? What did she say?”

And though there were many times she wouldn’t have done what she had been ‘advised ‘ to do. And because I have never believed in ‘punishments’ there would be no obvious reprimands. Yet there was always an implicit understanding that she had ‘botched up’. Leaving her – More than a little guilty and me – a little peeved.
Now I feel more like what I imagine a mother of a married daughter may feel. I still offer advice. But it’s offered with a kind of respect. An acknowledgement that I may not completely understand her realities and thus while this is what I think may work she is the only one who can decide whether it will or will not.
It seems like a very subtle difference in theory but in practice it’s a huge leap.

It is a leap from
“Mom knows everything” to “ This is what mom thinks”
It is also a leap from

“You are too young to understand this” to “You understand this best”
It is a shift from

“Just do it, okay?” to “It’s your decision finally”
With these huge leaps in the last two years our relationship has transitioned.

I definitely miss the little girl who hero – worshiped me and looked up to my every word as if it was a sermon from God. But I must say I kind of admire this self confident little lady I got instead. She holds her own in crowds, has her own well thought out likes, dislikes, beliefs and ideas. And no matter how frustrating it is when she refuses to wear that “absolutely gorgeous” dress I bought her for her aunt’s wedding. It is kind of satisfying to hear her say

“Mom it is not so bad but I don’t feel comfortable wearing something so flashy.”

My daughter has a mind of her own. And what’s more she has developed the right vocabulary to express it. She no longer throws a tantrum or remains quiet when things don’t go her way. She takes a firm stand and explains it, usually with sound logic and great conviction.

I for one love it!

The dress can be ‘Garbaged’!

After all, It is just a dress!!!

- maya and me

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.

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.

Too many truths

There is my truth
And then there is yours
You believe in yours
Even though I know mine
Is the only one
That exists
Which one of us is lying
Maybe neither.
There is no one truth
Only what we believe
Or even
What we wish to believe
In this tussle
Of truth, beliefs and wishes
Wishes always win
Or maybe they always lose
Either ways
I feel defeated.