the waiting room

Anu sat with her hands folded on her lap.It was an extremely cold winter morning.Her silk saree creased around her belly clinging to it shamelessly.She looked down and almost unconsciously pulled her belly in.It was not that prominent after all.

At 45, Anu looked a good ten years younger. Her friends insisted that it was for a good reason.She can still make some noise in the matrimonial market.Her ever enthusiastic parents never tired off visiting the  match makers in town and together they tracked  every divorcee, every widower and every balding youth with diligence.

My daughter is not yet settled, amma would sigh.Settled! Anu laughed at the thought of it.She was reminded of her younger sister Taru now happily  married. One major item ticked off, amma had gleefully announced. Now, what do I do with you? she asked turning to her.

Taru had sorted out her life in fifth standard announcing to anyone who cared to listen that it was her ambition to marry, have 3 kids and settle down in Bangalore. Some yaksha/kinnara/gandharva  must have said, tathastu! So be it!

Taru seemed to have evoked the power of attraction.While amma was impressed by Rahul’s looks and gentle manners, achan drooled over his pedigree and bank balance. Made for each other,really!

Anu glanced at the watch. Hmm… it’s time for another boy visit.This time something tugged at her heart.The eyes or the mustache?!! Must be the  dyed hair!  Anu twirled at a lock of her dark chocolate mane.

The train whistled as it approached the platform breaking her reverie. Anu picked up her luggage and walked purposefully….

 

The artist on the stage and after

She waltzed to the front of the stage.

A vision of grace and dignity, her bright yellow dress sparkled against the dark backdrop of the stage. The audience so captivated by her voice, demanded once more! once more!

The show lasted 3 hours. 3 hours of continuous singing, yet not a note amiss. That’s why she was counted a top notch singer in the country, a customary figure at all major music events.

But when she was preparing to leave the stage after the performance, her beautiful forehead was creased with lines of worry. She shook hands with her admirers, posed for a few photographs and walked to the changing room in a daze.

The grandeur of her attire now dwarfed her sprightly spirit.

She had landed in the city that morning. The rehearsals that started after half an hour of her arrival came to an end only when she took the stage for performance. The group of  musicians who supported her on stage, were meeting her for the first time that morning. All that bonhomie, that camaraderie evident on stage was a result of 8 hours of working together. 8 hours of working together to make the evening a success. The sponsors were powerful and cash laden, she had been told.

The effort of explaining the inexplicable was evident in her voice.What kept her in it then, a good 20 years later when as a qualified chartered accountant she could have a secure job and a guaranteed income every month? Brightening up suddenly, she said, I love the stage, the lights,my own voice,the travel,the adulation, almost everything about this. I am happy here,in this space.

 

 

Here’s my card!

It is been a little over one year since I moved on from teaching.

No teacher I know ever carried a  visiting card. I am not sure, if there are some smart teachers out there. But the necessity of it never struck me.

The enterprising student would always reach out ,if there was a debate, speech, drama, skit or compering to be done.  Or if  she felt that I was unjust in marking the answers in the answer script. In such cases, she would stay back till all others have left,come with a shy purposeful smile ,sometimes pep me up with a compliment before getting to the point,mam,you have given me only 1 mark here, you gave him 1.5! A colleague would usually search me out if a letter had to be written or when a speech had to be given. I have written countless resignations and job applications for others!

The parent always caught hold of me in the parents teachers meeting while narrating the difficulties of managing the child.Sometimes, I had to take up the case of the student with the parent  and I invariably said, she will do better next time, give her some time. This made me a safe bet for boys and girls to bring their parent to. And well! for the Principal, I could be reached at any time again for a report, a speech, a newsletter, a magazine or that dreaded minutes of the meeting!

In  the very first week of my joining the company,I got a bunch of visiting cards. I looked at them, pulled out two aside to show my parents and tucked away the rest in some drawer. I had no use of it.

Some times at a meeting or at toastmasters, I was asked, could I have your card? and I fumble explaining how I am not used to carrying them. I  have been a teacher for long, you know, and we never carried visiting cards. The other person,puzzled at this reaction and would usually extend his and move on with an understanding, sympathetic smile(hopefully!).

As I enter the second year of my corporate career,I  hope to learn to swish a card out in style, make eye contact and extend my hand for a firm, yet friendly shake of hands, saying, here’s my card!

So, what gives you the high?!!!

High???

Anu was  too shocked  to respond when she heard that for the first time. Well, Anu is the happy kind, almost always happy and this is no exaggeration. She can be annoying too, that is her joy can get on your nerves especially at times  when she giggles and laughs so much that you end up  wondering if she is laughing at you and become all the more  self-conscious.

There is this interesting poem by R.Browning , titled My Last Duchess, where the Duke has the rather difficult task of explaining the untimely demise of his first wife, that too to someone who brings him the proposal of a prospective bride.

Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt/ Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without/  Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;/ Then all smiles stopped together.

The Duke surely had a problem with the girl, smiling at every one with much the same enthusiasm, he thought he elicited.

I come back to Anu and ask,What gives you happiness?. She answers after a rather long pause ‘everything’. I repeat incredulously,everything???!!! Yes,  everything, says she,the guru ma of happiness!!! There is so much to be happy about in this world. If you look at it with an eye of appreciation life is indeed nothing short of a miracle. You say this??? I ask meaningfully raising my eyebrows.Smiling nonchalantly,she affirms, yes, because its from those experiences of sorrow and sadness that I learnt to be happy. When life puts you up right there in the middle of challenges, when you know there is nothing much to lose any more, then one realises the importance of laughter, joy,smiles and happiness. Sometimes, says Anu giggling uncontrollably, I have these spurts of immense happiness that I have to  hide,camouflage with a mask of seriousness!!!

How do you keep yourself happy? Ask I, persisting in the hope of eliciting one mantra from this woman who I know lives on a pittance,is rather lonely and well advancing in years… As if to silence the critic in me, Anu says that she dares to do that which might appear senseless to others if it makes her happy. Like???Like walking the cobbled path, skipping a stone here and a stone there,stopping to watch the sky ,buying herself a chocolate,relishing it up to  the last bite,running till she is breathless,like pestering someone for attention in spite of  indifference and most importantly by choosing to stay miles away from those who make her unhappy.

A good oil bath, I add suddenly reminded of my mom’s panacea, a hot cup of coffee, watching a film all alone,a time well spent with friends,learning something new can give you happiness too.

Anu leans forward to pat my back. Good girl !!! she says appreciatively,happiness does not need company or conditions. It can exist on its own.

So what gives you the high I ask you, a twirl in your dancing shoes, a quick run, a good book, slumber, food ,music, travel or singing bhajans???

The next time you see someone happy, instead of playing the curious cat, try emulating her! Join the laughter, have fun,try a high without a peg. Do it your way and float in bliss, pure bliss. Go master the art of staying spirited !