Friday, 30 April 2010

Mist on Senchal Lake.....

Raj walked the well trodden path right beside the Senchal Lake and its surrounding scenic splendor. In the midst of heavy early morning mist and cool breeze, he was lost in his thoughts as he gently walked on unknown territory.

Abruptly he stopped and looked curiously and then he asked 'Sue…. Sue is that you'? He pinched himself on not getting a reply…. it indeed was 'Suhana' his college sweet heart.

Raj gathered his composure and said 'Hi Suhana, how are you? Come on, It's been ages since we met, isn’t it? He got no reply.

Raj glanced at her closely, Suhana was still extremely beautiful, her fair skin was now albaster white and her face a bit gaunt but she still had those sparkling brown eyes and jet black hair. Raj was dumbstruck for a while. After gathering enough courage he held Suhana’s hand and said, ‘Lets sit by the lake Suhana and catch up on old times please’.

No!! She replied, ‘I got to go, but I’ll see you tomorrow; same place and at the same time’.

The prospect of seeing Sue again made his adrenalin rush. Gosh, he had a lot of catching up to do.
Later while sleeping on his favorite hammock, his thoughts of Sue came back like a flash.

It was his final year He remembered his unstable family background. His dad had left his mom for a younger woman and had never looked back; he and his mom were left to fend for themselves. His mom had managed to get a small job in a private firm and he managed to attend college during the day while in the evening he would give guitar lessons to students.

This way they managed to somehow make ends meet. Both he and his mom were happy in their own small way. Deep in his heart he was not content with the way they lived and being very ambitious by nature craved for a better life. He wanted to get out of the rat hole that he thought he lived in.

Being bright, assertive, handsome and flamboyant, he had all the qualities to make it big and was hence quite popular with the opposite sex.

He had not seen her before, rather he did not make any attempt to meet or know her. She was quite, rather shy and did not mix her words while talking with her friends.

One day as she sat in the college canteen with her friends he approached her..

Hi! He said ‘I am Raj and you’?

She almost gasped. Nervously she looked around and said. 'Sue’.... ‘Suhana’ she whispered. He glanced at her expressive brown eyes, pearl white complexion and was immediately smitten. It was never the same again.

Suhana was not taken by his personality; she was into studies and quite a girl with a serious demeanor that made him more adamant to pursue her.

After a lot of persuasion finally Suhana agreed on a date with him. He took her to ‘Cafe Royale’ a restaurant worthy of its name. Munching on brownies and coffee he heard her story. It was almost parallel to his story. Her father too had left her mom early in life. Her mom lived in a town faraway while she came to the city for education.

Suhana lived in a paying guest accommodation. She was quite independent, attended college during the day and gave tuitions in the evening to make ends meet. It was exactly like his hard life.

Once he casually asked her why she never made an attempt at modeling, she had everything in her to be one with ease. Sue casually said she was a simple girl and money and glamour was not her forte. This really impressed Raj immensely. Soon they were a well known couple in the college. Though they were in the same college they could get quality time to spend together only at weekends.

Most of the time, Sue preferred to hear him play his guitar and spend quite peaceful moments with him. Those were great times together. He once held her close to him and poured his heart out. He said ‘Suhana one day I'll take you around in a fabulous car, buy you a luxurious house, and take you round the world’.

Sue just smiled back and said ‘You are my world Raj, I don't need anything more’. The thought brought goose pimples on him as he remembered those lovely days.

Soon they were in their final year and were looking forward to their life ahead. Like they say, good times can turn at any time; his life too took a u turn. Young Payal made an unexpected entry in his life.

Payal's father was an extremely successful NRI businessman living in the United States. It remained a mystery to him as to why Payal had come to study in India. Payal befriended all his friends. Her amiable nature, good looks and her riches made her extremely popular.

She came to college driving a white Honda and the most chic and happening clothes. Almost all the college boys wanted to befriend her and ask her out.

During their last summer break, Sue came to him and said, 'Raj moms ill, I have to go and assist her to recover and recoup’. He was aghast. He wanted to spend the entire break with her. He was planning to introduce her to his family and move their relation forward.

‘Sue I’ll miss you’. He cried on her shoulders.

‘I'll be back very soon Raj’ she promised. He genuinely missed Sue a lot.

That’s when Payal filled the void. Payal took a fancy for him and soon invited him and his friends for her birthday party. At the party Raj was gob smacked seeing her house which was a penthouse. She had an array of servants in attendance at her beck and call. All this made quite an impression on his ambitious mind.

He soon became mesmerized with Payal. She lived like a queen. She too was intensely ambitious like him. She wanted to return to the United States soon after her degree and pursue a glamorous career. She wanted to start a fashion house and also launch her own perfume.

One fine day she approached Raj and said boldly ‘I'm in love with you’. He very well knew that it was coming. ‘Payal I need some time’ he said. Yeah! She said ‘I know about you and Sue. What life can Sue offer you? You would be struggling all your life with her. Is that what you want?
Think and let me know’ she said. She also informed him that she had already spoken about him to her dad and her dad was all for it.

Manmohan Sinha, Payal's father, owned a chain of restaurants in New York, San Diego, and many other states in the US. Payal was his only child. He needed a son in law who would take care of his daughter as well his business some day and Raj filled the place to the tee. Being ambitious Raj was convinced to go with Payal and her dad's business plans.

He broke the news to Sue gently. She was devastated but managed to remain composed. She said ‘Payal's perfect for you Raj’. Please go ahead.

Time passed and one day he landed at Sue's PG accommodation to give her the invitation for his wedding. Sue had simply vanished. Even her landlady did not know where she went. This news skipped his heartbeat and wanted to earnestly know how she was.

One thing he knew beneath the soft demeanor of Sue was that she was a strong girl and could take good care of her life.

Several years passed by. He got almost all what he ever wished for. Enchanting world trips, plush apartments in every state of US, and a rich array of cars. Both were extremely busy and they almost led independent lives.

Payal was not a bad person but being career minded, business was a way of life for her. She had become a successful business person and had no time for a family life.

Raj was soon disillusioned with life. Nothing seemed right and was soon a very unhappy person. They decided to part ways under mutual consent. Payal saw to it that he got a good chunk of her father's money as he had worked hard for it. Not having any children made things easy for them and soon they were divorced.

Soon after, he returned to India. Being financially secured there was nothing to worry. He now wanted to have a more stress free and a spiritual life.

His good friend Basu suggested him to settle in Darjeeling. Basu lived there and wanted Raj to settle there too. According to Basu, Darjeeling was the 'Queen of the hills’ and the most peaceful place for the spiritually inclined. It rested among the mountains with glistening Mount Kanchenjunga towering over the azure sky. Raj bought a quaint cottage and took up a job as a manager for ‘Happy valley tea estate’ which was run by the aged Mrs. Rama Mohan.

Not that he needed a job. He was financially secured thanks to Payal, but to just keep himself occupied he took up employment.

While deep in his thoughts the watch alarm rang. He scrambled clumsily as his thoughts came abruptly to the present.

He dressed up fast and rushed to the Senchal Lake. Sue was already there.

‘Did you miss me Raj?’ cried Sue. ‘Of course I did, Suhana’. Then they got on talking about life in general. He told her about his life in the US with Payal and their various businesses and how he finally decided to come back to India.

‘Sue’, he said ‘I could never forget you. You were always there in my heart all these years. I regret today for what I have done. If ever I could go back and mend ways. Sue, can we get back to our old days again please?’

He saw a very sad expression on her face, ‘I don't want to hurry Sue, think about it, OK?’

They spoke for nearly an hour about everything under the sun. While parting, he again asked her, ‘Tell me Sue, can we start a new relationship again?’ She shivered and her lips turned blue. It was getting too cold by the lake. ‘Sue you were my only love. Wish I had never met Payal. I regret everything today. I was a callous fool, but now I'll do anything to make you happy, my dear’.

Sue was very quite. She promised to meet him the next day.

She never turned up after that. Raj went to Senchal Lake every day. She never came. He cursed himself for not asking her where she lived. For some reason he had forgotten to ask her.

He hurriedly went to meet Mrs. Rama Mohan and was just in time as she wheezed with her chronic asthma attack. ‘Raj, please get my medicine from by bedroom closet’, she cried. He ran to her bedroom to get it. As he entered her bedroom he froze. There on the wall stood a framed photo of Suhana decked with a sandal wood garland.

He gave Mrs. Rama her medicine and once she was composed, asked her about the photo. ‘Oh!’ cried Mrs. Rama. ‘That was my daughter Suhana. She died eight years back. She committed suicide. She had told me she loved a boy but he ditched her for a rich girl. She was heart broken and committed suicide on 5th April eight years back.’ Raj gasped as he remembered his wedding date.

‘Look at the irony’ she said. ‘Three years back her father died and left this large estate in his daughter’s name not knowing she was already dead. If she would have been alive she would have been a very rich women today. I curse that boy who ditched her for money. He will never be happy’.

Raj walked the path near the Senchal Lake. The mist had by now cleared and the sun was bright.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

My Memories 2........ Manroo

As I watched 'Taare Zameen Par' for the fifth time, the protagonist of the story 'Ishaan' reminded me of someone, his nature his mannerisms and his features all seemed familiar.

I pondered who could it be? Then all of a sudden it zapped me. Yeah!!!He resembled 'Manroo' in every way.

Blast from the past, I thought as I went down memory lane. As ten year olds nothing really mattered to all of us. I mean me and my cousins.

For us we used to look forward to school summer holidays and spending it in our native village. The elders never interfered in what we did. We romped across the entire village entering every possible house, playing with all sundry that would come our way.

'Manroo' would come to play with us everyday. I actually don’t know what his real name was but we all called him 'Manroo'.

Manroo came from a poverty ridden background and lived behind my aunt’s house. His father was a primary school teacher and he had two brothers one elder and one younger.

His father found it hard to make ends meet. Moreover I always found his father worried while his mother worked tirelessly. His brothers pitched in to help their parents in all their chores.

Manroo was different. He lived life his own unique way. He played with us and accompanied us everywhere. His family’s trials and tribulations just did not matter to him. He lived his life king-size in his own way.

He did not speak much. I once saw him talking to a jackfruit. This was very strange to me. On asking him he said yeah I do it often to many of the fruits here. I just tell them what wonderful fruits they are and they should be good and grow well.

Manroo would tour us around the village and would introduce us to all the flora and fauna there. His knowledge on the plant kingdom was par excellence.

This is a wonderful fruit he would say plucking few off the plant and passing it on to us. Eat it, it’s a berry. We would collect the edible ones off the plants/trees and eat them till we puked much to the horror of the elders.

I learned a lot of pebble games and fishing in the village stream all aka Manroo. I never saw Manroo study or help his parents or any of his family members. He was not bothered about his family’s penury.

He just lived the life that made him feel good.

For all of us city dwelling children, Manroo was a simple village boy. He never had good clothes and I believe he never slept on a full stomach.

Nevertheless, one thing which I remember clearly about him was that he would never eat at our place. Meal times would always be with his family no matter how frugal it was.

Once out of curiosity, I asked him Manroo what was for lunch. He replied smiling dal, rice and pickle. I might have asked him dozens of times and the answer was always the same.

My aunt’s family was affluent and on a normal day we had good meals. No matter how much we forced Manroo he would never eat at our place. I always found Manroo so happy and content. Nothing in this world ever troubled him.

Academically, Manroo was not as bright as other children there in the village. Socially too he did not match any of the children. Yet everyone liked him and accepted him as their friend without any inhibitions.

Once when he did not come to play with us we went to call him. I was appalled to see his house and his living conditions. It affected me immediately though it did not matter to him at all.

He welcomed us to his house and made us quite comfortable. We played at his place for the first time. He served us black coffee which we all relished so much not knowing then that milk was a luxury for the family.

Years passed. My aunt left the village and settled in the city and we lost all contact with Manroo and the other children from that village.

Recently, when I visited my cousin in Mumbai, she casually asked me whether I remember Manroo. Of course I said. He was always on my mind but it was just too long back.

She told me Manroo was a banker now. He was a manager of a reputed bank and doing very well in life. His brothers too were doing well. That was the best news I had heard. Further she told me that Manroo had built a large house and was very well settled with his family.

Beyond this good news my cousin could not give me any further information on his present whereabouts. I am so curious to meet Manroo and his family. This definitely is one of the many success stories of India and I found it worthwhile to write about it here.

Manroo, if you by any chance read my blog, please do write back. It would be a pleasure to be in touch. I am sure you will remember me and my cousins who used to come from Mumbai. You are so much etched in our minds.

I am so very happy at this very moment as I post this.

This is one great real life story which has a fabulous end. Don’t you all agree??

Friday, 2 April 2010

Eddy... the balloon with an attitude

As I was rummaging through our drawers at home, I came across a old file. This particular file holds some of my twin sons writings and snippets during their schooling here in Bahrain.

Both my sons, Alok and Ankush are voracious readers as well as good writers (their blog links are given at the end of this post). Pondering over through the file I came across one specific story, which was really well written by my son Alok. This brought back lots of good time memories and it took me way back to the day when it all happened.

Alok was in the 11th grade then. He was all excited as he came back from school and told me.... 'Mom I have a story writing competition in school, should I participate'?

Of course you should I said. You write quite well Alok and you are quite imaginative too. Go ahead and spend some time on it.

I constantly reminded Alok about the competition after that and told him to prepare a story as the competition was open to all students of his school. Hundreds of students would be preparing to compete.

My bickering fell on deaf years for quite some time. 'There is enough time mom, I'll prepare it in time, don't worry' was all he would say.

After awhile I completely forgot about it. Then one fine day Alok came from school and told me that the competition was over and he submitted a story just that day though he had a story in mind since some time.

I was extremely angry and really reprimanded him for not putting some effort when he had all the time in the world.

Alok casually said... 'Yeah, that’s true but I forgot. Today I was in the lab for my physics practical’s when one of the teacher called and asked me for the submission. I just went and wrote something and submitted.'

I was really disturbed at his casual demeanor but then what can a mother do with her teenaged son. I just left it at that.

A week later, Alok came from school pretty excited. 'Guess what mom?' I came first and won the school competition among hundreds of other candidates. I just could not believe it. He further told me that top five stories are being sent for an inter school competition, and the school was sending his story. That was great news at that time.

A week later, we parents were called to attend the award function where Alok once again won the inter school competition in the senior most category. He won the first prize. He had won a huge cup along with a certificate of excellence. He also received a bag full of goodies most of which was coupons for fast food outlets here in Bahrain.

It was a proud moment for all of us. His school in turn had won and most of his teachers were there to congratulate him.

Here is the story…..

Life as we all know is a very fickle term. From the very beginning i.e. birth of a child to the point where the same individual grows up to make mature decisions, we all tend to say that we have made mistakes that given a chance to go back we would do our best to correct or rectify it.

What wouldn’t one do if he or she gets one more chance to start afresh?

Opportunity comes and goes; it is up to us to grab it at its helm. In essaying my thoughts maybe I need to relate my views with the help of a short story.

There was once a balloon, named eddy. He was a character, who placed himself at a higher moral ground than his fellow balloon friends.

Eddy the balloon thought mighty high of his ideas and beliefs, he always thought that he belonged to a special world befitting his ideologies.

Eddy had few friends, who on the contrary to his views didn’t share his unbridled enthusiasm for higher living and purposes; they had but one mission, to have fun.

Also Eddy lived in a box up in the Attic of a modest suburban home, filled with fellow balloons of varying shapes, sizes and colors. In that very house also lived a little girl named Josephine.

One day, there was a lot of excitement amongst all balloons, upon inquiry, Eddy’s close friend Peter mentioned to him that a gala fest was to be organized the following evening and all balloons were going to be used.

All Eddy's fellow balloons were excited and couldn’t wait to be picked up. Eddy didn’t think much of this so called fest. He mentioned to Peter that he wanted to be a balloon who would be used for a really big event and not just for any ordinary festivity.

The next day, Eddy tried to convince his friends that it wasn't worth being used for an event which wasn’t significant. He reminded his friends that he didn’t fancy being burst by those obnoxious little kids.

His friends although a bit frightened, mentioned to him that the whole process of having wind blown through oneself was exhilarating. But Eddy wasn’t to be budged.

Later in the evening as little Josephine blew the balloons, Eddy refused to be blown up leading to him being kept back into the box, much to his happiness.

Eddy congratulated himself late that night to the sounds of balloons bursting. This continued for many years, festivities came and went, but Eddy didn’t change in his ways.

Then one day, there was a great commotion among the balloons, as they had heard that there was to be a huge carnival at the other end of the town.

YES!! Thought Eddy…yes that would be the event he would participate in. He would be the biggest, the best and the most colorful balloon in that carnival parade.

He would be admired by all the kids at the carnival and would be a rage of envy by all the other balloons present.

Eddy could not be more thrilled, he had waited, on wits end, months for this moment to arrive.

The D-day had arrived and all the balloons were thrilled. Josephine took the box to the parade. One by one Eddy’s new friends were taken out and blown. At the end he was the only balloon left.

As she picked Eddy up to fill him, her dad said that Eddy the balloon could not be blown, but little Josephine was adamant to use all the balloons in the box.

As Josephine put Eddy to her lips, he waited to feel the rush of air that was mentioned to him by his friends, but nothing happened. Josephine too wasn’t to be fazed, she had plenty balloons to fill.

Months of just lying in the box had been futile. He had lost the elasticity which he had possessed as a young balloon.

That night as he lay in the waste bin alone, he had an epiphany. All that his friends had ever mentioned hit home. He realized the futility of his decision and cursed his obscure way of looking at life.

He had never got a chance to experience the true joy of being a balloon and specially the true happiness one gets from bringing a moment of joy to others. He had never lived life when he could have caught it at its helm.

Much of our lives go without us having an idea of the opportunities lying before us. It is up to us to peel off the Eddy within us and shed it. Life is only once and we need to find every moment to celebrate it.

We are not fortunate enough to have everything in our lives, but we are all given a blessing of the freedom of choice.

Let us vow to keep feelings of animosity and negativity behind us and look ahead to make our lives along with the others around us happier and more productive.