Today's mood

सानू सौदा नहीं पुखदा, सानू सौदा नहीं पुखदा...

रवि तो चेनाब पुछदा,

"की हाल है सतलुज दा?"

Friday, December 21, 2012

The old man's loud love

Enya and Sangeeta, 20 and 16 years old respectively, surrounded Baljit, the 80 year old grandfather, and pestered him to tell a story. Baljit had wrinkled skin, white superfluous beard that comfortably reached his chest, a perfect small nose and drooping ear pinnate. It was somewhere in his 60’s that he decided to stop shaving his beard; today his white beard flowed like silk emanating from his face. Baljit loved to tell tales, and telling them to his granddaughters had always made him happy. His tales had a novelty and changed with time. When Enya and Sangeeta were kids he used to tell tales of fairies, when they turned into teenagers his stories were of princes and how to deal with impostors pretending as prince. The stories had the right amount of suspense, right amount of caution, right amount of patience and right amount of hope.

He closed his eyes for a while and immersed himself in thoughts, scouring through the vast years of experience a suitable story to humor his granddaughters. When he opened his eyes his granddaughters were sitting at the feet of his rocking chair with pillows for support. His daughter-in-law Trisha kept a cup of tea on a small stool beside his rocking chair, took a pillow and sat with her daughters. Trisha used to marvel at what type of man Baljit was. He was a perfect fatherly figure, with wisdom beyond anyone she had ever come across. Her husband, Rahul, took after his father and his wits were the prime reason Trisha found Rahul so inexhaustibly irresistible. She used to wonder did he have the same irresistible effect on every girl of the college or was she the only one. The thought brought an involuntary smile on her face. Baljit as if reading the thoughts of Trisha winked at her and Trisha found herself flushing red.

“Both, the father and the son, behave as if they are reading your mind.” She thought to herself and made a mental note to test the theory on Rahul.

Baljit began. “Your grandmother and I were both BA final year students. We used to take history and politics classes together.”

Enya and Sangeeta opened their mouths in surprise and looked at each other accusingly, expecting the other of knowing secret and not revealing to the other.

Baljit enjoying the subtle movement went ahead, “I went head over heels for her in the first class. However she required a good amount of ground work and cajoling to get her around to my views. She ultimately did though but after I got drunk and dared her to either marry me or stop talking to me. For reasons better known to her she chose to stop talking to me.”

“She did not talk to me for a complete month. After a month, as I was dredging myself out of the history class, she came to me and said, “Fine, I will marry you, but I snore at night!”

Enya and Sangeeta went into hysterical laughter. Neither was the granddad's proposal romantic nor was the grandmom's reply. Yet the eyes of the sisters sparked with admiration for their grandparents surely had style.

Trisha started imagining her initial days with Rahul. Even she had missed his sharp talks and wit when Rahul did not talk to her for a day or two. It was fortunate that Rahul came forward and proposed her, or else she’d have proposed him otherwise. Is it a genes thing in this family? Surely it was. Enya had her grandfather traits. Enya at the age of twenty had a long line of charmers swooning over her sharp wit. Look how deep the charm flows!

“We got married, by the time our course ended. I took up a job in Pune’s army engineering college before the marriage and the next day to our marriage we shifted to Pune. ”

“Now the real story starts. I already told you your grandmother snored at night, and believe me she snored pretty badly. For the first one week she was successful in hiding the magnitude of her snores from me. She used to feint sleeping and wait for me to go to sleep, and survive with minimal sleep in the night. She used to make it up by sleeping in the day time.”

The kids understood the double entendre in the statement and tried really hard to hide their blush.

Grandpa continued unhesitatingly, “I realized her snores when we were into the second week of our marriage. She was indeed loud; I did not mention it to her and did not make her feel uncomfortable.  By our second month of our marriage she used to fall asleep before me. Here is when the main trouble started.”

“I tried sleeping amidst her snores for the first few nights but found myself helpless. So I used to pick up my pillow and sheets and  used to settle on the guest bed in the dining hall. I used to keep an alarm of morning 4 o clock and return to bed before she used to wake up. I had no wish to make her feel bad that her snores caused me inconvenience.”

Trisha seemed a bit taken by the sensitive nature of his father-in-law. She knew he was witty, she knew he was funny; however she never knew he was such a romantic. She knew that he was bound to be romantic however his story was raising the standards she had set for him.

Enya and Sangeeta looked at each other with surprise.

Baljit went on, “Your grandmother never woke up until it was 5. She slept soundly and most of the nights she had the ability to sleep through earthquakes. She even died in her sleep. Anyways, I continued doing this till 6 months of our marriage got over. On one particular night I found myself asleep before her. I woke up in the middle of night, somewhat around 2 o clocks feeling thirsty, to find Savitri missing. Her pillow and blanket were missing too. I went up to the hall to find Savitri sleeping on the guest bed. She looked adorable. Few wafts of her jet black hair fell upon her eyes, they kissed her cheek and traversed the sides of her neck to hide underneath the neck among the majority. She was lightly snoring and her perfect nose, yeah she had a perfect nose not the bulgy north Indian commonplace nose, was rhythmically beating during the expiration and inspiration. ”

“She looked lovely, and beautiful. I went ahead, removed the hair tuft that fell on her nose and pecked it. Mildly surprised at my own reaction, I was taken by further surprise when she involuntarily in her sleep took hold of my hand and kept it on her chest close to the heart. Her snores stopped, and her breathing returned to normal. I waited for a few seconds frozen in the moment, gauging the moment what to do and what not to do. My face was close to her face; my hand was in her hand on her heart. I could feel the warmth of her breath on my cold face. I waited for a few patient seconds and then got into the same blanket to sleep in peace.”

Enya, Sangeeta and Trisha were all in smiles. Sangeeta was curious to hear more, “what happened on the next day?”

Baljit went on with a whole big smile that reached up to his eyes and made him look a few decades younger. “Next day when she woke up she was hurt. She complained that I should have let her known that her snores cause me inconvenience, and before I could come up with a reply she was in tears. Now your father will agree to me and corroborate my statement that your grandma was a strong lady, nevertheless sweet, and seeing her cry melted hearts. Never had her father let her cry, and never did I make her cry. Seeing her cry was a torment on my soul, yet she used to flash her tears at occasions. She cried out of joy when your dad was born and she cried when Enya was born; though she loved Sangeeta more than you beta (referring to Enya). ”

“Sangeeta had jaundice when she was two years old; your Grandma cried for nights and nights sitting by your bedside and changing the water cloth on your forehead. You bear resemblance to her and as a small matter of fact you snore like her too; and to add something to the similarity you stop snoring just as your grandma used to stop when I keep my hand on your heart when you sleep.” Trisha pointed out to Sangeeta with a smile on her lips.

(In loving memory of my grand-parents. The names of my grandparents have not been altered, the rest all characters are fictitious. Sangeeta is my cousin, and only her name in the story is the only connection to any living person.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Right or Wrong?

This beautiful incident just surfaced after years of hidden detritus. I was in class 7th and I was a good student. The Indian education system defines a good student as one who is good in studies; morality, honesty, character are just topics to be flirted with in Moral Education classes. My scores in test papers made sure all teachers knew me perfectly well and for good reasons indeed.

The age of thirteen, the fresh entry in teens, is defined biologically as an extra surge of testosterones in males and estrogens in females. Repercussions are emotional changes, attraction towards other gender, moodiness and many others which can be found in any psychological journal. My first attraction happened in class 7th at this age. I have something for tall girls and girls that are older to me. By all standards I am fairly tall. Starting from my first attraction to the most recent one, from which I am still trying to come out, I have been attracted to older, matured, intelligent, tall and beautiful girls. She was in my class but a year older. I will name her Ana to maintain secrecy. How I felt at that moment is beyond words. Handling first attraction at the tender age of thirteen is akin to a lake being asked to store the water content of an ocean. My heart beat used to increase on spotting Ana, anxiety used to overtake me, eyes used to go all goggled. I did let Ana know how I felt for her, and she was gracious and matured enough to handle it properly. I was a naïve in this field just blasted into teenage-group fresh into an emotional turmoil. I will make a biased statement here that girls are better judge of characters than boys and they take things slow in terms of relationships because they know this thing requires time. It is not a thing to be hurried into. Ana liked me too.

We used to meet regularly, exchange copies, seldom letters and used to call each other privately when each-others parents were not around at home. The fright, the innocence, the first taste of love is second to none. Saving money to gift her a key-ring and a birthday card on her birthday consumed months for me. My parents did not use to give me pocket money. They logically made be understand and agree to the concept of pocket money as wrong; to give me company Ana started refusing her parents for pocket money too. What beautiful days they were!

Fortunately my studies never slumped and neither did hers. However the rumors of us being a couple started spreading. By the time teachers came to know of our tiny, little affair we were in mid of class 8th. Keeping a secret and especially such a secret for one and half years at that age was indeed praise worthy. Teachers, hailed God for good reasons, decided it was time to talk to our parents. Why did they do that I am still not sure. Does their complaining show their lack of faith in me, or does it show their concerned attitude I am not sure. Either ways our parents were involved in our love story now. The straight line had turned into a square with me and Ana being at the opposite corners, with our parents sitting at the other two corners.

The meeting room was no less than a war zone. The teachers kept on talking till what seemed ages. Ana’s mother was nervously on the verge of tears; Ana was pitifully crying and her father was red and flaring with anger. My mom was looking at Ana and seemed more interested in Ana’s state of mind rather than the story. My dad listened to the teachers patiently, and said he will talk to me.

“All you got to say is- you will talk to your son? Give him a good beating and ask him to stay far away from my daughter.” Ana’s father was flaring like a snake.

“That will be my decision to make Mr. Patnaik. My son and your daughter are young. She is more terrified and close to a specter. They need reasons, not spanking.” My dad said thank you to all and left with me and my mom.

My dad did not talk to me through out the journey back home. He wasn’t furious, he was just quiet.

On reaching back home, he asked me to sit at the dining table. He brought out six steel glasses from the kitchen. He asked me, “make the tallest structure possible with these glasses.”

I was surprised at his reaction. I didn’t intend him to raise a hand. He never did that, and as a matter of fact used to fight with my mom in case she used to raise her hand on me. He was a logical person strongly founded on causes and reasons. Nevertheless I expected him to shout at me.

I made a three layered pyramid structure with the six glasses. Three glasses on the bottom layer, two in the intermediate level and one glass at the top.

He observed me silently and then spoke, “what will happen if I pull out the glass on the right side from the bottom layer?”

“The structure will collapse.”

“Exactly. You are standing at a juncture where one of the prime glass is education. With education you may rise as high as the structure you have built. If you get diverted the structure is bound to collapse.” He further went on to say, “Keep your priorities clear and emotions clean. At this age education is your priority. The less the hassle at your age the better you may be able to think.”

“Mr. Patnaik has not taken a liking to you and it seems he will prefer you not coming in the path of her daughter. I may stop him from raising a hand on you but if you prefer Ana’s safety than you will need to be careful.” His voice echoed with genuine concern for the girl.

Today this morning I overheard two of my senior colleages talking about their children and this incident just popped out. I instantly called my father and asked him a peculiar question which took him by surprise. “Papa, do you remember the Ana incident of class 7th?”

“Yeah I do. Age has silvered my hair not my memory. Fortunately I have a good memory. Why? What happened?”

“Were you sad or angry at me?  ”

“Well no. I wasn’t sad because emotions is what makes us human and moreover if Ana happened to be a boy that would have been a greater headache for me. Thankfully she was a girl. I was concerned- concerned if you forget your priorities; concerned if you got too much emotionally involved to get out. The same incident at this age of yours must have Ana as the priority, and at that age education should have been the priority. I hope Ana’s dad didn't give her a hard time.”

My father was neither cold nor furious about the incident. He just asked me not to get diverted from what was required. Life is not about right and wrong, it is greyer than that. Ana at that stage was not something that could be categorized as right or wrong.

*Ana's name is derived from the song "ana mere pyaar ko na tum jhuta samjho jaana". No resemblance to any real person.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finding Neverland-3

Dear Ramya,
Dearest Ramya,

It has been a long time since you bade goodbye. The cities have changed a lot since then, as a matter of fact the world geography has been altered too. A few new countries have come into existence. However, as far as my heart is concerned nothing has changed. My heart is still alone and longs for your company.

Do you remember the last time we sat on the roof of our house. It was a full moon night and your black glistening hair fell carelessly on your back. A slight breeze swept across wafting a tuft of your hair onto my face. The smell of your hair is still fresh in my senses. The moment the hair landed on my face, a secret desire took birth in me; desire to preserve and consecrate the moment, and prolong it till the existence of the mankind. Was it less than being high on Marijuana? Probably no! It was a different high. I miss your presence on the roof deeply.

Life had given me immense happiness when you were with me. It appears your dainty presence was the bringer of happiness. Do you recall our college days? Half of the boys of our batch used to flirt with you. Your smile was so beautiful that the poor boys were helpless and found themselves drawn towards you by an inexplicable force. The dent on your right cheek, no matter how many times you flashed it, lured boys to see it appear once more. I miss your smile!

It has been an year since you left. Every-night of the last year I have found myself staring at the moon. The moon bears similarity to me- it’s as lonely as I am. Its presence gives me strength to go on, and at the same time reminds me of my loss. Don't ask me, how I come out alive of no moon nights. At moments when I am frustrated and tired and on the verge of crying I abuse god; I curse him for being cruel and heartless. Moments later, your face gets flashed before my eyes. I feel ashamed of cursing and seek an apology. You had immense faith in Him.

(You might also enjoy reading Finding Neverland and Finding Neverland-2)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Finding Neverland-2

Love is different to different people. For some it is a bringer of happiness, for some it is a constant state of elevated excitement, for some it is a constant pain. For me it gives an opportunity to concoct stories. Seeing people in love, makes me imagine their lows and downs, their break-ups, their deaths and their reactions. I am not a sadist; however sadness has a beauty attached to it and I cannot ignore it. I revel in beauty. I revel in emotions. For me, everything I do, I try to create a sense of beauty around it- beauty through words. Beauty is not a la carte mentioned like dishes in restaurants, I perceive beauty in ability of living beings to like, love, create, destroy, feel and die. I perceive beauty in sadness too!

Sameer and Ramya, before they were separated traveled a lot. Once in summer of May they traveled from Bandra to Delhi. Bandra to Delhi is a long trip. The journey covers 6 states and takes 30+ hours. They had the side berths in the third AC compartment of Dehradun Express.

Ramya expressed her opinion on the onset of the journey, “I don’t want the journey to finish soon. I feel I am the only person who is happy with the Indian Railways functioning. The lateness of trains makes me spend more time with you!”

Sameer was in all smiles to her opinion. They could have gone to Delhi in flight too, however that would have meant only two hours of journey with lot of sleep and less of talking. That is not what quality time is to people in eternal love. To people in eternal love, things move slowly and at their own pace. Silence marked by intermittent talks is the way they behave. Eternal love is like being with the other side of your own personality. You counsel when you need to do so, and in other moments you two just sit in silence with each other. It completes you. In trains it is the way they desire. With Ramya and Sameer, traveling was all about reveling in each others words and reveling in silence with dreams in their eyes.  

Sameer’s smile was broken by a loud thud. A five year old girl jumped in front of their berths and said loudly, “Hi, uncle. Hi aunty…” She wore a red shirt, a blue pajama and was beautiful apart from being cute.

A voice sounded from behind, “Enya, don’t disturb people.” A man in his late twenties approached the sweet girl and asked her to sit on his seat numbered 22. Enya smiled and did as she was asked.

“I am sorry if she disturbed you”, the man apologized to Sameer and Ramya.

Ramya replied with a genuine smile, “We don’t mind. She is really sweet.” She wavered towards Enya and asked her to come to her. Enya looked at the man seeking his approval and went to Ramya and sat on her lap.

A momentary sadness overcame the man’s face and before Sameer and Ramya could observe anything amiss, the man started arranging the luggage under the seats. He took out few soft toys which undoubtedly belonged to Enya and kept them on the seat. He took to his window seat and starting seeing Ramya play with Enya. After a few moments he started looking outside.

Sameer seeing Ramya play with Enya went and sat opposite to Enya’s father. “Hi, I am Sameer. We are going till Delhi. Where are you going?”

The man as if drawn out of a long beautiful thought replied back with a smile, “I am Ansh. We too are going till Delhi. Enya will be staying with her grandparents for a week.”

Ramya and Enya started talking. Enya asked in her soft and loving tone, “With whom did you play when you were small?”

Ramya tried replying in a made up childish voice, “I had friends in school, and mother at home. Where is your mother? ”

Suddenly in a swift move, Enya got up from Ramya’s lap and went up to Ansh. She stroked the cheek of Ansh softly and turned his face towards her. “Papa, Where is my mother?”
A stiffening silence crept up among the three of them. Ansh eyes had become moist and watery. Sameer and Ramya exchanged looks and understood the weirdness of the silence. Ramya beckoned Enya, to which Enya obediently followed. She took Enya back to her lap, and said, “When God created people he gave mothers to care for them and love them. However, he loved few children more. So he himself came to the earth.”

A smile returned on every one’s face. After an hour or so Enya came back to his dad and sat on his lap. She started playing with soft toys, and asking odd sorts of funny childish questions to him. “What will happen to the bear after I grow up?”

Ansh thought for a while and replied, “I will play with them.”

“You are too big to play with them.”, and she went into chuckles.

A ticket checker came to examine tickets and after examining asked Enya, “what are you doing beta?”

Enya replied in a stern way, “I am sitting on God’s lap and playing with Him.”

An innocuous smile spread across all the face of the people who heard this. Tears of joy overflowed the brim of Ansh eyes to wet his cheeks. Sameer, with a smile on his face went back to sit with Ramya. The confused ticket checker went ahead to examine the rest of the compartment.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finding Neverland

Men, great men, came before me. Men who made current affairs into history, men who fought their guts out at times for pride, at times for love, at times for their country and at times for stealth walked the same lanes as I do now. May be the lanes, and the villages were not tiled then, and were not consecrated as Chandpur, or Gautam Budh or some xyz. They ruled the kind of us till they had the wish and the determination and when their bodies started decaying someone else came up to their place.

I am not one of them. I don’t have a zeal for power that makes men butcher thousands; I don’t have the pride that gets mutilated at every abuse that is thrown on me. I did not make any princess fall in love with me, and to be frank I did not give princess a damn. They had too much money and too much arrogance to even waste a try. For love I can safely say life is too long not to fall in true love. I am a wanderer. I wander from state to state, city to city and from village to village. I wander on foot when I have no money and I travel in government buses when my pockets jingle with chillers. I work as a casual laborer when I need food, or sit in langars with sadhus. Why I do that is the nectar of my life. I make someone happy.

Sameer is my name. I was born to good, middle class parents who gave focus on education. I was born a winter prior to the Indian Financial Crisis in a small village of Kheda, in Madhya Pradesh. My parents were good decent people. They knew they had enough money to feed me, and to educate me, and to make me a decent man and they made it a point to teach me that they had no money for my wishes and desires if they went unleashed. I did my graduation and my post graduation both from reputed institutes and did everything that could make my parents proud.

In the summer of 2012, during my post-graduation I fell in love with a smart, intelligent and beautiful girl. I may add pragmatic as another adjective and behave indifferently to being extravagantly praiseworthy. I was lucky, and most of the people surrounding me know, in the deepest of their hearts, that first love comes lucky only one in a thousand. I was the one amongst the thousands. We married in 2015 and had our first kid two years hence.

Ramya on the birth of our son said, “I always had the dream of seeing the whole of India. Cities, villages, the majestic hills, the pristine beaches, the clandestine sloping sand dunes, the haunted castles, the snow capped Himalayas, the turbulent Brahmaputra, the silent yet ferocious, the tea garden of the North and the East and beyond doubt divine Ganges. I want to see Kumb Mela, the sadhus who travel from far and wild on one foot with knee long hair and clad only in ashes. We will let our son live his life as he wants. We won’t ask him join the IITs and NITs or the IIMs. If he wishes to stay in the hills and write poetry we won’t stop him.”

“We won’t”, is all I could come up with tears in my eyes.

Spring of 2020 was a sad year. Ramya, Gautam (our son) and I were returning from Pune to Bandra via the expressway. An oil tanker had spilled oil on the road, and the brakes lost control when a cow suddenly came in front of our car. The car skidded on the spilled oil and veered off to collide with the mountain running parallel us on the left side. A truck which was just behind us braked and smashed our car from behind. Ramya, and my three old son and I were smashed in between the mountain and the truck. Both of them never made it to the hospital alive.

If anyone has ever experienced pain in his life and cried over it, let me tell him he was crying for mean causes. No pain is greater than the death of your loved one, and every tear shed on other reasons is a waste. The pain in my heart flayed each and every cell of my body. Existence was a prolonged curse for me under that moment. Images of Ramya running behind Gautam filled every nook and corner of the house. I wished someone might poison the bits of food, and the drops of water which went up to my throat but never made it till my food pipe. Death is a gift under that scenario and life an abuse.

In 2021, I resigned from my job, sold all my property, my house, my stocks, my shares and donated most of the sum to a charitable organization for orphans. I had decided to fulfill Ramya’s dream. If she could not see the whole of India, if God was brutal enough to snatch her away from me, she was going to see cities, villages, towns, sand dunes, snow, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Tea Hills and Hermits and everything through my eyes. I had decided to search for Ramya in the ashes of hermits, in the clanking of cymbals at Assi Ghat, in the scantily used roads of Himachal, in the sandalwood forests of Tamil Nadu, in the embankments of Hirakud Dam, and in the realms of Uttarakhand.

In November,2021 I started walking from Pune with just a knapsack that contained two pair of clothes and a blanket. I covered countless villages of Madhya Pradesh, innumerable sites of Gujrat and by the time I reached Rajsthan, I had stopped counting both days and villages I had spent on the road. In the first year each step that I took reminded me of Ramya’s smiling face, her eyes, her dark jet black eye lashes, her ears whose pinna were not detached at the bottom, her small tiny earrings and every moment that I spent with her. Ramya owned just one pair of earrings, and those were the ones I gifted her when I proposed. She wore it since the propose day in 2012 till the day in 2020 she died. I still carry them in my bag.

In 2025, I was in Allahabad during “Purna Kumb ka Mela”. On one hand there are men in India who have conquered the Everest, killed wild boar with bare hands, earned billions and billions and on the other hand there are men who have been to this holy place. It is a sight to behold. The absolute power of faith can be seen at this place. Multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and the frail enter the fray without hesitation and complaint. Many come across countries enduring tireless journeys, and miseries without repining. "It is done in love, or it is done in fear" opined Mark Twain. He did not know what it was that made people suffer, endure and still come. I know what make people come this far. It was the same reason for which I came, that others come too.


I gave the earrings of Ramya to the holy Ganges to protect it within her waters, and absolve it when it joins the mighty Bay of Bengal. I found my ‘Peace’, and Ramya realized her dream through my eyes.

(You might also enjoy reading Finding Neverland-2 and Reminiscences )

Saturday, May 5, 2012

किसी मोड़ पे तू ...

कभी गाँव की छत पे नाचते मोर को देखा,
और कभी आँधी तूफानों में उड़ते दुपट्टों को देखा |

किसी मोड़ पे तू नज़र तो आ जाए, 
सोच के पहरों-पहरों वीरान रास्तो को देखा |

कहीं मुझमे तू दिख जाए अगर, और एक ख्वाब हो,
न हमने सदियों से, आईने में खुद को देखा |

तू मिल जाए अगर राह चलते चलते किसी सफ़र में,
हमने न कदमो पे पड़े छालों को देखा |

किसी ने चाँद को सबसे सुन्दर कहा था
लड़ते, लड़ते घंटो तक चाँद को देखा |

चुपके चुपके सनाटे में
तेरा घर चमकाते चाँद को देखा |