Sakhi's Laghukatha

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My dearest Cookie,

You entered your teenage just recently and you were so very excited about it. Looking at you, so happy and chirpy, swelled my heart. I loved you even more (if that is even possible!) when you refused to have a birthday bash for yourself because you had demanded a costly gift. It was amazing to see that dimply smile on your face when your friends unexpectedly came to wish you. All you girls looked so cute and happy. Touch wood! (No, I don’t really believe in this phrase, but it won’t hurt either ;))

I am writing this letter, and might not give it to you till you are 15 years at least, to let you know a few thoughts that I have had since you were born and are getting stronger as you are turning into a fine young lady.

Now that you are growing up it is not going to be possible for me or daddy to protect you all the time or keep you from harm’s way. No longer will it be possible for us to filter out the news and give you only positive or scientific news to read from newspapers. Days are not very far when you will want to go out alone with your friends and we will be fretting at home till you return home safely. You might want to go on your first date real soon. Things are going to change with all the physical and emotional changes that you are going to experience and we realize that you are no longer our little girl.

With increasing intolerance towards woman individuality in our country, we will be worried about your safety, not just physically but emotionally too. You will have your share of hurts and heartaches, and I am not talking about just the romantic ones. People will be mean when you least expect them to be. You will hear adverse comments on your gender or caste or religion or bodyweight. You will soon find out how dirty it feels to be touched inappropriately when you travel in crowded public transport or how uncomfortable you will be made to feel by some lecherous eyes even when you are fully dressed. These thoughts are painful to me, to say the least, but you will have to go through these experiences nonetheless. Consider these as a part of your growing up process.

With all these adversities of growing up in a regressive society that we live in today and with reducing morals, I know it is going to be tough to keep up your morale, but trust me you will be fine. Don’t confuse between being carefree and careless. Do not misunderstand the word “freedom”. Do not do things you are not comfortable doing just to fit in the group. Do not suffer bullying. Don’t give up on your values and never take abuses lying down. Do not get into the fight of gender-equality or superiority as it will never serve any purpose and you will waste your life proving something that is immaterial in the larger schemes of life. Trust yourself. Fight for your rights and be just to others. Learn to forgive and let go.

I want you to know that you are special. And you will meet more good people in life than bad. A loving family, a few best friends and that special person who will always love you for what you are, will make your life complete. You will be valued for your beautiful heart and not just for the looks you carry. You will be treasured for your hard work and fairness to achieve what you desire and not for the fairness (or the lack of it) of your skin colour. You will be respected for balancing your personal and professional life and not for sacrificing things that you value the most to fan someone’s ego. You will be appreciated for the charities you do and what you give back to the society as your social responsibilities and not because of your body size. You will be cherished, the way I have been, for being you.

Be kind, Be generous and Be happy!

God Bless You…

Lots of love,

Mumma

Dream

Posted on: September 22, 2009

fiction_stamp2First day at Leelapur, an interior hamlet in Utter Pradesh, was like a rude shock for Kahan. Till now he had read about hunger and destitute in books, but never was he in such close quarters with either. He was to serve as an intern in this village for three months. He was allotted a room besides the so-called dispensary. The room was almost the size of his bathroom at home. There was a wrought iron bed in the corner and the mattress did not look too inviting. Now he wasn’t even sure of safe drinking water either.

“Sir, would you like to rest today and start seeing patients tomorrow?” Dukhiya, the attendant, asked half expecting Kahan to run away from this place as soon as possible.

Kahan looked around and did not find any incentive to stay back in the room.

“Come, we will see how many patients are there!” replied Kahan.

“Only a couple of them as there is no doctor for about six months now. The nurse is managing with whatever he has.”

Kahan nodded somberly. He was too overwhelmed by his surrounding to say anything else. As they started towards dispensary, Dukhiya started filling him in about the village and its people. But his conversance did not prepare Kahan for what he was to see in the coming three months.

“Tell me something, why is your name “Dukhiya?” asked Kahan to feel a bit lighter.

“I am told that when I was a baby I used to cry a lot and always had a frown on my face, hence the name.” answered Dukhiya with a grin. Kahan noticed missing incisors. Dukhiya was a slight man with a slouch. His face was weather beaten and lined deeply. Later during his stay he observed that most of the adults in this village looked prematurely aged and had deeply lined faces at very young age.

He was reminded of “colour streaked” hair of young ladies of his city when he saw “flag sign” of malnutrition in the kids here. For one it was fashion, for other it was an aftermath of privation! Day after day Kahan saw and felt despair. Basic amenities were luxury here.  He felt helpless when he could not give injection to many of the children because there was no muscle mass to poke needle into. He was a theist but looking around now, his faith in God was quivering.

*****

“Sir, sir….” shouted Dukhiya knocking at Kahan’s door. Kahan got up from his slumber with a start. He heard dread in Dukhiya’s voice.

“What could it be at this hour!” wondered Kahan looking at his watch. It showed 2 am.

“What is it? Why do you look so alarmed?” asked Kahan while still trying to get oriented to his wakeful state.

“Come sir, come fast, Bijuri is bleeding profusely.”

This was not the first emergency since he came to this village two and half months back, but he had never seen Dukhiya dismayed before. They almost ran to the consulting room. He saw a thin young woman sitting on the floor with her head bowed and her chaperone was crying and cursing profusely. He assumed that they were a mother-daughter duo. As it turned out, the daughter, Bijuri, was a widow since she was sixteen and presently she was brought here as she had miscarried. That explained the cursing. Bijuri did not look up nor did she say anything. It was difficult to tell from her demeanour what was she feeling and it was equally difficult to gauge her age, but she looked to be in her twenties.. With the treatment done he was requested to keep the matter to himself. He reassured them as he sent the duo home.

Feeling numb, Kahan dragged himself to his room and tried to sleep.

He dreamt of a young girl wearing floral pink and yellow frock running around in the field with a balloon in her hand, her unruly hair bouncing with each gallop. He hears her laughter. She runs into a boy and they both hold hands and play some more. The boy is called away leaving behind the girl alone. A small tear trickles down her chubby cheek. She looks around to play with somebody but found herself alone. Suddenly the little girl is whisked away by a lot of skinny and ravenous people. The girl starts wailing and the whole universe is filled with her cry. Kahan wants to snatch her away from the mob but his hands can’t reach her. He sees her being dragged away. Then he sees her again at his clinic, with her head bowed and bleeding. He sees the blood all over the floor. He wipes and wipes but the blood won’t go away. She sits there in the pool of blood looking at Kahan. Kahan frantically tries to stop the bleeding. Bleeding stops. She smiles at him, a rueful smile and walks away. Kahan runs behind her, to find her, to protect her, to tell her that life is much more than what she has found it to be. He runs and runs through the narrow lanes and fields to catch her, frantically looking for her. She slips away. Then he sees her again, on the other end of the field standing under a sandalwood tree. He could smell the perfume. He breathes deeply to fill his being with the aroma. He gingerly takes the steps towards the girl. He reaches the sandalwood tree and looks around for her. His head collides with something hanging from the tree. There he finds her finally, hanging by the twine, a small smile playing on her lips. But this is not the same girl who had come to his clinic. This is the girl with the balloons in her hands…the nine year old girl! Suddenly the mob appears and starts pelting the girl’s dead body with stones.

Kahan wakes up drenched in his own sweat!

Posted on: June 20, 2009

fiction_stamp2Aarohi opened her purse to pay for her shopping and found her purse to be empty of cash. It was good that she was carrying credit card. She made a mental note to talk to Mahir about this. “At least he should have informed me if he took the money” she thought, fuming.

Later that evening after dinner she broached the subject up with Mahir.

“Have you taken money from my purse?”

“Nope. Why do you ask?”

“No? This is the third time in last two months that some money is missing from my purse. I thought you might have taken it for some reason. But when I found that $100 was missing again today, I wanted to confirm.”

“WHAT? Are you serious! But why didn’t you tell me this before?Anyway, how much have you lost till now?”

“About $200…”

There was shock on Mahir’s face. There were only three people in their home. They and their seven year old kid!

Now Aarohi was at lost. Who could be taking the money? She thought of baby sitter or the maid who came once a week for cleaning the apartment, but on thinking harder she concluded that they might not be the culprits.

They forgot about the incidence in a couple of days. “

Why are you crying?” Aarohi asked Bittoo when she went to pick him up from school one day. He didn’t reply. She could make out that he was trying to control but failed to stop tears smearing his cute little face. She didn’t probe more. She hugged him and they came home. But Bittoo sulked the rest of the day and refused to go to school the next day. He went finally to school after a lot of cajoling. But his tantrums increased day by day. Aarohi and Mahir noticed the behavioural changes but they attributed it to the new school, new environment and new friends.

As the days passed Bittoo became introvert and hardly talked to them or anybody. He no longer demanded to listen to a story before going to bed. In fact he no longer demanded for anything. Aarohi and Mahir started contemplating to visit his school and talk to his teachers.

Aarohi went to see Bittoo at night once he was fast asleep. Looking at his cherubic face her eyes welled up.

“What has happened to my little boy?” she started crying softly and bent to kiss her son. As she started going out she saw that Bittoo was holding something in his fist. She was shocked to find $50 note crumpled in his tiny hand. She just collapsed on the bed and sat there holding her head in her hands.

“Where had they gone wrong? Was it due to this foreign land and its culture? Was it something else?” She didn’t know how long she sat there holding her child’s hand.

fiction_stamp2

I was stranded at the airport for about five hours. Reaching home looked like a distant dream. I was bored of reading magazines and news papers. I closed my eyes in a hope to catch up on some sleep. I tried to relax, but human mind is fleeting and so was mine (though my subordinates thought of me as one of the most inhuman bosses!!). I was tempted to flick open my laptop and work. I suppressed the idea.

There was one more announcement of further delay in the flight departure.

I closed my eyes again. Suddenly dad’s face flickered in front of my eyes and I almost reached out to touch him. It vanished as soon as it had appeared! I missed him sometimes… only sometimes! I wondered if I was a normal person. Nothing in my life was indispensable! Or was it?

I remembered that day when my favourite doll went missing. One of the servants or kids might have filched it. My mom was worried how I would manage without that doll. I practically took it everywhere I went. Even to the toilet! I proved my mother wrong. One of the other dolls took my fancy and the older one was forgotten as if it never existed. I was all of three years then!

When I grew up a bit, mom went for her further studies to US of A, leaving me and my dad in India. I missed her. Thankfully she came back in a year and I was glad. This one year made me closer to dad. I started doting on him. A few years later, when the family’s financial condition was compromised due to some social reasons, mom went overseas again to make more money. I cried a lot. I didn’t want her to go. She cajoled and tried her level best to make me understand why it was important for her to go. I understood… I cried for her again only a couple of times in another decade to come. Dad hardly had time to be with me! I came to know very late in my life that his office closed at 5:30 pm! Till date I am not sure where he used to be till 9 or 10 pm! I found solace in my friends. They became my family.

Time flew by; I entered into professional course and with that a new chapter began. I had to go to hostel. The idea of going to a new place, a new life, thrilled me. My so called “boyfriend” of two years cried a lot when I told him about my going away.  I should have been happy at this display of emotions, instead I felt nauseated. I tried keeping in touch with him initially, though things didn’t work out after all. I, now, don’t remember who snapped the ties, but we no longer communicated.

I was excited about the new place, meeting new people and the whole idea of becoming a doctor! I remembered my first party. How excited I was! I had never been to a dance party before. My expectations, though, were ill founded. The whole idea of male and female bodies covered in sweat, touching here and there with gyrating movements; repulsed me. I tasted alcohol for the first time on insistence of my friends. I am unable to contemplate how a bitter thing like that can be savoured so much! The whole scene had an anti-climatic effect on me. I rushed out of the hall for some fresh air. Saw Aashish, a classmate, loitering there. We smiled a “hello-we-know-each-other” smile. He too wasn’t enjoying the party, he told me. That was the first time we had talked to each other. I wanted to go back to hostel and he offered to drop me. I accepted. A few days later, he proposed (of course not for marriage, yet!), I declined. He proposed again, stopped eating food and friends started pressuring me. I gave in. I regret that decision of my life even today. He screwed up 5 years of my life or more aptly put, I let him! I still am not sure how I ever told him that I loved hi.We parted our ways and I vowed to myself not to let anybody rein my life again. In spite of turbulent four years, I am indebted to Aashish for one thing – I appreciate a lot of things in life more, which otherwise I would have taken for granted.

In spite of emotional turmoil, I topped university in the final year. Professional life had just begun. Tough working hours and excessive studies greeted me in postgraduate course. I loved it immensely.

At home, mom had started pestering me about marriage. Idea of an arranged marriage was quite queasy to me. But since I wasn’t ‘involved’ with anybody, I was compelled to “at least” see a few prospective beaus. I and Krunal exchanged our notes on those prospects. Somewhere down the line, we decided to get married to each other. I, now, don’t remember who proposed whom; though he maintains that it was me who proposed him. Thoughts of those early days brought smile on my face. He was perfect for me; my best friend!

Professionally I grew well, became one of the youngest corporate doctors of the State. My tenacity, punctuality and no-nonsense attitude earned me respect and money, also a title of “Lady Hitler” from my subordinates. What they don’t know is, I love this image of mine and the title too!

In the course of time, I drifted from my maternal family. Staying without mom for about 10 years in those crucial growing up years and then about 8 years in hostel made me more practical and somewhat emotionally blunt. When dad passed away a couple of years back, I didn’t feel a vacuum a child feels at losing her parent. I loved him because he was my father but we could never become friends. Mom complained about my gruff behaviour; characteristic unemotional, practical decisions I take; but lately she seems to have resigned herself from improving my behaviour. And its time too! She should have done my character building in my younger years. Now, it was too late. I didn’t hate her or resent her for going away. I just became indifferent. I think, I love her, but I am not very sure!

I came back from my reverie when someone tapped on my shoulder. The plane was held up and the crew was searching high and low for me!!

I sighed… it was too much of soul searching for the day or probably for days to come, though I didn’t get the answer to a question I was faced with for quite sometime now. Was I really as emotionally blunt as I was made out to be?

Sigh…

Mom

Posted on: April 20, 2009

fiction_stamp2“Thud…” He was thrown on the bed so hard, he wailed, more from the shock than pain, which irritated his mother even more. And he got a tight slap again. Suddenly the bell rang and he was spared from getting strangulated. He was all of three months then.

 

Though he never had the memories of those incidents of younger years, he distinctly remembered when he wanted to sleep with his parents once. He was of four years. His father would have loved to have him with them but the look on his mother’s face told him otherwise. But a child that he was he tried to pursue her to allow him.

 

“You better sleep down there; else you know what I can do when your father isn’t there!”

 

Oh, he knew it very well. He urinated that night again in his bed. Of course one more punishment was waiting for him for spoiling the bed. He was stripped of his clothes and was made to stand in the balcony facing the road!

 

He never understood why his mother behaved the way she did. His father was always nice to him. And he had noticed that mother was a different woman around him. But he was scared to tell any of these atrocities to his father since he was threatened with more dire consequences if he ever dared to do so.

 

But for him the scenario became a bit more pleasant when his sister came to his world. He was overjoyed to have a little bundle of love. But he was horrified when the little baby was also thrashed the way he was! It was a pure miracle that the brother-sister duo survived.

 

Their love for each other was like a silver lining of the black cloud.

 

“Chinky, I have lost my sweater today at school. I went and tried to find it but I don’t know where I lost it!” He was almost in tears and was scared to go home to face his mother.

 

“Kuchh nahi hoga bhaiya, don’t worry!” Chinky tried to pacify her brother, who was shaking like a dry leaf.

 

Miraculously their mother didn’t say a word about the sweater and they both breathed sigh of relief. But it was indeed a short lived one. The next day when he was tying a knot to his pajama, his mother came and tied it so tight that it was difficult for him to even breathe. He was left that way the whole day and when he couldn’t hold back he peed in his pajama! Thrice, since he was not allowed to change his pajama!

 

He was 11 years then.

 

He always wished that some relative should come and stay with them since that was the only time his mother didn’t met out the “punishments” to the duo. He never understood what irked his mother. Everybody in his family and extended family praised him for his behaviour and he was in good in studies too. He always tried to please his mother. Somehow he never succeeded.

But recently his anger was brewing, especially when he saw his sister also getting the brunt without any fault of her. Yet, he was courteous in his behaviour lest something irked his mother!

 

But today when he came from school he saw his sister standing in balcony, facing the road… without clothes!!! Something snapped inside him.

 

He rushed up and covered his sister! His mother came menacingly. She had forgotten that her son was now no longer a young boy whom she can intimidate physically. But she did not stop and tried to remove the blanket from her daughter. He couldn’t hold himself any longer.

 

“Thud…..” with all the anger brewing for all these years he hit his mother.

 

“Try touching her once more and you can be sure that you will not live to see a new day in your life.” The thunder in his voice conveyed the message loud and clear.

 

He hugged his sister and took her away with tears running down his face. Tears of what, he couldn’t understand!

fiction_stamp2“Come on, yaar! I think when one is older the need of a spouse is even more. Be it a man or a woman.” Pankti remembered her own words when she had vehemently defended elderly remarriage among her group.

“What if, God forbid, your father was to do the same? What will be your reaction then? Pankti, it is one thing to talk about something and other when you actually have to follow it!” Krish had argued.

“No, I will always be at my dad’s side if he chooses to remarry after my mother!” She had replied strongly. The discussion went on and ended without a consensus. That was about two decades ago.

Pankti had never, ever thought that she would have to take such a decision in her life. The only difference was that the decision was to be taken for her mother instead of father. Why call it a decision? Her mother had given her a choice… a choice for her mother’s life!

Of course, Pankti was not averse to the idea. Or was she?

Why, then, since she has heard of it is she so upset?

Were her debates and the talks of (elderly) remarriage just empty talks? No. And, anyways, who was talking about marriage here? They just have decided to stay together, a few days at her mom’s place and a few days at “his” place.

“Then what’s your problem?” She asked herself.

Though she was still not comfortable with the whole idea, she had agreed to meet with “the man” whom her mother thought was a “very nice person” and “she would love to meet him”!

As the duo approached him, pankti was increasingly feeling nervous. She looked at her mother and could make out that she too was not in her usual chirpy mood. Pankti went into a kind of a shock when she met Mr. Shah.  He was not at all what she had conjured up in her mind. He was a slight man with a pleasant personality and slowly she became comfortable in his company.

“What did you expect, idiot!!” She reprimanded herself. “He is supposed to be 65 years old, about your mother’s age.”

But his grey cells were nowhere near 65 years… he was a jovial man and well versed too. Slowly Pankti relaxed and forgot how apprehensive she was before coming here. And she looked at her mother, her smile was worth anything.

Later that night when she was thinking about Mahadeve i.e. Mr. Shah, she realized that she never had any problem with her mother being friends or more with anybody. But she was afraid of how the other person might turn out to be. It was as if she was thinking about her child’s matrimony and not her mother’s!

Today when she endorsed their friendship with a smile she truly felt she had become her mother’s mother!! 🙂

fiction_stampDhruti had some time at hand as her daughter had gone to a neighbour’s place for a birthday party.  She just relaxed and was flipping through the “Good Housekeeping” when the bell rang. She looked at Harsh in a hope that he would open it but he looked more intently in his newspaper as if he was doing PhD in journalism!!

She got up and opened the door and saw her daughter’s best friend standing there.

Bittoo: Aunty, is Krina home?

She: Arey, she has gone to Seema’s birthday party. Why aren’t you there? She called you too, isn’t it?

He: The party got over long back and Krina isn’t there.

Dhruti’s heart skipped a beat. Overhearing the conversation Harsh leaped on his feet and was besides her in a fraction of second. Their eyes met and they could see the dread in each other’s eyes.

In a few seconds thousands thoughts ran through their minds.

Where has she gone? She never goes anywhere with out telling us!

Somebody might have kidnapped her! Will she be forced to beg?

She is just of 5 odd years! There are vultures out there.

And many more horrid thoughts passed through their worried minds.

In those few seconds, they imagined the worst.

They ran in the street bare feet shouting out their daughter’s name. And then they heard her.

“Mamma!!!”

A joyous call to tell them she was with her friend in one of the neighbours’ place.

The look Krina saw on her parents’ faces made her feel uneasy. Dhruti almost slapped her in frustration and pulled her towards her. Hugged her so tightly that Krina almost couldn’t breath. Harsh’s eyes were glisteneing with unshed tears.

Again a look passed between them. As if asking each other, “Aren’t we getting paranoid?”

Were they really paranoid or is it a need of the day to be extremely vigilant and in turn suffocate a childhood!!!!!


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