Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sathya-Guru


Would you like some tea? No? Are u sure? Or some Coffee? Or the myriad of sparkling miraculous waters that are hidden behind that cabinet? What? Yes, yes, I mean liquor. All the imported stuff. Why are u so surprised? It happens everywhere. I have yet to see a swami who doesn't have at least 3 bars for his important guests. Yes, there u go. 
Here, Vinya...oye Vinya...get some of that scotch whisky for this Sahib here. And get some Swiss mineral water for me. After sometime, get tea and juice. Make sure you get the ice-bucket also. It is so hot.
Back to you Saar, tell me what do you want to know? The same old life-story? Biography? What harm will it possible do to me if I reveal all, tell all? There is no inheritor to the treasure Sathya-Guru has left behind. And not a single rupee given to me either. Me. Who cleaned his scabby feet with my own bare hands. Who has been serving him for 63 years now.  Right from the days when Sathya-Guru was just another cowherd. Another dirty scabby lice-infested village boy whose parents could not afford the school fees. We used to steal some milk from the cows that we took to graze. We would squirt the warm milk straight into our mouths. But not too much. That would set off the alarm bells in the owner’s head.
Yes, are you noting that down? But wait, till I tell you more. You will thank me later. And perhaps increase the amount too? Eh? Now where is that Vinya? Ahh…here he is. Please drink Saar. This soda is the best in the world. You may take a bottle if you like. Carry it home with you.So where were we?
Yes, When Shangu was born the only relief his parents felt was that he was a boy. They had already had 4 daughters. None of whom were married. The Andhra farmers’ story you already know. His father committed suicide, as was the fashion in those days, and his mother became a recluse. They scraped by on the money that the four daughters earned doing household work. And suddenly Fortune smiled.
Shangu was coming back home when he was bitten by a cobra. I was not there with him that day. Maybe he was looking for the time when he would be alone. I still have no explanation for how it all happened. Seems, Shangu lay unconscious for a long time outside the village, near the peepul tree, when the cobbler Koka found him. He was foaming at the mouth. Koka quickly called some more men and they carried Shangu home. The medicine-man came with his bag and flicked some ash on his forehead, arms and chest. The family kept vigil day and night. After one full day had passed, Shangu came back to life. He lay there calmly for some time. As his mother fussed over him, he suddenly sat up, shook her hand off and said ‘I am the re-incarnation of Sathyamohan Swami. I am renouncing the world. From now on, I will not be normal. I have gained Nirvana and henceforth will survive on nothing but Love.' 
I had my suspicions. He would always be complaining about this hard life that we were stuck with and frequently looked for miracles to elevate him from his pathetic position. He was only 15 yrs old. It did look like he was play-acting. I did not say anything until I sat with him outside later that night. 'Look, Kesha, the only way for us to claim instant riches is this. I have become a Swami. It is upto you to follow me. All I can promise is, whatever I get, half of it is yours.' I understood perfectly what he said and meant.
The next morning, I went about my rehearsals perfectly. Slowly the days went by. Shangu was now Sathya-Guru. He donned saffron robes stitched at home by his now happy Mother. The sisters did not do any household work anymore. They instead served him. Fanning him while he ate, while he slept, while he sat and spoke of the Eternal Truth, Love and Generosity. With each passing day, his fame grew. The villagers had no way of checking whether he was really Sathyamohan Swami reborn. Mass hysteria was the ploy.
Then we struck upon the idea of conjuring things from air. Both of us started growing our hair. While his was straight and glossy, my hair was thick, unruly, curly and untamed. So much so that small things like my sister’s hairclips, pins, combs could be hidden in it. We placed some brass rings and rudraksh beads in it. The ‘it’ here being my head, of course.
What? Hahaha, well the hair is all gone. And then this is a wig. See here? One tuck and it is out. Well now that you know this secret too, I must again mention the amount. Oh Yes, Oh Yes, that would do. Just as well. 50 lakhs is enough for me to live out the rest of my days in peace.35 would have been a little too less, You catch my drift, Saar? You are generous and kind. Otherwise where would this old man go? Ah, yes, back to the details. They say, God is in the small details. Hahaha.
Well, then we started moving from town to town. Until we reached Mumbai after 3 years of roaming and falling asleep in the middle of discourses. Our followers were initially the villagers. Whatever little money they had, we fleeced. Sathya-Guru started curing people of small ailments like headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea by placing his hand on their bodies. The condition was that they had to stay with us for some days. I would mix the English medicines in their food and Lo and Behold, they would be well. And they thought it was the Pure water and Miraculous Rice that we served which cured them. The fools. Actually it is a very good business saar. Even you should try. Full money, you will get. If you want, I can help you. For a small commission. You understand no, saar?I must kick this Vinya now. Oye Vinya – where is the tea I asked for? I will throw you out now. Too much pampered, you have been.  
Yes, saar, I can make out you are in a hurry. Oh, is it? No problem, saar, I will ask Vinya to drop you off at home. Please call up your house and tell them not to worry saar. This is the Sathya-Guru Ashram. See these blackguards here. Don’t worry, the Bhais and Dons are taken to the other audience hall. They will not come here. This hall is exclusively for the media. Ah, now I see you  relax.
Once we reached Mumbai, it was fun. The big Bollywood celebrities, politicians, ministers everyone would come to us. Of course they did not rush to us on the first day of our arrival. Then Mumbai was the city of dreams. Back in the 60s and 70s. The heydays of Flower power. Love. Karma. Dum Maaro Dum. We organized satsangs, spiritual discourses and also reluctantly, some  health camps. We did not want people to say that we did not do anything for the world and the ‘hapless’ population. It is not good for a Swami to keep accepting donations and not spend it anywhere. The Police were always shown the Ashram whenever they asked to see it. Of course the actual place where the gold was stashed away was known only to Sathya-Guru and me. I always ensured there was no gold or notes lying around. Everything was deposited in the Swiss bank. By the way, seems the government is now being pressurized to give details of the Swiss bank account holders. That is bad news, I’m afraid. All the skeletons will be out in the open. And if people like Anna Hazare get those details, I’m afraid this nation would be destroyed.
Sorry? Oh Mumbai? I made some friends in the Times and asked them to do a coverpiece on Sathya-Guru.  At periodic intervals these news clippings helped to make us known in the Elite Mumbai Circles. Soon enough we were booked for 2-3 months a stretch. Sometimes, Sathya-Guru would encourage the clients to share their sorrow with him. They would. Amidst tears and wails and sobs. Unknown to them, all their conversations were being recorded. I would later, personally edit the tapes so as to cut out Sathya-Guru’s part of the conversation and many years later use it to blackmail them. But you had to be extra careful of course.
We flew to Dubai, Mauritius, US, UK to build new Ashrams. We also built 4 multi-specialty hospitals that give free medical care to patients. Also 3 schools and some health camps. We had to keep the people’s mouths shut, no? Otherwise what if one fine day they asked where all their donation money went to? Then, what answer would we give?
It was also I who insisted that Sathya-Guru take pictures with the dirty, downtrodden people too, to boost his image. He was full of himself. And rubbed shoulders, clicked photographs only with the rich and the famous. Since the past 5 years, we knew he was fighting a losing battle. The controversies of him molesting the female inmates of the Ashram were not without base. It was not molestation. We were rich. The women wanted it themselves. Who would not, if they knew the gifts that would go to them would be diamonds and pearls and platinum and resorts and apartments? It was only that Ranjana who was too greedy and threatened to show proof of the couplings. We had to silence her fast. The family of the youth who accepted the blame is now living in Dubai on Ashram expenses. That was the price. Insignificant, I say. Then the BBC documentary on us being frauds. Thanks to Indians, and our blindfaith in all things Divine, the documentary-maker never found supporters. I felt sad for him. He was right, after all.
63 years, to this Day. 78 years of friendship. Of picking up his shoes. Cleaning his bed-pan. Eating his leftovers. And this is what I get. No share in the trust money. Not a rupee. I arranged the funeral, even after I knew about the will. He did give me a life of material comforts after all. My family is in the US. 2 of my brothers are married to 2 of his sisters. In spite of this injustice, they will live together happily. Their futures are taken care of. A steady stream of money will find its way into their bank accounts every year.  That help atleast, I am grateful to Shangu for.
Yes, we will be lighting his pyre tomorrow. Palace Grounds. Did you pay your respects? Here take this family pass. You can come tomorrow and maybe I might be able to come and meet you. I have personally taken care of all the Funeral arrangements. Just one more day and then, I will be home.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brothers, Sons


       The funeral is over. Guests mill about the house. Some of them say goodbyes. Some of them help to clean. Some stay back. I'm tired. My Head splits with pain. I just want to go inside and lie down on the bed. Veronica is taking care of the house. As always, she has not lost her head. Though life will never be the same for her. I know.
As I go up the stairs. I see their room. The Boys' room. Forbidden territory. Josh's scrawl across white paper taped onto the doors. I open the door and peep in.
They are everywhere. In these drawings. In these books. In these shoes and baseball caps and G.I. Joes.
       I have never seen my sons climb trees. Or play with dogs. Or with other kids. I have never seen them running wild in abandoned joy, playing football. Or even go out for a date. Were it not for the Nurse at St. Albain's hospital, I would have never seen them breathe, live, grow up.
Sometimes I wonder, if I did the right thing by allowing them to live. Should I not have smothered them at birth? But then sometimes, I see their courage, their warm smiles, n I repent for my cruel thoughts.
They are my sons, after all. My Boys. My Flesh n Blood.
       The father was a sailor, whom I met in a run-down bar, we used to haunt. It was love at first sight, or so I thought. The next morning he was gone. And all I had to remember him by, was a Night in a rickety, creaky bed, both of us dead-drunk n passing out after the desperate fumbling.
It was only 3 months later that I discovered I was pregnant. Business was ruined. No one wants a prostitute with a swollen belly. I cursed my fate, scraping by, until 6 months later, I stood outside the Charity hospital. In the raging rain.
       Later I would recall Veronica saying I looked so frail with a belly so huge, it seemed grotesque. I was terrified because the pain would not let me take a step. I did not know what to do. Here I was, 24 and without anyone in the world, alone, in a dirty old hospital. Everyone seemed to be rushing around. Patients poured in, poured out. No one took any notice of me. I stood there near the desk, controlling my tears, biting my lower lip. And then Veronica came to me.
       One glance and she knew I needed help right-away.  She found an empty bed in a makeshift room, made out of thin wooden screens. She smiled at me, looked up after feeling my belly with her hands and said cheerfully 'Twins. You are carrying twins.'
'I don't know where the father is. Or who.' I half-lied, staring at her grimly.
Her smile vanished. And she came every half an hour to check up on me.
After 7 hours of labour, my children were born. I shrieked when she handed them over to me. All bloody, mucusy, slimy. 'Surely that's a monster!' I cried.
       I had had twins, all right, and they had two bodies and two heads. But they were joined at the sides. Like they were stuck with super glue or something. Shoulders down. Conjoined Siamese twins is what they are called.  These creatures that came from my Sinful womb.
'Let me go, I don't want it. Kill it. Kill it.' I screamed, thrashing my bloodied legs. Forgetting about my torn tissue or the walls that hardly barred any sound from being heard in the other rooms.
She gave me an injection and I slipped into a deep sleep.
       When I woke, up the rain was gone. It was a glorious sunny day.
       Slowly I turned to look at the twins beside me. Since they were swaddled, I could see only their heads. Their faces were perfectly formed. Translucent skin, pink tender lips and tinges of rose.
       They were perfect. Then drawing a deep breath, I removed the cloth. They were perfect. If you ignored the missing hands at the joint, that is. I cried as I had never in my Life. I would be their Mother and I would be a normal human being. I would give up my Life of sin. God believed in my strength and so He had not given this precious gift to anyone else, but me.
Veronica came later 'Have you decided what to do? The Doctors were here. If you wish you can hand them over to the Doctors. They will study them for Medical purposes. Display them in jars. Pickled. I hope you do not. they are beautiful. I will help you take care of them. I do not have anyone. Together we can bring them up. Do not let the Doctors take them. Please.'
I nodded. I knew that was the only right thing to do.
       People stared. Yes. Uncomfortably and looked away. Furtive glances when they thought we weren't looking. In the park, they came to see the 'Wonder boys'. The 'Monster Boys' behind our backs. Some children cried. Some ran away. Some entranced, like Stella, kissed them. Josh and Nick. 'When we grow up, can I marry both of you, Josh and Nick?' Stella would ask in her little 3 years old voice.
       After every visit to the Doctor, we came back more serious. More Heartbroken. Surgery was no option. They could be separated but Nick would die. And there was no guarantee that Josh would survive his death. I would despair for days. 'Nonsense' Veronica would say and take them out to the garden. Away from their depressed mother.
       Josh and Nick are completely different from each other. In Likes and Dislikes I mean. Josh likes G.I. Joes, Guns, and Army men. Nick likes books and painting. Since both of them have only a hand each it is slightly difficult to co-ordinate both these varied interests at the same time. Nick obviously needs more time, but Josh is a little impatient. He starts to mutter under his breath, pout and then finally scream out that he is bored. Nick then sighs, and tells me to give his popsicle to Josh, which is exactly what Josh has been wanting all along. 
       They are 4 years old and can walk on their own. When they were babies it was very difficult because being unaware of their limited dexterity or mobility, they would want to crawl to different places and end up pulling each other. Just in case you are wondering, no it doesn't hurt. Then we would start keeping the toys in different corners of the room. Finally they learnt the art of co-operation and would retrieve both the toys from their separate corners. 
       They are inseparable. Yes, I am aware of the irony here. They fight and even punch each other. But they always eat together, sleep together and do everything together. If Josh is hungry, he waits for Nick to get hungry. If Nick wants to paint, Josh plays patiently for some more time. Interrupting at times for the popsicle though. When one wakes up, the other does too. When one wants to go poo the other wants too. If you were to see them, you would guess straightaway that Josh is mischievous. His eyes twinkle and he is a cunning little brat. But Nick is an angel. All golden curls and big blue eyes. 
And sometimes I feel they can read each others minds. Yes, I'm sure. They can.
We carry them around in the car. We also have a double pram that was modified to a single 'double seater' pram by the Local Hospital. When they walk for more than 20 minutes, they get tired. Blame it on the three legs they share.  
Not that we take them to the city except to see the Doctor. To avoid the stares and bemused expressions. So mostly what they have seen in all of their 6 years is this little town of Pinner and the countryside. Which I guess makes them pretty much calm. And appreciators of nature.
Teaching them to read and write was easy. At Home. Going to school was not an option. Because one of us would have to be there with them at all times. And school can have bullies. I might seem possessive, but I'm a mother. And it is my fault that they have been born this way. Not theirs. I can never see them suffer. The horrible words I uttered after giving birth still echo in my ears, and I try to ignore the voices. But regret and guilt are not mere flies you can swat away.
       Three months ago, we found out that Josh was falling more and more sick. He was growing weaker and more emaciated. The Doctor said Josh's body was giving up. On Life. His immunity was weakening. He would not survive another 3-4 months was clear. I could still try to save Nick. 
'You are sure Josh will die. Are you sure Nick will survive if I agree to the surgery? Will you write it down, seal it and hand it over to me with your signature?' I asked. 'No. I don't know if he will survive. But there is a 50% chance'. He said and looked away. 'If they die, they die together' I announced.
       The medications, the lengths of tubes, the blinking lights, the gentle hum of the monitoring systems were all part of our waking nightmares for the next 3 months. 
       Veronica and I held them throughout those 3 months. Not a single moment went by that we left their bedside. 3 months. Can you believe? The pain that ate us inside? Seeing someone you love rot away, ever so slowly. Sometimes you would wish to strangle them then and there, just to stop their suffering. But we had Hope. That Guileful Mirage. Hope.
Josh stopped asking for popsicles yesterday morning. Nick stopped telling me to give them to him soon after. 
My Perfect Sons. 
Brothers till the end.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Changed?

Trusting You was a Folly
I realize it now.
Only Now.
What a Fool I have been.
All these years of
being Together with you,
Was Nothing but an excuse
for you to treat me like Trash.
In the Beginning, how you Fought
for my Attention.
Scowling at anyone who
dared to even look at Me.
You made sure I was safe.
Wherever I went, you came
Rushing to help if I was stuck.
Even in situations related to my
Career or Life, you came forth
with your advice.
You often kissed me on the forehead,
Mooned over me,
Fawned over me.
You complimented me every day.
Whatever I did was 'cute'.
I was your Life, you said.
SMSes flooded my phone.
'I love you', 'My Princess' were your Mantras.
So what happened Now?
What Changed?
How did we come to This?
These nights of Romance-less cavorting.
No Pleasure, only Contempt.
You claim your Nocturnal Rights.
Without seeing my Unseen Tears.
Without hearing my Unheard sniffles n sobs.
What Changed?
Where is the Love we had?
The Sweaty Palms, The Palpitating Hearts?
And Yet, I suffer.
Silently.
With no-one to unburden me.
I go on.
Without the guts to end this Torture.
This Love-less Love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear Mum

Dear Mum,
I do not know where you are. Daddy refuses to talk about you. But I know you see me. Now. Writing to you in my room. Crying hot tears. One. Two. They trickle down. Down into my mouth. Where I can taste them, all salty and warm. I miss you, Mum. Are you feeling cold, Mum, down there, in the hole behind the Church? Daddy says, you have already dug your way out into God's House. He says, all good people go to God's House when he asks for us. And the only way is to dig through the earth. I will ask Daddy to make sure you have dug your tunnel. I kept a torch for you with two new batteries. That fat Father in the Church, did not allow me first, but then Daddy said it was all right.


Dear Mum,
Today, Daddy brought 'Ur-new-Mum' home again. 'This is Ur-new-Mum'. He said to me. She comes home on Friday nights and leaves on Monday nights. 'Be Nice to her' he said to me with narrowed eyes. I nod. 'I will, Papa', I reply. But she doesn't smell like you, Mum. How can I love her? And she kissed me on the cheek, but her lips were as cold as ice. I missed you then, Mum.


Dear Mum,
Today I scraped my knees. I fell down from the swing. I ran home, tears on my cheeks. Ur-New-Mum was in the kitchen when she saw me. She came running to me. And hugged me to her. Tight. Almost hurting my knee again. Then she kissed it and the Hurt went away! She cleaned it with Dettol and put a nice clean BandAid on it. Almost like you would have done, Mum. I think I might start to love her a  little. Daddy said to me, yester-night, that you wouldn't come back for a long, long time. He said, You were with God in His House. He is old and wants people to take care of him. But he chooses only the kindest, bestest people. So you had to go. Daddy says, we will be joining you there in your new house very soon. I can't wait to see you Mum.


Dear Mum,
Yesterday I won the singing competition in school. The prizes will be distributed today. And the teachers asked me to bring my Mum and Dad. I was not sure if Ur-New-Mum wanted to come. But when I told her and Daddy yesterday, she agreed immediately. She even clapped her hands and picked me up and twirled. Round and Round. She is starting to smell like you a little now. Is it all right if I like her, Mum? Would you feel bad?


Dear Mum,
I guess you will have to wait a little longer for Daddy and Me to come to you. Ur-New-Mum baked a big Apple-pie yesterday for my birthday. Antoinette, Julie, Charles, Sid, Stella, Josh all loved it so much that she promised to bake another one this Saturday. I can't wait for Ur-New-Mum to come home now. I called her 'Mummy' yesterday. I won't call her, Mum, though. I asked her to wear your nightgown. The pink one with white daisies around the neck. We loved that, didn't we, Mum? She smells more and more like you, Mum. I think I do love her after all. Almost as much as I do you, Mum, if not more.


Dear Mum,
Today we had a Photographer come to the house to take pictures of us. I wore my new pink ruffled frock that Mummy picked up for me. She also bought me matching shoes and ribbons. She said I looked like a Doll. I thought I looked like her. Daddy showed us the pictures on his computer. My favorite is the one with Daddy and I, and Mummy and baby Bella. Mummy is holding Me. and Daddy is holding baby Bella. I am taking it for 'Show and Tell' at school next week.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Anti-Corruption Drive? Why?

I lead my safe and secure life. I can afford to buy most luxuries. I work and earn. I'm educated. I'm independent. I'm fearless. I represent India in the World. People in other countries look at me and say 'Oh yes, that is the face of India, the emerging Power.'
Who is this I?
The youth of India. The corporate honchos. The high-heeled power-players. The engineers. The scientists. The doctors. The programmers.
All different from each other. Yet there is something that binds all of them. It is not the fact that we are Indians. No. It is Our ability to shut our eyes when a 'babu' asks for a bribe. Our ability to slide under the tables in Govt. Offices, and grease the outstretched palms in front of us. Dragging our feet through the thick jungles of Red-tapism, Babudom, Corruption, we tread on.
There now, I have uttered it. Corruption. A very common word. All of us know what it is. Haven't we seen everyone do it? To get a seat in a college of our choice. To get a Loan sanctioned. To get a pension file passed. To get an FIR written. To get a promotion. To get a transfer. To get a job vacancy. To get a house allotted to our name. To get a bed in the Civil Hospital. To get a grave in the cemetery. To get a Medical Certificate. To get an Insurance claim passed. To get a construction Project.
Corruption. Bribery. These two evils don't even spare the poor. Forget the middle-class. To the Rich, it's just another small inconvenience. Do it and get rid of it. Hope no one sees it.
Every government office we go to, these two evils lurk around the corners, in the big dusty files, in the cupboards, in the mouths of the Officials hiding behind tea-cups.
We crib. We complain to our friends. We make jokes out of it. While someone somewhere is crushed.
It took a 73 year old man to show us that This Monster called 'Corruption' needs to die. We can stop it from beheading us only if we come together and scare the Govt with our Unity. We are the people. And we demand that there be a stop to Corruption. It is Plague. And we don't want it to cause Death. Death of the Faith of Millions, Faith in a Govt. that is run by the people.
It took Anna Hazare, that old Gandhian, feeble, weaker than a 10 year old child, to slap the youths of India across the face and make them sit up and notice.
While he asks us to fill jails across the country, I wonder how many of us actually have the guts to do a 'Swades'......I do not know whether we will be 'killed in encounters' by the Police if we choose to participate in the 'Jail Bharo Andolan' or if they will wield the stick. That remains to be seen.
Yet, This is the least we can do. Take part in His movement. I justify my contribution to the Country saying I served as a volunteer in the 'Teach India' movement or that I taught four under-privileged kids to read and write when I was 16 years old. Sadly that is not enough.
It is high time the Money-Hungry Babus, after all these years of filling their own pockets, realize that The Youth of India have a Voice. And the World will hear us.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Inspiration

Confetti. Round Wreaths of roses. Little pink bridesmaids. With unfurled rosebuds pinned to their hair. We have it all. A Magical wedding. I, in a white and gold sari. Diamonds sparkling at my ears, nose, neck, hands. The Husband in a tuxedo. Dapper. Swashbuckling. The stuff Gentlemen are made of. A wedding with a handful of guests. A simple wedding on the Beach. We look at each other, when no-one else is looking. Stolen glances. Of what is to come at Night. Tingling flesh at places where He touches me. Goosebumps.
A red-tiled house next to the sea. Walls that were white once. A long time ago. Now yellowed. With Blue Window frames. The 'For Sale' sign. And me clasping my hands together. My mouth a swollen pout 'Oh, I wish'. He melts at the sight of my pout. Kisses me. And surprises me with the papers.
I potter around the house. Exploring its secrets. Locked rooms. Rusty locks. Boarded up windows. The occupants of the house come to inspect me. The bats hanging limply, upside down. The fat squirrel stealing nuts from out kitchen. The stray dog, that barks every time I try to go to it. Then comes sniffing when I hide the fish heads behind my back. Fero. I have named it. Ferocious hero. Fero. Then I discover it is a bitch. I call it Fero anyways. Now she doesn't leave my side.
Outside, I go for long walks. Breathing in the warm salty balmy air. I take big mouthfuls of it. Gulping in. The sea-gulls don't mind me looking into their nests. Smooth round eggs jut out. Then hatch open. Quivering little open beaks. Always open. Sometimes I help the exhausted parents by leaving steamed rice next to the nests. Mussels and cockles under my feet. Squished crab shell remains. Sometimes fish guts spilled out. I squirm, while Fero licks them off.
How I love the Sea. I point out the boats to my unborn child. Speak to it. Mutter. Mock-scold. Laugh. Drag my feet on the sand. On the pebbles. Write out baby names with my toe. Then watch the sea wipe them away. Scoop out mud to form little puddles of sea water. Delighted I pretend they are my numerous resorts. Think of the time when I think, our baby was conceived. Here, on this very beach, next to this rock. An impromptu act of Love. A time when my husband was still my husband, not a sculptor. Or of the time at Art College. How I met him trying to photograph me. 'I'm a sculptor, You can't stop me getting inspired by you' he had said. Two months of Euphoria and then the Brass Ring for my Finger. The Question to which I said simply 'Yes'.
In the mornings, I wake up to him already working on his stone figures. A steaming mug of coffee by his side. Which I replace every two hours as instructed. Day in day out. There are times when he comes out to me. To me. Brief glimpses of his uncut beard, unkempt hair. Smelling of stones, pebbles, sand. Hard knotted gnarled hands. From hours of smoothing out firm buttocks. He comes to me to claim his nocturnal rights as a husband. At other times he comes to me when he realizes that there is another sculpture in the house which breathes, moves, thinks. His wife. It is important for him that I don't disturb him. He is preparing for the Exhibition at the National Gallery. He has only seven months to complete his works. At least fifty sculptures, out of which they will select only fifteen, and I have ideas for only six. I do not have anything to lead me on, he explains to me. I nod. I understand. And so I do not say anything to him. About how Lonely I am. How I want someone to share the Incredible Joy of having a living thing inside your body. A living being.
I do not complain. This is what I have already accepted. Being an artist's wife is completely different from being anyone else's wife. It leaves me free to do my own things, I console myself.

'Guess what?' My husband says. 'We have a guest. Just to keep you company.' 'Like a Pet?' I ask, wide-eyed. 'You will see'. he trails off, leaving me in Delicious suspense.
Then Shayon arrives. My husband's cousin. I have not heard of him. Do not know him. He arrives with a battered brown suitcase and a duffel bag. This one smells suspsiciously like an artist. I say to myself. And yes, as proof he points at the crates he has left in the porch. I roll my eyes. He laughs. I notice that his deep furrows run around his nose and mouth then.
My husband discovers he is a human being and can socialize. He opens the wine bottles and then the men disappear into the cave that is his studio. Talk to the stone figures.
Later in the night, I show Shayon to his room. Make his bed for him. He comes out of the bath. Wet. Smelling of Manhood. His hair small whorls on his chest and arms. I look away.
We unpack his crates in the outhouse. That is where he will work. Paintings. Half-finished. Varnished. Paint-Brushes. Easel stands. Aprons. All smelling of paints, oils, turpentine. 'I will paint you.' He tells me. Simply. Out of the Blue. I scamper away.
Later, much later, I would remember that day. That sentence. The way he looked me in the eye.And said it.
Days pass. I show Shayon my Favourite place on the Beach. He accompanies me on my daily walks on the coast. He loves the songs I sing. The stories I tell. the idle chatter I fling at the rocks, the palm fronds. He laughs at me. catches my palm and tugs at it, while we are scooping out mud. I am drawn. Like a moth to the light. The same spot where my husband n I conceived our child. The very spot where my husband and I had held hands and spoken of the Star-riddled nights to come. Shayon and I. And the child in my belly, wedged in between. Sand in our bellybuttons. Sand in our hair. And we walk home. Unashamed. 'Did you enjoy your walk?', my husband asks. I nod. Scuttle away to the kitchen.
And then it happens again. And again. On the Beach. In the Outhouse. Once in the coconut grove. And we later laughed, what if the coconuts had fallen on our heads? Laughed.
I am Alive. Again. Shayon paints me. My Husband admires the paintings. Laughs. Thumps Shayon on the back and shuts himself in his Studio.
Idyllic existence for six months. My Husband is ready for the Exhibition. My baby will be at my Breast next month. I'm Big. And I waddle instead of walking. Shayon imitates my gait. We laugh. Today my husband will show us his works. Forty-five of them. I fetch the Champagne from the Cellar. Walk into the studio. Where he has uncovered each sculpture.
Freeze. All forty-five sculptures are of Shayon and I. Here we are near the Rock. There, under the Grove. My Rounded Belly of Stone. Shayon's hands of Stone. This one is of us walking. Hand in hand. That one of Shayon painting me. The last of this Morning. As we kissed at the Pier.
'Aren't they beautiful?' my husband asks Shayon.
'Yes, the best I have seen from you. I bet they will all be sold out within the first hour. You know where and how to find inspiration. If I hadn't agreed to your plan, where would U have been, mate? Now your turn to inspire me for my Series of Paintings. Bring on the Champagne. Eh, What do you think, Liz?' Shayon turns to me.
I clutch at my Swollen Belly. Blink at them.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Angel for a Sister.


How could I have been so foolish, Mohini? How? I still think of him. In spite of the empty nights he has left me with. Instead of our soft warm double bed, he prefers to sleep on the sofa. I go to him at night, my body smelling of lavender or rosemary or thyme, but he pushes me away. Why Mohini? Do you hear me? Do you feel my weight shifting on your bed? How long will you lie here, locked inside that hazy misty dreamless state?
I can make you empty this bed in a minute. Press my fingers against that throbbing place in your neck. Or the pillow on your face. Or take off those tubes silently. Those tubes that go in and out of your mouth, nose, ears. You wouldn't even come to know, Mohini. You wouldn't. You would just lie there. Just like that, I could finish you off. But I have saved you for the last. For me to, once I'm done with you, relish my gluttony n lick my bloodied fingers afterwards. Long slow licks. I practiced u see. Licking myself. Licking my arms or my calves, to know what it would feel like. Who taught me? Why, you, Mohini ! I saw you. Observed you. Learnt. Bet you didn't know that.
The Doctor comes to me every morning with his troupe of nurses. All white, clickety-clack, clickety-clack they go around. Their shoes echoing loudly in the corridor, while they go about with their fingers touching their lips. Shhh. Shhh. The bitches. And then they tell me, 'We are sorry for you. We know how much you love your sister. Don't worry she will be alright.'
Haha. I laugh at them. The trolls. The Doctors rips out pages after pages of medications for you. I would have thrown them out, burnt them, trashed them, were it not for the Nurses. But I don't grudge you these small expenses. I know you will pay me. In kind.
Your sonogram results are in. 'Oh, Look, it is a perfect baby. See the fingers and the toes.' I reciprocate with fake noises of Delight. Little hollow shrieks of Happiness. I send out the ward boy to buy sweets for everyone. Receivers mumble thanks. Or prayers. For your quick recovery. For the baby's health. Some of them whisper into your stinking ears 'You have an Angel for a Sister, Mohini'...Ha. Sympathy. Pity. I'm used to them.
Don't worry if you don't understand the meanings of these words. They are nouns. Emotions. The adjectives are Sympathetic. Pitiful. But my adjectives are different from the ones used for you. Beautiful is one of your adjectives. Yours. Not mine. That word stings me every time I hear it.
We are two halves of the same egg. When Daddy's tiny sperm could not have a whole egg, it split the egg into two. And consumed both. But because it ate one half with Soy sauce and the other half with Tomato Ketchup, we are not identical twins. I'm the Soy-dipped half.
You were always Sweet, Popular. Bitter n Dark was me. Unfortunately like Chocolate, the boys at school didn't want to have me, even with wine.
You were doe-eyed, curly haired, dimpled, slender. The Beautiful One. Mohini. The Enchantress. I was dorky, introverted. Shyamala. the Dark-complexioned one. 
The letters were for you. And so were the Valentine's Day cards. And the Red roses. The gifts, the dates, the telephone calls.
I, like a sore on a leper's body, festered, rotted. Left alone to pick at the scabs, I spied upon you. Through the car windows. Through the chinks in your bedroom door. I witnessed the boys fumbling with your clothes, spreading you, pushing inside you. Fumbling. Biting. Groping. Kissing. Slobbering. All through it, you made little 'cute-sounding' noises.
But you were nice to me. Angelic, like Mum said. You took me everywhere you went. You gave me all your toys. You gave me the bigger portions of all the nice things we ate, n the smaller portions of all the tasteless things. You applied nail polish to my large, white-speckled nails. You clipped pretty pins into my hair. You scrubbed the soles of my feet clean, in the bath.
You must have managed to make me look human. For Subhashish noticed me. That day while you were dancing away to glory, I sat in the corner. Downing glasses of Smirnoff vodka. One large Vodka on the rocks. Four cubes of ice, please. Thank you. Burning with shame. Hatred. My gaze followed you. Followed you. Followed you. Until Subhashish stood in front of me. 'Aren't you dancing?'. He asked.
You came back to find me gone. Then you saw me on the dance floor. Gyrating with wild abandoned joy.
Eyes wide with surprise,you hugged me from behind. Later we went back to the house and stayed up all night. I remember you handed over a spare strip of your Pills. 'Use this.' You advised.

Seven months later I was to be married. You picked up my dresses, shoes, jewelery. You decided the make-up and the hair. The Salon and the Spa. You fussed over me. In spite of your divorce from Rishabh, you were happy. For me. We spent every minute together. Shopping. Hanging out with your new boyfriends. You helped Subhashish pick out the ring. I wouldn't have known unless u guys spilled the beans.
Did you have a premonition of what was to come, Mohini? Did u?
The pre and post-wedding celebrations. The Honeymoon Trips. You arranged it all. You were my Angel.
What changed it Mohini?
I found them much later. The SMSes in his phone. The mails to him. The engaged dial tones when I called both of you together. But I did not for a minute doubt you Mohini. Never.
Until your Doctor called seven months ago. You said the baby was Atul's. That the gorged balloon under your dress was Atul's doing. I bought gifts for that insect now growing inside you. I smothered it in kisses. Framed the Ultrasound scans in my bedroom, showering them with this love for my Sister's baby.
Displayed pictures of us together in my bedroom.
Did Subhashish look at them, while he was inside me? While he sat up late writing his novels? Did he look at me and feel pity or perhaps, did he laugh secretly?
He tells me he has loved me all throughout. 'My heart belongs to you, Shyamala, but Mohini has my soul.' What should I have done, Mohini? Waddled up to you on my short legs and said 'You can have him, because u r my twin? A part of me?'.
So I plotted. It would be just a slip on the stairs. Nothing more. A slight slip to get rid of that bump under your dress. Nothing more.
I mopped the staircase. Poured a little oil on the top steps. Then I went down. Called the landline from my mobile. 'Subhashish is calling you, Mohini. Says he doesn't know what to buy for me. Help him, will you?' My voice echoed in the empty house. Thin, reedy. Did it sound frightened? Murderous? Hateful? Did it jar your ears? I will never know. You came running out of the room. Radiant. Happy. You ran to the stairs.
I lurched, telephone dangling off its hook. 'No wait, Mohini, Stop right there'. But of course no words came out of my throat. I stifled them. Pummelled them inside.
I saw you falling down. Once. Twice. Thrice. You bumped your head on the marble steps. I waited. Crouched next to you. No Blood from where I expected. Only your head was bloody. Some scratches on your legs. Your wrist was bent at an unnatural angle. Dismayed I dialled the Ambulance.
I failed. I failed Mohini. You always did win, didn't you? Now the Doctor says the baby is safe.
I will be done with you only when I hand over your bastard to Subhashish. Thrust it in his face. Dump it on him.
The house is in my name. I will not be the one homeless. I don't care where Subhashish goes.
As to you, the Doctor shakes his head everyday. 'I see no hope for her.'
And then, I will lick my fingers. Satisfied. Like, after a tasty meal. Maybe, even burp. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Journey

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 19; the nineteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.




'Train number 4362, Palghat-Hyderabad Charminar Express will be arriving on platform 8 shortly'. The metallic-sounding announcement floated above the din of the Palghat railway station. 

Sethu spat out the chewing-gum though the railings as he made his way up the stairs, to get to Platform 8. Everyone was rushing, pushing, shoving, shouting. Someone stamped his sandal-clad feet. He retaliated by stamping on the feet of the little boy next to him, who being too innocent about the ways of this wicked world, did not pass on the 'charitable act', and just contorted his tiny face in pain. 


Amused, Sethu surged on, through the human tsunami, only to pull up short behind a burqa-clad woman in his path. Drat, he could not go forward unless she moved. She was struggling with two big suitcases. Exasperated, Sethu tapped her on the arm, and offered to carry them for her. She turned around. Sethu found himself looking at a pair of large grey eyes set in a fair face. A young girl of not more than twenty or twenty-two. 'Let me help you', he said again. She shook her head 'No, Thanks, I will manage'.. She tried to drag the suitcases down the stairs, on her own. She scanned the crowd ahead for someone, but did not seem to find what or who, she was looking for. God, she would never make it without causing a stampede. Embarrassed and realizing that she was holding up the people behind her, she turned to Sethu with a shy smile and implored him to help her. He shrugged his shoulders and picked up the suitcases. She offered to hold his 'airbag', but he refused, playing the part of a chivalrous gentleman to perfection.


Sethu escorted her to a bench. While she muttered her thanks, he grabbed the chance to take a ‘pucca’ look at her. The small shiny beads of perspiration dotting the fringes of her forehead. The auburn wavy hair. Her fair hands. The white and pink Puma shoes on her feet. He noticed that her hands were hennaed. The finger tips looked like they were covered in deep red gashes. He winced at the unpleasant thought.
"Which compartment is it?" Sethu asked.
"B1", she said
Oh what luck, he gleefully thought to himself. He was in the same coach. 'I will have a good chance to befriend her.' Though she did not seem the fast type, the fact that she had easily smiled at him and met his gaze throughout, encouraged this perception. 
He strolled here and there, checking out some girls in the process. He was not sure if she would talk to him in public, what with her burqa and all. After some time, when he returned, he saw a middle-aged lady talking animatedly to her.
'Oh great, there goes my chance to chat her up.' he mumbled to himself. A pretty young woman traveling with an elderly lady was never a good combination.


After the train arrived, Sethu barged in, amidst all the flurry of flailing arms, hurrying human traffic. His seat was the one on the side, where two people could sit with their legs stretched out. The compartment was almost empty. Being a weekday, not many people would be traveling. 'Thank God, no crying kids to disturb my sleep" he thought with relief. Maybe some would board the train at the next stations. But overall this particular train seemed to have very less passengers in spite of all the rush outside. He deposited his 'air-bag' on the upper berth and went out to get a packet of cigarettes.


When he returned to his seat, both women were not to be seen. He looked around and discovered to his utter delight, that the big suitcases were stacked right underneath his seats. By now, the train had started moving. Sethu looked out of the window wondering about the girl.


After some time, he saw her, coming from the direction of the toilets. She came to him, smiled and asked, pointing at the burqa, now lying on her arm

"Is it ok, if I put this on ur berth for now?"

Sethu jumped at the chance to start some small talk.

"Oh sure, no problem. Your mother is not travelling with you?" He asked, warily eyeing the berths around him, half-expecting to hear the old lady screeching at him for talking to the girl.
"She was not my mother, she was my aunt. She had come to see me off. It’s just me now. That's why I can take off this stupid burqa.", she replied.
 

She sounded educated, refined. Sethu guessed that she would be; the moment she took off her burqa, inviting malicious stares from the people around them, especially the two Muslim families. It was akin to blasphemy, this display of a burqaless body. And worse than that talking to some young unknown man from another caste. No modesty, no shame - he could almost hear their thoughts going around.
She didn't look like she cared. If she had, she wouldn't be dressed like this. In capris and a sleeveless tee.
"Where are you getting down at?" she asked.
"Hyderabad, I work there. What about you. What is your name?" This journey was turning out much better than he anticipated.
"Jahanara. I'm doing my B'com third year. Can't wait to work, but have to plough through all these studies, no?". She narrowed her eyes. "Do you smoke?" she asked.
"Wh...What?" Sethu had not expected this. 

"Yes, I do. Why?" He tried to bring his chin down to try to check if he smelled of the glass of whiskey n cigarettes he had just had earlier in the evening in a pub. He thought maybe he stank of the smoke and the booze and maybe, just maybe it was bothering her. He did not get any smell except that of Hamam soap and Axe deodorant.
"No, I think I have forgotten my lighter. Do you have one for me to borrow later in the night, when everyone is asleep?", the words came out of her mouth without any hesitation.

"Ye..Yes, sure I do have one." He fumbled in his pockets. "Here".
She stretched out her hand to take it. "Thanks."

He hid his disgusted expression under the pretense of drinking some water. A South Indian girl smoking, that too in a train??? She must be a slut. No Decent Indian girl would ever do that. First she is talking to some man she doesn't even know, and then she asks whether he smokes..??!!'

At Coimbatore, Sethu bought some biryani for them. By this time, they had set a conversation going. They had already talked a bit about her college, friends, his colleagues.
She was very friendly. She smiled and laughed often, showing pretty even teeth.
Sethu found it a little hard to believe that this was the same girl he had seen at the station. There she had appeared so helpless, innocent. But now...well....
By 11:00 pm, everyone had slept. Besides the two Muslim families, there were only 3 Hindu families and a group of 5 boys. In all they totaled 22 passengers. However between Sethu's seat and the door, there was nobody. Since it was an AC second class coach, the passengers had drawn their curtains across. Sethu n Jahanara continued to talk in huddled whispers.
'Let's go, I need a smoke badly." She implored. Searching for their sandals in the dark was a bit of an effort, but they managed to retrieve them.


They stood near the doorway, puffing away on their cigarettes. She leaned out of the door, feeling the wind on her face, her hair flying about wildly. 

They heard the whistle of a distant train. She opened her mouth to say something to him, and the cigarette fell off.

"Well that was the last one I had. Can u lend me one please?" she asked.

"But I have only Gold Flake. Wouldn't that be too strong?" he knew usually girls smoked only Classic Milds or Mint flavored cigarettes.

"Oh, anything is fine. A cigarette is a cigarette, whatever brand. Experts don't care" she winked at him.


Sethu felt a sudden onrush of warmth in his body. While handing her the cigarette, he slightly brushed his arms against her breasts. But she didn't flinch nor move away. Either she had not noticed or she had ignored it. He was not too sure.
But emboldened by her reaction, or rather, no-reaction, he decided to advance.
Jahanara definitely looked like easy-going, in fact too easy-going.
 

He slid his hands around her waist.
"Will you spend the whole night taking pleasure from cigarettes only or something else too?" He leered, pulling her closer, tighter.
She stared at him, mouth open. Pushed him back. She looked a little taken aback at this turn in his character.
"Excuse Me? I didn't get you" she said to him, her breath catching in her throat.
"No, Listen. Look I'm a decent fellow. U seem to be very forward. So why are u panicking now? Did u just want to speak to me, just being friendly? Didn't u want anything else this night?" He pulled her back to him.
"I didn't know you were a lech. Let go of my hand" She hissed. Flames of anger leapt up in her eyes.

He tightened his hold.

She struggled, twisting her body away from him, then gave up.

"If u don't let me go now, I will shout and wake up the passengers, and call the police." she said through gritted teeth.
She reached towards the inside door. Almost pulled it open.

Sethu covered her mouth with one hand With the other, he grabbed both her hands, pulled them behind her back.

She bit him. She thrashed out.

He swore. This was proving to be a difficult situation.  But now that he had got himself into this, he had to end it somehow.
Sethu felt the fury rising in him.
"Bitch, u act all modern n forward. Now when I'm giving u what u want, u fight n grovel and pretend you are not interested?" He snarled.
She kicked him in the groin.
He doubled over in pain. She tried to turn around reaching, again, for the inside door. "Help", she shouted. But her shouts were muffled by the sound of an approaching train. The same one they had heard a while ago.
By this time, Sethu realized that he would not be able to have his way.

He did only what he could do at that moment.
He lifted her up and pushed her out of the train.
She still fought with every ounce of strength in her. Resisted with all her might. She clung to the guard-rails refusing to give up.
He tried to shut the outside door on her.
She screamed. She shrieked. Frantically she clung to him.
But, no one heard her cries in the noise of the goods train, now passing by.
Like a mad man, half-terrified, half-angry, Sethu, kicked at her, kicking, n kicking, until her hands loosened around the bars, and she fell off.
Now she was a fading thud, now a distant glimpse, now gone.

Sethu stared at the darkness. Squinted into the pitch blackness.

He sensed the Beast inside him grow weaker.
His senses returned. Sharpened. His ears pricked up, trying to catch any unfamiliar sound. Like a ‘What was that sound? asked by a groggy-eyed passenger, woken up from a fitful sleep. Like an interrupted snore-song.
No sound came.

He thought he heard voices. 

Maybe someone had wakened up. Maybe someone had seen her falling.

He ran to the toilet. Bolted the door from inside.

Waited for the sound of approaching footsteps. Waited for the sound of pounding. Or for the policeman’s whistle. Anything.
Nothing. Just deathly silence. No footsteps, No knocking. No whistle. Nothing at all.
Just his thudding heart and the soothing rhythm of the train. Just him and that dark stinking cubicle.
After some minutes, he came out, walked back to his seat.
Silently, he climbed onto his berth, stuffed the burqa into his bag and slept like a baby.


                                                                  ***

How fickle this Journey of Life is. Like a Night-Long Journey in a Train, we board an unknown compartment. Inside we battle with Fate, drawing on our reservoir of Strengths, Abilities. Sometimes their opposites. And walk out in the Morning. Some of us Changed. Some of us Unchanged.


The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Maalum Hain Mere Daddy Kaun Hain???

There are some people you meet in Life, u r with them for only a few months, but u bond over coffee, cigarettes, beer, spas, shopping (depending on ur preferences) n u become the bestest of friends.
I met Reetu in my previous PG. The minute we saw each other, it was 'Girlie-Friendly-Love' at first sight. We instantly hit it off....I know this sound lesbianistic (no don't check ur little Oxford dictionary, this word is my own clever little invention). But it is not. We discovered in after one minute of conversation that all the habits we had was common. We were both voracious readers, bindass, funny, non-plussed about the silly things we did. Neena was initially the mutual friend we had but soon poor Neenu was pushed to the sides as both of us tomboys went n had our misadventures around Namma Bengalooru.
We were a pretty riotous pair. We would lay a mat on the balcony that overlooked the main road below. And have our very own Ladies-Nights-Out. We rented horror movie DVDs from our nukkad-ka-shop (we were famous for asking for only horror movies, so much that the shop-owner soon named us 'Laurel and Hardy Bhootnis'), bought the snacks, the 'booze', the blankets, the cushions, (n soon the other girls) n soon had our own little gossip-session going on. We would dangle our legs out over the railings, n try to scare the people walking by. At 12 in the night, if u were walking along home, n u heard a whistle or a very real-sounding owl-hoot, u could bet ur ass, that it was Shilpa n Reetu.
Well cutting all that, I will come back to what I originally wanted to write in this post.
Reetu n Neena changed the place, n I followed them soon after. One day, feeling bored of staying up late nights watching TV or reading Cosmos,  on evening at around 8:00ish, we trooped out to Vinita's house for a pajama-party.
My car was probably at the service shop, coz I remember us dragging our feet and getting pissed that we had to look for an auto which pretty much meant a challenge as Bangalore is well known for its boorish autowallahs.
Neena was munching an apple, n we saw two guys coming from the opposite direction. They did look like 'potential strong cases' of eve-teasers, n I was immediately geared up. Soon I heard one of them commenting on us. I forget what he said exactly, but before my brain rationalized the options, I blurted out 'Saala, ******'....N immediately afterwards, my hands flew off to my mouth, horrified. We three stared at each other. Atleast Reetu was used to the language i used when I was utterly pissed off, but not Neena, the poor little lamb. We pretended the words did not come from any of us, n hurried to the main road to find an auto.
Pretty soon, we heard footsteps behind us.
'Ruk re, Oye, kaha jaa rahi hain?'.. in typical Bihari accent.
It had to be the boys. They had heard me. Though we turned our faces, they came face to face with us. One was really aggressive. He must have seen my reaction (remember I covered my mouth in shock?) and guessed rightly that it had to be me.
'Kya re, kya boli? Kisko boli?'
By this time we had got an auto n we sat in. Neena in the middle, I to the farthest side, Reetu near the entrance. the auto-wallah tried to start his vehicle. But the guy was hopping mad. 'What do'u think of urself? Do'u know I work for the police?'
By this time I lost my cool. My Hyde personality emerged. I shook my fists at him and screamed at him
'Kya tu kutte ki tarah comments paas kare to kuch nahi? But ek ladki jawab de, to tujhe khujli ho rahi hain? Pata hain mere Daddy kaun hain/ Jaanta hain woh kaun hain? I shrieked.
I was almost ready to jump out of the auto n throttle him.
'Kaun hain tere pitaji (note his polite expression)? Mein bhi to jaanu? Police mein kaam karta hun main.'
then turning to the auto wallah, he continued
'Oye, tune start auto kiya to terepe case kar dunga. Dekh mera badge. Main police mein hun.'
In spite oof Reetu trying to calm me down, I half stood n continued ranting'
'Tu jaanta nahi mere Daddy kaun hain. Police mein toilet clean karta hoga to bhi badge milega. Bas mein ek phone karoongi to tera police ka badge abhi hospital ka badge ban jaayega. Jaanta hain mere Daddy kaun hain?
'Bata kaun hain tere pitaji (again note the polite expression)'
All the time that he is asking me what my father's name is. The auto wallah guesses, from my talks, that my father is probably some Big Bangalorean Political hotshot. He gathered some confidence n said to the guy,
'Jaane do na saab. Ladkiyan hain. Kaiko ladte ho?'
Reetu stamps my foot, n implores him,
'Bhaiya, please jaane do. Hum ladkiyon ka muh to chalta rehta hain. Hamara dimag ghutno mein hain. Please jaane do.'
Hearing Bhaiya, he calms down. 'Nahi behen (by this time, I can almost hear a movie star of yester-year wailing 'behna re, tu to chali gai, par yeh meri kalaai pe raakhi ab kaun baandhega' type song accompanied by a broken tala and harmonium-peti (no, there is no song like that, the credit for the lyrics goes to clever little me)....Nahi behen, he starts again, mereko thes pohonchi. Mein aaplogon ki 'rishpect' karta hun. magar mujhe chot lagi jap inhone (note again n again the polite language) mujhe gaali di'.
Turning to the autowalah, he says 'Aap start karloji auto', turns away and disappears.
We chug alaong. The autowala is , for a change, a nice man (or maybe he is scared that my Daddy is really someone of great importance)..
'Kya hua tha, Madam? Woh kyun aise chilla raha tha?'
I launch into my tirade against eve-teasing, n he keeps nodding vigorously, agreeing with whatever I have said.
At this point, I turn to look at Reetu, who is staring at Neena. I let my eyes follow her gaze n discover that Neena's apple is still stuck to her teeth n she is clutching both of our hands, and her knuckles are white. She was terrified the whole time, we were battling it out!!!!
Reetu asks me
'Everything is allright but yeh to bataa tere Daddy hain kaun?'

Needless to say, we laugh all the way to Vinita's house......

Friday, April 01, 2011

Aunty Kisko Bola be?

So there I was poking and smelling some ripened mangoes at my favorite streetside fruit hawker's, when I hear someone screaming 'Shilpaaaaaaaaaaa..."...Startled out of my wits, I turn around to find a woman waddling towards me, grinning so much that I could count her teeth all the way from across the street. I blinked my eyes unable to recognize her....And then I attain Nirvana. This was my longlost friend Pinky aka Paromita aka Purr.....!! I beam my broadest smile and run towards her, ripened mango in my hand, the hawker running behind me shouting at me to return his mango, the vehicles skidding midway, trying to avoid a collision or striking us dead. there in the middle of the busy packed road, 2 long lost friends embrace, hug, laugh, shriek in delight, much to the amusement of passers-by.  Like a scene from that Hollywood movie, Grandfather Time falls down. People stop to look at us. Drivers roll down their windows, cuss, shake their fists and middle fingers. Then Grandfather Time comes back to his senses, picks himself up and slaps us across the face.
Embarrassed we run back to the pavement and continue our drama. Questions tumble forth, shoot back and forth.
'Where are you working?'
'Where do u stay?'
'Are u married?'
'Yes, I have a 5 years old boy. Rohan.'
'What? I want to see him.'
'Of course u have to. Come. My house is just 5 mins away, have dinner with us tonight'
Still unmarried, n usually wasting my time working at CUPA or shopping or pub-hopping, I run to her house., lured by the idea of eating a home-cooked meal for once, but tempted more by my excitement at meeting her family.
You see, we had been together ever since we were 4 years old only to lose touch as teens. She had moved away to another state and those days belonging to the pre-internet, pre-mobile phones era, for some months, we managed to write to each other, but soon even that link got cut.
So here we are, drinking wine at her place, sharing all that we had to tell each other, all the things we had missed out in the last 12 years......
Pinky introduces me to Rohan. A shy, little boy of 6. He comes to me with his chin stuck to his neck, n Pinky says - 'Dekho beta, kaun aaya. Yeh hain Shilpa aunty. Say Hello to her....'.
At the mention of Aunty, I fume inwardly. Look up at her. Then blink my eyes and smile at Rohan.
'Hi Aunty.' Rohan says to me.
I pretend not to hear the second word.
'Hi Beta', I answer through clenched teeth.
'Arrey wait, I will go get some more snacks' and Pinky waddles back into the kitchen.
As soon as I see her back disappearing inside the kitchen, I look at Rohan.
'Idhar aao' I call him, almost commanding, my eyes narrow slits.
He comes slowly to me.
I take hold of both his hands, twist my face, hoping my snarling face looks better than Johny Lever's,
'Tereko mein Aunty dikhti kya? Bol.'
Rohan looks at me, surprised at the change in this seemingly 'nice Aunty's' voice.
He swallows the chewing gum he has in his mouth, n blinks his eyes at me, mouth open.
'Bol be, Aunty dikh reli hain kya mein tereko?
Clever Rohan knows better than to say yes.
He shakes his head from side to side.
'Teri Mummy jaisi hun kya, mein? Kya bolne ka mereko? Didi. Kya?'
Cheeky Rohan blinks his eyes four times and says
'Lekin meri saari Didiya to dikhne mein chhoti hain....aap Didi kaise bane? Aap to badi hain.'
I glare at the boy, doing a good job of looking like, I imagined, Sunny Deol in 'Gaddar'.
That seems to quieten him up. He weighs his options, finally deciding as long as 'Shilpa Aunty' is in the house, it is a dangerous existence.
'Kya bulayega mereko tu?'
'Shilpa Didi...' he stammers.
'Phir se bol.'
'Shilpa Didi...' he speaks clearly this time.
Just as Pinky enters the living room with some more wine and cheese, I pat Rohan on the head, shuffle his hair a little too much, n plant a sloppy kiss down on his cheek, while all the while he is squirming. But he doesn't dare wipe it afterwards.
'Mein kaun hu, beta?' I ask, looking him straight in the eyes.
'Shilpa Didi'..he replies and runs away into his room.
Pinky laughs - 'Oh he knows his Mum is old now. He is calling u a Didi. Wait until u get married. then he will call u Aunty.....hahaha'
'No dear, i don't think so...hahaha'
N we continue chattering away late into the night.