Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Whoever said, 'It's not whether you win or lose that counts,' probably lost.
- Martina Navratilova

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Blue Silk Scarf

Note: I wrote this story for TOI- WriteIndia (author- CB)

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf.  Yes a blood stained knife!
I was sitting diagonally to her approximately 10 feet far. Her face was visible to me from that distance. It was a Saturday afternoon on that hot summer day. The aroma of coffee and chit chats of people engaged me while I was alone waiting for someone.

I got call from my mother to which I responded- "What, she is not coming?.... but you said she would be there by 4 PM. Maa, I am waiting since last 30 minutes" My mother had chosen a girl for me, who was coming to meet me that day. But she couldn't turn up for certain reason. Now I was alone in the cafe watching people come and go. It was just then I observed this lady who seemed to be of around 25 years of age, a good looking, and well-dressed confident girl. She had applied kajal in her big eyes which made them even more attractive. It seemed like she had been waiting for someone. But why would a girl recklessly place a blood stained knife beside her and sit at such a public place. For a second I thought to approach her and ask whether she had just committed a murder lately! You never know, this is Delhi.

Then while she was helping herself to bring back a flick of hair falling over her forehead, I noticed a bandage tied on the wrist of her right hand, looks like she met an accident recently.

Since no one joined for long time the cafe manager would not want me to enjoy the music and the air conditioner for free. So I ordered a Cafe Frappe for me.

A pair of girls aged about 5-6 years emerged from the cafe entry walking notoriously. A woman, I guess, their mother followed them loaded with shopping bags and trying to meet their pace. They sat opposite to their mother after one-sided talk with the fishes in the fish tank at the entrance, and their mother asking them the umpteenth time to sit. Amidst all this, I again focused on that young lady. In my mind I named her Anamika, since I didn't know her name!

She glared at the kids with a half full smile and her eyes almost met mine while I just managed to look at the kids before she could notice that I am observing her. I hope she didn't notice me.
Her eyes moved to a man pulling the door of the cafe, dressed in formal shirt and blue jeans, well-built personality and dusky complexion. Let's attribute the complexion to Delhi's tanning summer.

He was searching for someone and within seconds he caught the sight of the one he was looking for. He came near Anamika and pulled the chair rudely to sit. She looked scared. He seemed angry. Leaning forward he started talking to her. I could not hear anything from the distance, but thanks to expressions I could sense what was going on. There was something serious. A tear dropping down Anamika's cheeks while the cold hearted guy was fuming with anger. She pointed towards the knife and was saying something as if requesting him for a favor. And a few seconds later, she slipped the knife into her handbag. They spoke, rather, argued for a few minutes and the guy left in anger.

Watching from a distance, unable to judge what is happening, but somewhere in my heart I felt sympathy towards the girl.

Her eyes welled with tears, Anamika went to the washroom. In the meantime I paid my bill. I was curious to know her story. My questions made me restless- why did the guy go away? Why did the girl who looked so strong at the beginning, was weeping so much? Why is she carrying a knife in that public place?

When she left from the washroom and exited the gate of the cafe, no signs of tears were seen on her face, except for the kajal was now wiped off completely. I stood at the billing counter waiting for my bill to be processed. She arrived at the counter, totally lost.  To avoid eye contact, I started looking at my cell phone. She asked at the counter in a low tone, "How much?" She paid the said amount without even collecting the bill.

I followed her quickly. She was walking on the footpath, grief stricken, she walked slowly and I followed her carefully and curiously for over 10 Minutes. She stopped at a deserted place, pulled the knife out of her handbag, tears flowing through her eyes, threw the knife in a garbage bin and turned around to check if anyone has seen her. I was hiding safely behind a wall so she could not see me. She left the place after that. I stood their puzzled, thinking about what just happened at the café and at this place.

----------1 Week Later-----------
That fine Saturday morning, while I was still on bed leveraging the start of weekend and my bachelorhood, I got a call from Mom.

"Hello Maa..Good morning." I said half asleep.

"You are still sleeping. Its 9:30!” like yet another Indian mother, her volume turned up.

"Ummm...no my dear mom... tell me what happened", I replied politely. She has all rights to scold me at any age.

"Remember the girl who was to meet you last Saturday…She is going to come today at Starbucks Cafe today at 4 PM. Be there."

It was 3:55 PM when I entered the Starbucks cafe. I dislike reaching late! Soft English music played in the background. I could sense the aroma of coffee up to my nostrils. At the counter I left my card to help them find me if that girl comes asking for me. I sat near the window where Anamika sat that day. Strangely, there was not even a day during last 7 days when I haven't thought about her. There was something in her that kept pulling me, but I had not seen her after that day.

It was almost 4:00 PM. I was looking out of the window and listening to the music, when a girl came to me and said, "Hello, are you Rishi?" I nodded in a yes. She replied, "Hi this is Ashwini. Our parents wanted us to see each other." I replied in awe, " oh yes, please sit", in my head there were multiple voices which argued to me," Can't you see, this is Anamika? Yes this is Anamika..." World is round, very round. The same girl who I was observing last week, and was thinking about the whole week was seated in front of me for a marriage compatibility meet! The voices in my head didn't stop" Oh god, what do I do? Should I tell her that I know her? No no let me first ask how it feels carry a knife like a toy? She looks normal to me, she must be her twin sister- Anamika& Ashwini, or may be a look alike as in Hindi movies..."

"Rishi, Rishi... everything fine?,"Anamika kept saying while I was busy in discussion with my head.
"Yes, yes, everything is fine." I pretended to be normal with a grin on my face.

We ordered our coffee and began talking, started with an introduction. She worked with an MNC at Delhi since 4 years and hailed from Meerut. I briefed about myself, " I am from Allahabad and working with an MNC here since past 5 years."

She became quiet for the next few seconds sipping her coffee. Using couple of her fingers she managed to move the flick of her hair falling on her forehead, behind the ears. The bandage was still on her arm, but condition seemed to be better. She noticed me looking at it, and hid her hand in her lap. She said in a subtle but sad tone. "Well, before we discuss anymore I would like to tell you something about my past. I had an affair, but it didn't work. I tried committing suicide but even that didn't work. Now I have decided to move on in life and get married. But trust me, my past will never ruin my present and future. I am a lively girl, and function on logic. Life has to go on then why not live it cheerfully. I heard somewhere, pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional. No one is in-charge of your happiness as much as you are. And about love, it can happen as many times as we are open to it." She smiled confidently at the end of it.

"Would you say yes?", she enquired after a minute of silence.

I already had a soft corner for her since the first time I saw her, and all my questions were answered by her even before I could ask her. "I like your honesty Ashwini" I replied. Her smile made her look even more beautiful now.  We spoke for almost an hour about all sorts of topics varying from family, friends, studies, weather, food, hobbies, pets, Delhi's traffic, books and what not. Surprisingly we shared a lot of similarities. Then on we dated for about a month and now we are happily married for two years.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

If You Could Choose Your Name

They say, "naam mein kya rakha hai? (What's in one's name?)" Well, why not? You have to survive with the same name for the rest of your life since your naamkaran sanskaar!

Here's a mischievous-me exploring the humor behind Indian names (with no intentions against anyone or any community).

I listed out some interesting categories of names which I feel Indian nomenclature is divided into. This also includes examples of names of real people I know (again, no offenses intended). What's your brand?

1) The Common Name
These are the most common Indian names like Neha, Rahul, Pooja, Aditi, Ankit etc. I believe everyone has atleast one friend, colleague or cousin with this name. Every class in school has 3-4 students with these names and they are amusingly baptized as Aditi1, Aditi2, Aditi3..... Aditi infinity! 'Does this not make you feel like triplets or quadraplets? Look one more Aditi joined us this year.'

2) The Lengthy Name
Some people are unhappy with why their guardians had the urge to name them like its the whole town's name: all-in-one. But these brave people request to be called by abbreviations like JP for Jyoti Prakash, PK's Jaggu AKA Jagat Janani, or KK as in Krishna Kumar. 'Code word is the key, dude.'

3) The Gender Independent Name
If you are named as Ruby, Palak, Divya, Manpreet, Jaspreet etc, you are often mistaken by the class teacher as being of the opposite gender until they have your sight, following which, both of you have the awkward eye contact and rest of the planet secretly giggling. 'Forgive me dear, may god bless you!'

4) The Forgettable Name
So, some parents enter the warfield when it comes to deciding their young one's name. They scratch every dictionary and visit every available website to end up sorting for you a wonderful Sanskrit-ised or Shuddh Hindi name. That's nice and unique of course. But what if people tend to forget your name in the first few meetings. 'Ummmm... what did you tell your name is? (naam kya bataaya tha apna)'

5) The Real Nick Name
You got it right, this is height of laziness. They used to call you Pinky or Sonu or Sweety or Rocky as a child and then forgot that there has to be a REAL real name for their offspring. But its to late till then, and now you are known to the planet with your pet name. 'Really, is that your NAME?'

6) The Tongue Twister Name
People down the south of India have their names which requires more than normal number of blocks in the bank application form like the respectable Indian athelete Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha , guess who?

Forgive me, but as a north Indian I can't even pronounce these names in one go, forget about spelling it. The components of your name comprise of various subsections. 'Lets fetch a cup of coffee till I finish learning your name.'

7) The Middle Name
You suffer from the middle-name-puzzle. You have a middle name which people either tend to forget mentioning, or confuse that as your last name (surname). Whole life you are perplexed whether or not to include the section #2. 'Added advantage, you have 3 components in your name to facilitate people with multiple ways to address you.'

8) The Misspelled Name
You have a short and simple name. But thanks to the unscientific and phonetically poor agrezi bhasha, every one spells your name their way. Is your name ambiguous like Akash or Aakash, Sourabh or Saurabh, Rajeev or Rajiv, Pooja or Puja, Aakriti or Aakrati or Aakruti? 'Hey, that's my name, not a spelling tutorial.'

9) The Motion Picture Inspired Name
 Do I need to detail out the pursuit of unique name which leads guardians to name their kids based on their favorite TV serial character or a trending movie star? Some examples are- Khushi, Pari, Hrithik, Aryan, Siya. 'Angelic, ugh!.'

10) The Simple Name
Wrapped up in 5-6 English letters, not too common, nor difficult to read and write- that's what I call as a simple name. But each has a story of its own and may fall into any of the above categories conditionally! 'I have such a name.'

Sigh! Here comes an end to my list. What do you think your name would have been if you were given a chance to settle upon one for yourself?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sachchi Advice

“I am participating in the #SachchiAdvice Contest by MaxLife in Association with BlogAdda.”

My father often advised this while I was growing up- "kaabiliyat dusro ko neecha dikhaane me nahin, balki khud itna uncha mukaam haasil karne mein hai ki pratidwandhi swayam neeche ho jaaye."  (काबिलियत दूसरों को नीचा दिखाने में नहीं, बल्कि ख़ुद इतना ऊँचा मुकाम हासिल करने में है के प्रतिद्वंदी स्वयं नीचे हो जाएँ| )

The way I perceived and implemented this was-

Never measure your achievements by someone else's success or failures.

Never resist people's nasty opinions, and their intents to let you down. Simply work towards your goal. At various milestones in life, people criticize or misguide you for their own good. Pan India, people have the yearning to pave your path even though it may be impracticable for themselves. It is rightly said- "where there is a will there are a hundred relatives". 

Some people will always try to let you down, others may however, inspire you for good. Whatever may be the case, grasp the positive out of every viewpoint and you shall touch the zenith. Never turn back in life, never get pulled down by those who discourage you. Never try to get even with people who bar your growth. Also, never be envious or scared of someone else's growth or success, it won't be a hurdle on your path to success. Neither must we belittle others. Strive to improve yourself and always compare you with yourself, and no one else. This will lead to self growth.

I followed the same advice so far, and whether it is education, profession or my passion, I groom myself and elevate my competencies to the extent that I tend to achieve what I desire, or at the least walk a mile further towards my goal. 

मतभेद हो, मनभेद नहीं

Sunday, 20 September 2015

'I had the blues because I had no shoes,
Until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet.'
-Dale  Carnegie

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Fate and Wit

Note: I wrote this story for TOI- WriteIndia (author Amish)

Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Ilaa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season, and cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers and traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold and goods for barter. They would exchange what they carried for the cotton that the farmers grew. The bales of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!

But Ilaa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn't working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.

She sobbed while recalling the event that happened at her house a prahar back and Yogiraj’s verdict on her life, "It is Ilaa’s turn to get married as per the Prathama Pratha this year."

She was a woman in her early 20s. Born as the second girl child to her parents in the year 1643, Ilaa was an intelligent lass, adept in vivid fields of knowledge and good at household chores too. She justified her name well. Ilaa means earth- like the Earth which supports life and hence, is unique amongst all planets in the solar system; she was unique amongst others in her village with exemplary knowledge and wit.

The villagers had been making preparations to welcome the traders who were anticipated to buy their crops. It was no lesser than a festival to them, in the form of repayment of the toil they had done throughout the year.

In the courtyard of her house, as a regular chore, Ilaa had cleaned the floor and laid down a beautiful rangoli at the porch, which was thought to bring good luck. While she was spreading the mat awaiting the young girls of Sauviragram to attend her class on preaching of summary of Bhagwad Geeta, which was the subject for today, her mother Sakvarbai, called her and said cheerfully- "Ilaa, my daughter, you keep running from here and there in the house. Why don't you spare some time for your old mother?"  With a tear drop glittering at the corner her right eye, the lady continued, "God knows when luck strikes my daughter and we tie the nuptial knot for her. Then you'll fly away like a bird, my child!"

Hesitatingly Ilaa replied, "Oh mother, I'm going nowhere. I won't leave my parents so early. I want to bag more affection from both of you." With great confidence, and a sigh, she continued, "Moreover, you know how desperate and fond of I'm of teaching the young girls of the village! I had been doing this since years. What will happen to them if I discontinue the classes?"

Caressing Ilaa's hair, Sakvarbai said, "Ilaa, I understand this, but it is the harvest season, and you must assist your father in picking up the cotton from our fields. Traders from Paithan shall be here soon." Her eyes widening, she elucidated, "And yes, someday you have to marry, otherwise the villagers will keep names that we could not get our daughter married. As per our tradition, daughters cannot be married in the same village."

Responding sadly over this, Ilaa said, "But mother, I don't want to leave Sauviragram. You know what happened to Hridisha Tai, and I don't…." Before Ilaa could end the sentence, she got a glimpse of her father entering the house, and she became quiet as if nothing just happened.

Ilaa's sister Hridisha was married 10 years back to a trader's son Sopandev in nearby city of Shivgaon, as per the Prathama Pratha. She was just 16 then. His was a well-to-do family. They traded in grains and were the first to arrive Sauviragram that year. Sopandev, a well-educated man and a trader's son, was not interested in business. He was in a job with the East India Company at Calcutta. The wedding was a grand ceremony that happened with a lot of gaiety. They left for Shivgaon a day after the wedding. The family hadn’t seen their daughter since then. Sopandev had already married a year ago to the girl of his choice in Calcutta - the daughter of a senior official. He married Hridisha under family pressure. Knowing the fact that their son was married to another girl, his family did so to keep their societal fame alive. They also conceived that there was some black magic hovering over their son, which shall go away only after he got married. After a series of fights with Hridisha for the next few months, Sopandev dropped her to his parents’ home and vowed never to return back. A few days later, Hridisha, unable to bear the agony, committed suicide.

Ilaa’s father, Shyamrao, an old aged, skinny man, wearing the paithani topi and a white kurta payjama entered the courtyard where the mother-daughter duo halted their conversation. He was an introvert, quiet man much affected by what had happened to his beloved daughter Hridisha, he had cut himself off from any indulgence. Ilaa went to fetch a glass of water for him. Shyamrao, in a subtle voice, instructed his wife, "Make preparations to welcome our village priest Yogiraj Eknath. By the grace of Maa Godavari, he himself wants to visit our house and to meet our daughter. He would be coming here by the third prahar of the day. I have to return to the fields now." While exiting from their dwelling, he turned to say, "Tell Ilaa to be ready to join me at the fields after Yogiraj leaves from our house."

Sakvarbai, a homemaker was herself a reticent woman. She followed her husband's instructions to make preparations for the evening.

"Therefore, fight for your right as your duty, O Arjuna", Ilaa narrated from Krishna's speech to Arjun, as a part of the preaching of the Bhagwat Geeta to her young students.

"Ilaa Tai, who gives us our rights? ", one of the girls, Kashi enquired innocently.

Ilaa took a deep breath and replied with a grin, “Right is not something that someone gives to us; it is something which no one can take away from us.”

She finished the lecture before the end of the second prahar to assist her mother with the preparations.

It was the end of third prahar when Yogiraj arrived at Shyamrao’s house with three of his disciples. He was an old man with large white beard and long tresses. He wore a white dhoti-kurta. With rudraksha beads in one hand and eyes closed, he had been reciting something while being seated on the coir mattress. The family of Shyamrao sat on the floor, with courteously folded hands in namaskaar mudra, and Yogiraj’s disciples standing beside him. He asked Ilaa to come near him. The girl shyly glanced at her father to seek permission, who nodded with a yes. She stood up carefully grabbing her green Paithani saree’s pallu and went in front of Yogiraj. Ilaa, respected Yogiraj but in her heart, she was against the way whole village blindly followed him. Apparently, being a girl, she had no say on this. What happened now couldn’t stop her tears from flowing and she ran away to the river bank.

During the fourth prahar, Ilaa was sitting quiet at the banks of river Godavari, silently observing the redness of the sky as the sun was setting down. This was her favorite place, where she often sheltered herself in the search of calmness in the lap of the Mother Nature. The redness of the sky matched the color of her tearful eyes.

Farming was the only way to earn livelihood in Sauviragram. It was a faith of the villagers that every year, one girl from our village is to get married to the first trader who comes to barter their cotton. It was a notion that Maa Godavari would bless the village with prosperity if this ritual was followed. This was called the Prathama Pratha. The decision of choosing a girl was taken every year by Yogiraj Eknath- the demigod for the villagers, using his said spiritual powers. No one objected to what he instructed.

Hridisha was also a victim of this tradition years back. Her husband being married already was considered her ill-fate and her death was termed as her destiny. Call it a superstition or blind faith, none of the villagers, including the deceased’s parents had questioned the Prathama Pratha even after this incidence. Only on Yogiraj's orders, they had stopped trading with Shivgaon to reciprocate what had happened to the girl.

It was Ilaa's turn now. There were two reasons why she did not intend to make this happen- one, her desire to keep teaching the girls of the village; second, the fear of the unknown- the one that led to her sister’s death. She decided something and wiped her tears off.

That night Ilaa was sitting quietly on the mat of their living room, when Sakvarbai returned coughing after cooking the chapattis on their stove. Shyamrao and Sakvarbai were dismayed since the evening. They were afraid to send their only alive child in the hands of an unknown person only on the basis of who arrives first in the village to trade. A deathly silence prevailed in the house, only until Ilaa broke the ice by saying in a powerful voice to her parents for the first time- "Aai, baba, what have you decided? Do you also believe that your daughter is a good that must be bartered to bring blessings to the village, which are to be the fruit of their hard work, instead? Do you want to sacrifice me just like you did with Hridisha Tai? Till when do you want this custom to prevail? How many more Hridishas do we gamble against superstition? Not only her, but the fate of other girls is no different so far. I had been teaching the girls of this village for free to make them self dependent. And look, what is about to happen to me now!"

Shyamrao felt ashamed and said, "I understand, my daughter. I don’t want to sacrifice you at the hands of fate like your sister. But this is the custom, and I cannot go against the villagers and Yogiraj. If we refused and the trade doesn’t go well, they would shame us and expel us out of the village. What do I do?"

Yogiraj ashram's grand entry gates were made of wood and sculpted in fine design. It was funded with donation by 15% of yearly earnings from each of the farmer of the village. Cattles were sheltered on a side of the veranda. The atmosphere was serene. The building that housed Yogiraj and his disciples was a large villa colored pale yellow. Opposite to the building was a garden. A few disciples of the saint were sitting in meditation posture on the grass floor and Yogiraj was seated on a raised platform facing them. Shyamrao arrived to the Yogiraj’s ashram with Sakvarbai and a few of their neighbors. They looked puzzled. They sought permission from the saint to elaborate a dream that Shyamrao said he had last night. Yogiraj nodded.

"Last night Maa Godavari appeared in my dream. She said 'Vatsa! it is my order that from now on, no girl of the village will get married by Prathama Pratha. Those who go against my will, shall be punished. All the girls, with consent from their families will have the right to make choices for their spouses.' I asked, ‘Will it not bring bad luck to the trade of the village?' She replied, 'You must do your karma and not expect the results. You will get the fruit of your karma. The boundary of one’s jurisdiction ends with the completion of one's duty. Do your duty to the best of your ability.'- Shyamrao narrated.

Yogiraj was surprised and wasn’t ready to believe this. He debated out of fear of loss of faith in him, “This has been our ritual since generations. We cannot change it abruptly because of a dream.” The stooping elder, Vasantdev came ahead and said politely, "Yogiraj ji, with due respect I request that although it was a dream, but it is the time that we must consider changing ourselves. We respect Maa Godavari and already perform havan every year at the temple to please her. I appeal to you on behalf of the villagers to ban the Prathama Pratha." The villagers gathered in the ashram shook their heads in agreement. For the first time, the women of the village also stood in favor of bringing a revolution to the age old customs. It was as if the hidden regard in their mind was spoken by Vasantdev. Consequently, Yogiraj announced a ban on the Prathama Pratha. (A few days later, when the traders arrived, all the farmers got fair payment of the cotton they sold to the traders.)

With a stream of tears of joy, Sakvarbai who was standing in a corner of the crowd, in her heart admired her daughter’s wit and what she advocated the last night at their home- Let us explain them in a way that they understand. Bhagwad Geeta indicates that it is ethical to tell a lie if it can bring immense good.

Friday, 18 September 2015

अपना तेरा ख़याल ही क़ातिल ना हो कहीं, बेहतर है अपनी सोच के तेवर बदल के देख, थोड़ी सी दूर ऐ वक़्त के हमराह चल के देख |