Sunset

He looked on….the Sun was hurrying away under the waves of the limitless ocean. It felt as if the Sun was running late for a rendezvous. Was it a date with his wife? “Oh, is Sun married at all?” Avinash frowned. “May be he is, his kids might be waiting eagerly for him to return” Avinash smiled at his own imaginations.

It was his favorite time of the day. When dimming rays of Sun, reflected on the oceanic waves, Avinash reflected on his life from the garden terrace of his beach facing bungalow.

It had been 20 years since he moved to the city of dreams. How ironic was it that Avinash had no dream! He was content in his own world, no expectations from life or people. He loved the sea, standing on the beach, burying his feet under the sand and feeling the sand slowly moving away from his feet. This was how life was for him, like a natural wave, and he was like sand, flowing where the waves took him, without any complaints. How he wished, it had remained the way it was! But at an age of 19, he could not even fathom what was in store for him.

A dreamless happy-go-lucky chap was about to be transformed into an ambitious “never-stop” addict of success.

But here he was, not thinking about his success or next promotion, but staring at the Sun. Suddenly he remembered that Arhan, his son, wanted to play a game of Othello with him but he had calls to attend. “hmm….I missed playing with Arhan, will do it tomorrow”, he made a mental note.

Day after day, Avinash looked at the Sun and made a mental note of something which he had missed during the day, even simple things like hugging Arhan for an extra minute, paying attention to Arna’s (his wife) continuous narration about her day, his 5000 steps walk, spending non-mobile time at the dining table and so on.

Never a day would pass when Avinash didn’t miss out one of the things.

Sun was almost at the entrance of his home. Waves were getting higher and Sun was ready to take a plunge. “What a monotonous life Sun has, wake up at the same time every day, take the same route to sky office, burn till evening and rush back home. No flexibility!! But how is it different from my life? I do the same, day after day.  At-least Sun gets to be home with his family on time everyday! Sun probably doesn’t have any pending tasks at the end of the day” Avinash wondered with a feeling of melancholy.

Since few weeks, Avinash was miserably failing in fighting this pensive feeling. Any kind of success, big or small, was not motivating him enough to go on. His mind kept telling him that this was not the life he had wanted, but if not this, what else would he do?

Sun was home. Avinash let out a sigh, and turned back to enter his home. Another day had ended….

 

PS: An open end of the story is intentional. Lately, I have been meeting people who are fighting the same feeling as Avinash. Call it midlife crises or quest for survival, we are all trying to strike a balance in life. With this story, I just wanted to bring out the feelings that most of us keep hidden, because we can’t stop, what we had started. Answers and solutions are probably within or around us but I have no intentions to find those answers….atleast for now.

Under 9

So , I was thinking what should I write on this Friday. Mind was brewing up a lot of stories but heart wanted to pen down some unsaid thoughts. Yeah, unsaid, for many years and will remain so !

When I was in school, I had a friend, a “Hi-Hello” friend actually. Our talks were mostly limited to greeting each other with a “Good Morning”, passing courteous smiles and waving “Bye” at the end of the day. She had her own “gang” of friends and I had mine. We belonged to very different sect of friends, behaviorally & socially. I will not get into the differences because it doesn’t matter….for this blog. May be some other day….I would write about that too.

During one of her weak moments, when she was outcast-ed from her gang, she confessed how much she hated her “so called” friends and was being forced to be with them. Yes, she was being forced, by her parents to be with “those” kids, because her parents wanted her to be like them. I was intrigued, because I saw kids being compared everywhere, at home, at school, at parties, at family gatherings and so on.

Today, when I look back, I find how many childhoods were ruined because of comparison. And I am thankful to those parenting articles which are creating awareness in new age parents to let the child be, a child. BUT, do you think it has stopped or even reduced?

No, a definite NO.

I was out for my evening walk the other day and was chatting with a friend, whose son takes the same class as mine. And she informed me that one of their common friends has joined a class and is being coached for “under 9” tournament. I had a sudden pang of a feeling that I can’t describe and said, “Oh god, so they are also stuck in the viscous circle of “under””!!! I have no doubts about the child’s capabilities, but all I can see is another under 9 child being pushed into a shark tank. And he has to keep floating, because his parents are tied to the same rope as he is and if he drowns, they drown too !!

When I was a kid, comparison was with cousins and friends, now its with 100 stranger kids, whom WE think are better. Why are we doing this to our children? I don’t have an answer. I am a culprit too. My son, once was passionate about a game, today also he plays, he wins medals and trophies too, but the passion is missing. I ask myself, why? Because we, parents, teachers and society, made him believe that he is capable, of doing wonders. And that belief was shattered, when he lost in games, again and again. He picked himself up after every lost game and played the next one with the same zeal, but for how long? Even the toughest of players have bad days.

So the new age term for new age parents is “under x”. Parents take pride in saying, “our kid is participating in under 7, or under 9 or under some tournament”. What they fail to understand is that, their kid is just under 9 and next year he wont be, so instead of pushing him or her to do something which he doesn’t want to or can’t, may be for once, let him truly be “under 9”.

Let them explore what a 9 year old kid should, let them engage in various activities, chose what they like and discard what they don’t. We as parents and our kids should learn to accept their natural capabilities and weaknesses. Because acceptance brings in a sense of satisfaction and also a sense of competition, with own-self.

My advice to all new parents, don’t succumb to the pressures of society, be a mom and dad to your child, scold him, stand for him, pat his back when he wins, hug him when he looses, but never ever say, “look…..your friend got a trophy in under 9 tournament, what are you doing?” Believe me, they will soon be under 11 and you wont even realize where those 2 precious years of their childhood vanished.

High Heels

Meher felt uneasy, she turned to her side, trying to shield her ears with her cushion. Words that fell on her ears sounded like noise. She tried hard to sleep. But the dreams that filled her eyes and mind were disturbing. She didn’t see her fairy angel this time.

She woke up startled, and started kicking, trying to grab attention. Like always, kicking did not go unnoticed. Meher felt the pat and heard those magical words, “hey baby, so you are awake. Don’t worry, mamma is here. Are you hungry?”. Meher kicked again. “I knew” a pat with a chuckle. “You know what, mamma is hungry too. Lets eat something sweet”.

Meher felt content, and she dozed off in dreams coated with the sweetness of her mother’s words! “Mother’s womb is such a beautiful place to be”, she thought. But what was that noise?

Meher’s entry to the world was marked with bitter and sweet moments. At the age of 2, she was judged for being short, like her mother. At 5, she was advised to practice wearing heels when she grows up, if she wanted to grab a good husband. At 9, she was made fun of, for being the shortest girl in her class. “Nobody can see you”, everyone would laugh at her.

She would come crying to her mom, “Why am I not tall like other girls mamma? Why is being visible so important?. Her mamma had no answers, she was advised to eat protein rich diet during her pregnancy to have a tall baby. Meher was judged even before she was born. All her mamma could say was, “Don’t worry baby, mamma is here. I will buy you a beautiful pair of heels and then you will also be visible”.

At the age of 12, heels became Meher’s best friend. She wore them like a pro, blocks, stilettos, cone…she adored her heels for giving her, that much needed visibility.

At 13, she was hit by lightening. Her heels would not be able to help her anymore. She was covered from tip to toe in a black naqab. “Why were they all so worried about my height, if all they wanted was to cover me up?” she complained. She wanted to rebel, but her mamma stopped her. “It will not help you Meher. Find your own heels, and then everyone will see you”.

She found solace in books and read as much as she could. Meher was a natural at stage, an extempore speaker. Her voice would wake up the most sleepy heads in an auditorium. The shortest girl of the class started representing her school in debates.

College was a dream come true, she took a bold step to change her naqab into a hijab, but heels still remained her favorite. Now she had a face and also those heels, to make her stand out in the crowd. She was visible enough. Meher became an integral part of drama and oratory club. Her dream was to be a great orator, and she chose an idol for her. “I would be like him, one day”, she promised herself secretly.

“Hey Meher, director is calling you”, her friend called. Meher rushed towards the director’s room. She had good grades and she was outstanding at extracurricular activities, so there was nothing to worry about. “May be, there is an event coming up and they want me to compere for it” she guessed.

“Hello Sir, did you call me?” she opened the shaded glass door of director’s room after knocking once.

“Yes, Meher, please come in. I wanted to talk to you about an event”, director declared.

So she was right. She sinked into the chair and listened attentively.

“We have a special guest coming in next week and we want you to plan out a 2 hour program. It should be based on nationality, challenges of current generation and the changes that your generation want to see around you. I want you to take the lead. You can plan it as a drama or musical but you should speak about a topic. You will be the first student to meet our guest and also take a short interview”.

“Sure sir, who is the guest? I will prepare the interview questions accordingly”. Meher inquired.

“I can’t reveal that as its confidential. Don’t worry, I am confident that you won’t have any trouble framing your questions as soon as you meet him”, director smiled and indicated her to start with the preparation.

The Day

The college was buzzing with activity. Meher chose to wear sleek golden stilettos for the occasion. Guest had arrived. She hurried towards director’s room and knocked, “May I come in Sir”.

One look at the guest, made her go weak in her knees. She stumbled in her heels, getting engulfed in his aura. Her ankle twisted bringing her back to her senses, and she said, “Sorry Sir, I mean, Hello sir, its a privilege to meet you”. Interview went on for half an hour and she felt captured. Captured in his enigma. Her idol was sitting in front of her, answering her stupid questions.

“You have a great voice Meher. And you are extremely well informed. You would be a great orator one day.” he paused for a second and they said, “And your heels are beautiful”, he laughed out loud.

“Lets go to the auditorium for the cultural program sir”, Director said and Meher followed them.

She had to make an opening speech, the topic she had chosen was close to her heart, about her favorite heels. Meher walked on to the stage, stared down at her feet and stepped out of her stilettos. 4 inches shorter Meher stepped forward and opened her speech, all eyes curiously glued on to her.

“Hi everyone, can you hear me?”. A loud uproar echoed in the auditorium.

“Can you see me?”, audience burst out laughing.

“Never mind” and Meher continued.

It was her “Mitron” moment!!!

 

Chasing the Rainbow

“Its too hot in here, when are they going to fix the air conditioning?” cursed Sid, loosening his tie. He had flown to Delhi in the morning, for a customer meeting. As soon as he reached the client office, he was informed that minimum ventilation is available due a major power breakdown. Electrical team had been intimated and were on their toes to fix the issue ASAP.

Sid, a passionate engineer, worked in a multi national company as a senior executive. He had landed in Bangalore, the IT capital of India, soon after completing his engineering course. It wasn’t difficult for Sid, to find a job of his liking, He was a star performer in his university and a sucker for technology. As a child, he would see his cousins living in cities, use mobile phones and it fascinated him to the core. His dream was to invent and innovate. Numbers excited him and he fell in love with binary as soon as his eyes fell on it. There was no looking back or going back. He was hell bound on making his life a success. He grew up in the corporate ladder like a shark attacking its prey, unstoppable and unbeatable. Travelling in business class and breathing the conditioned air had become a norm. Anything below was derogatory for Sid.

And there he was, in a carpeted, round table conference room, sweating in front of a pedestal fan. He gasped for breath and rushed out of the building. Scene outside was no different. His Burberry sun glasses were seeking shade from the scorching rays of the sun. He wished that it rained !

Was it his dream vision? No! Clouds surfaced, blinding the sun. Mild breeze, blew Sid’s hair. He closed his eyes and let our a sigh of relief. Breeze suddenly transformed into a wind storm.

“No, No….don’t take the clouds away”, pleaded Sid.

“Your wish is my command”, breeze blew into his ears and it started pouring. Sid ran under the patio. Smell of the mud, being tickled by the drops of rain, reached his barren heart and he got lost in the reverie of thoughts.

Sid saw the cracks in the land in front of him, the land which yearned for water. Eyes filled with tears, but those salty tears could only make the land even more barren. His father’s quest, and the defeated look on his mother’s face when she served only a spoon of rice to him and his brother. Amar, his elder brother was so different. While Sid was always fascinated with the life beyond farms and village, Amar had a strange connection with his fields. Even though he was good at studies, he never tried to look for a life beyond his farms. They had seen their father struggle and that had transformed both the children in a different way. Sid hated the struggle and Amar challenged the struggle.

The drought had lasted for 2 years, but when it rained, it brought prosperity and rainbow! Sid would run across the fields and chase the rainbow. “Its not an achievable dream Sid, don’t run behind something that you will never reach”, Amar used to tell his kid brother. It did not deter Sid’s resolve.

“Hey Bro’, you were wrong, I caught the rainbow”, Sid looked up at the VIBGYOR in the clear sky. It wasn’t hot anymore.

A week later

“Heavy rains since last 7 days have disturbed the lives in northern parts of India. Farmers struggle to save their crop! Rivers are overflowing and villagers have been alerted to move to safe places identified by rescue teams. Help is pouring in from all parts of the country”, news flashed on the TV. Sid stared at the name of his village flashing on the screen. Gates of the dam near his village had been opened to save it from heavy pressure of water building up on the other side. He looked at his smart phone, which obeyed by unlocking itself. “Amar” was the first number in his address book.

“Beep beep beep….the number you have dialed is not in the network coverage” Sid heard the message over and over again. “Where the hell is this guy?, he threw his phone on the sofa.

“Amar, where have you been, is everything OK? I saw it in the news. How are Baba and Maa? Just take the next flight and come here, I will book tickets right away!” It was 3 AM in the morning, Sid was woken up by the shrill of his phone ring and all he could think was about “Amar”.

“Beta, its me. Amar gave his phone to me in case I needed to contact you for emergency. They are not able to find him. Gates were opened and we all were moved to neighboring village. Amar was trying to arrange for cattle to be taken to a safe place. Nobody saw him after that”.

Sid did not know if he couldn’t hear anymore or if his father had stopped speaking. Phone slipped from his hand and fell on the floor, shattering the screen. Light from his night lamp fell on the shattered glass, forming a rainbow and Amar’s name twinkled on it.

Infidelity

Droplets of water found their way from Sandhya’s damp hair on to her beige colored kurta. She had just taken a shower to wash her sins of last night. Sins? Really? She wasn’t even feeling a tad guilty. Didn’t she want it to happen? In fact, she had planned for it subconsciously.

Sitting in front of her dressing mirror, she admired her own image. Memories of the night before, came alive, sweet and naughty nothings. Her cheeks turned pink, even at the mere thought. She tried to grasp her fleeting mind back to her reflection in the mirror. Sandhya had always loved wearing light shades, whites and pastels. But lately she had started buying bright shades, to make her life a little colorful, even though it made her look like a different person in her own eyes. Was it mid life crisis or something else? Today, she felt like her own-self and her skin dazzled in her favorite color, all due to the magical night.

It had started a few weeks back. He was new in the neighborhood. Sandhya would observe him daily on the way back from her gym.  He was oblivious of her presence and her interest in him. But with each passing day, Sandhya was desperately trying to buy his attention. And one day he caught her staring. Her cheeks had turned into a shade of crimson red. Not knowing how to react to his gaze, she had hurried back home. Very soon, it became a routine. His curious gaze turned into an invitation which Sandhya was finding hard to resist. Even in her wildest of dreams, she wouldn’t think of cheating, how would Abhi react, and what would kids think of her ! No…she can’t do it.
But as they say, “Its all written”.
It was Saturday, her husband Abhi was staying overnight at a friend’s place to watch soccer and kids were at their grandparents’ for the weekend.
She was sweating profusely, her trainer was not showing any mercy on her. It was not his fault, how would he have known what demons she was fighting against, in her mind. On the way back, she saw him again, his smile, his invite and as if the heavy workout had drained her resolve, she couldn’t resist anymore and approached him.
One thing led to another and the night became the most memorable night for Sandhya. She felt elated, beautiful and satisfied!
The flashes of the night were broken by a disturbing vision. She went closer to mirror, “What is that?”. She concentrated, on the reflection of her white bedcover in the mirror.
Crimson cheeks went pale. How could she not notice? It was a big red spot, shouting out loud, telling everyone about her sins!
The bell ringed. Sandhya was in panic. It must be him. How would she explain?
The bell ringed again. She rushed towards the door, “I will explain, I am sure he will understand” she kept assuring herself.
Abhi stood in front of her, smiling, “hey, did you have a peaceful night?” he held her hand and walked towards the bedroom.
“The game was so awesome, you should have joined us, we had a bet, and….”, Abhi was staring at the red spot.
“Listen Abhi, don’t get angry. I can explain”, Sandhya pleaded.
Even before she could finish, Abhi dismissed her explanation with a wave of his hand, and sat on the bed, staring at the mirror. The red spot grinned at him. He looked away, feeling defeated.

Sandhya stood in front of him like a meek deer. “Was it him?”, he still didn’t look at her.
“Yes, I am sorry”, is all Sandhya could utter.
After a minute or so, which felt like eternity, Abhi looked up at her, gently holding her hands, “Did you think of me, about us, even for a minute? You can’t do this Sandhya, not to me, not to the kids and most importantly, not to yourself. I know its difficult for you, and things have not been same lately. Do you think, I have not noticed the bright colors on you? Do you think its easy for me see someone else when I look at you? But I am trying, we all are. This….this red spot, you know what this can do to us? It can kill us, it can kill you Sandhya!! You have cheated”, Abhi paused for a second. He didn’t want to say it loud, but he had no options left. She will have to hear it, even though it hurt her. And he will have to tell her, because Sandhya was his life.

Abhi took a deep breath and said, “You are obese Sandhya and you can’t eat samosas and bread pakodas with ketchup!! Do you understand?”.

That was it ! Words that she didn’t want to hear lingered in the air. Her mind went blank.

Abhi was right. She had cheated. Infidelity, it was indeed…to herself.

The School Bus

Mornings and afternoons were the happiest times of the day for Ajay. Why??

Because that was the school bus time !!!

Adventure would start with the moment he stepped into the bus, rush to sit on the last seat, excitement of meeting bus friends, chattering, giggling, mischievous glances exchanged escaping the eyes of teachers, puzzle time, stealing water from bottles, playing tippi tippi top, stone paper scissor and what not ! It was never ending fun. Ajay would start waiting for the school bus time as soon as he stepped out of the bus.

Years went by, everyone grew up. Games changed to serious discussions and debates. Chattering and giggling changed to last moment revisions, Some love stories blossomed and some hearts were shattered, but that smile on entering the bus remained….on every face. Ajay lived it all.

In all these years, numerous experiences from school bus journeys transformed Ajay. He nourished and cherished his only dream during those 45 minutes of bus time. It was time to finally see his dream becoming a reality. The sweetest ever reality of his life would happen today. He could not contain his excitement, and glanced at the needles of watch going around the dial. Like kids in his school bus called all important days, today was the “D Day” for Ajay!

He got into the driver’s seat of his school bus and turned towards the passenger’s door. A six year old stepped in. Crisp white shirt, grey shorts, belt with the school emblem, shining black shoes, brand new school bag on the back and a water bottle in hand, exactly as Ajay had envisioned in his mind. Child looked nervous. It was evident that it was his first day of school, away from home into the unknown.

Ajay gave a reassuring smile to the child and said, “Welcome to the school bus son, a new world with endless fun awaits you, embrace it”.

Ajay drove off to the next stop, to pick other kids. Smile refusing to leave his lips. His son will now experience the school bus journeys that he had always dreamt for himself.

Who says that living your dreams through your child is a crime?

The Companion

Flames of the pyre burnt their eyes. Their world was crashing down with falling woods of the pyre. A void that could never be filled, had creeped in their lives.
He rested his head on her shoulder, unable to fathom the depth of the void. How can god be so cruel? How could god take him away. He needed his companion. Yes his companion of mischief, of bedtime stories, of cricket matches and of crush stories. He was heart broken because the girl he secretly loved didn’t love him back. Whom would he open his heart to now? Who would be his companion in sorrow and happiness? Tears wouldn’t stop rolling down his eyes.

She stared at the horizon, remembering the flames of “pheras” that had brought them together. “Till death do us apart” was their promise to each other. She was an independent women, financial stability was not her concern, but how will she deal with this emotional turmoil? Ever since they had met in college, they were a team, perfect companions, and now she was left all alone with nobody to talk to, laugh or cry with. She remembered the night when she had joked about needing the entire bed for herself for a night…tears escaped at the mere thought. Now the bed is all hers for the entire life, she will not be able to hold on to anyone anymore.

All of a sudden she realized that her shoulder was wet. She hugged him tight, this was not the time to think about her loss. Her 15 year old boy needed her at this moment. She knew how strong was the father-son bond and she will have to a be a father to her son now. More than a father she would be a companion to her boy till he finds his own companion. She cried uncontrollably, tears wouldn’t stop, his words echoed in her mind and soul, “I know you are a strong woman and a perfect mom, even if something happens to me, you will take care”.  Her tears faded her vision, She wiped her tears and staring at the flames, took an oath to never let her husband down. She will take care…of their son.

Her tears were falling on his forehead. As she hugged him, he realized the depth of loss for his mother. He was mature enough to understand what it meant to lose a life partner. He had come in his parents life much later. Whenever they talked about their dates in college, he used to feel that they have spent a life time together, with so many fond memories. He felt ashamed about thinking of his secret love while his mom had lost her only love. “I will be her companion, she needs me, I can’t get weak now. Papa always said that I am a big boy, yes I can’t behave as a child anymore”, he hugged her back, promising to be for her always and till she finds another companion.

 

Image Source: https://www.canstockphoto.com/images-photos/pyre.html