a chocolate escape

Recurrent attacks of cold and fever troubled her. The frequency of migraine had shot up. A few days ago,  as she lay in her room alone, she decided it was her last day on the planet. The head ache was severe and merciless.  Every nerve in her young body complained and there was no one to turn to for help or relief.

When she called home, her mom insisted that she come back. It was enough of her high handedness and her love for independence. It was time to settle down.

The poor girl kept the phone down. She had not bargained for this. When she traveled to the city at the age of 18, she had decided to pursue her studies at her own expense. Managing studies and part time work was not easy, but she was  proud of being able to do that. These 7 years she said, I never asked for a penny from home.I never demanded anything. My mother though does not understand, she says, I earn and don’t give them anything. Does she know about my expenses, how I  have managed all these years? She sighed.

It was a joke in the family that  because she had refused many prospective grooms earlier, now  they were unable to find a match for her.Her small face looked drained of energy.  The enthusiastic girl who proudly drove her new bike to office was not in her elements any more.With her younger daughter getting good proposals, her mother was in a hurry to get the elder one married off at the earliest.

Work, room mates, parents, sister , Anu touched her forehead wearily, she was tired , she said, really this was too much.

What do you do for yourself, Anu? Nothing comes the reply, what is there to do for myself? She asks indignantly.

Watch a movie, a play, eat out, try new friends, a boy friend may be, I tease. Oh no, my parents will kill me! But I will have an ice cream, a chocolate ice cream with you,come lets go..And we go looking for a Chocolate escape!


Of learning to let go

She placed the little bird gently on the window. It turned to her.She said, go. The little bird did not move. It did not flap its wings. It just sat there looking pensive,lost.

She leaned closer and whispered… Go,my dear, go now. The sky is yours, the clouds for you to ride, the sun, the wind, the waters call,GO…

For a score and more, the bird nestled deep in her heart, feeding on her ruins,nurturing itself on her tears, growing with her sighs and a hazy far horizon that loomed in her thoughts.Yet, she had to let it go.

She had nurtured the little bird with her fantasies, her dreams, her hopes, thin as air, unseen, unheard, a castle woven on a figment of her imagination…or so it seemed.

Demure,dithering, the little bird flapped its wings once, then again and again, and shedding the weight of years of  expectation, anticipation,broken dreams and a  broken heart it flew…not turning back once,not stopping till it had flown far away from her to where it belonged.

She watched from the window, tears dropped, a sigh heaved, a gentle smile blossomed…

of learning to  let go…


The talent of being upset

The spectacular ability to be upset day in and day out,every single moment of one’s upsetting life requires some phenomenal talent.

Here’s a  gentleman who blames his parents, his grand parents, his religion, the language he speaks, the country he is born into, the people he lives with for pretty much everything that goes wrong with him.

The roads are chaotic,the weather is hot,the sky is blue,the child is lively, the gift is too expensive, there is too much love and  food is delicious …not an event occurs that does not merit a sulk and a long face!

This one believes that whole world is full of cheats, the auto rickshaw wallah, the milk man, the vegetable seller, the beggar on road, the owner of the house, the boss, the child, the wife and all most every body else are cheats of the first order, their evil eyes fixed on extracting  the last penny in his pocket.

Another poor soul starts her day ranting against the maid who helps her keep her home clean. Then she turns her attention to the inept government for her lapsed insurance , her hair fall, poor nerves,her father,her sons, her relatives, her neighbors and the monkeys who walk in stealthily to  vanish with her vegetables.

She yearns for those  times  yonder when her skin glowed, her hair flew and the wind blew gently caressing her unhappy soul.

There are forums where we discuss of what the government is not doing, the municipality is sleeping, the officials are cheating as we go on to  quietly dispose the garbage in the empty plot next door, occupy the footpath in the name of renovation, party on the road ,leave the garbage to rot and stubbornly refuse to sort waste.

So whether its Diwali or Christmas or another cricket match, we insist on leaving the place dirtier than it was… of course, we don’t like cleaning up , what are servants for?

So we surreptitiously chuck the used plates and cups beneath the chair in the theater, wedding hall or the park and shout from the roof tops of the poor civic sense in the country. We drain the waste into the nearby lakes from our plush residences and complain of frothing lakes and fuming waters and an indifferent nature! OMG! What an upsetting life!




Quli:Dilon ka Shahzaada: A Review

 The Urdu play Quli: Dilon Ka Shahzada staged  recently at Ranga Shankara  was  a worth the watch. The play is said to have received rave reviews from audiences across the globe and rightly so.

The story is intriguing, the actors poised, dialogues well written, music and dance beautifully integrated, nothing seemed amiss or superfluous  in this cultural spectacle.  The writers of the play who also enacted its main characters have a great understanding of the use of repartee in drama in effectively communicating a story.

The young prince of Hyderabad happens to meet Baghmati, a devdasi while he had gone out on a hunt. Baghmati grew up, well trained in dance and music  in the village Chichlum, and it was her melodious voice that drew the prince to her. Though she doubted the real intentions of the young prince whose besotted eyes never strayed from her, she was quick to realize that he truly loved her. Fearing opposition from their families, the prince and the girl meet each other in the most secretive manner. Once the father who comes looking for Baghmati spots her in the company of the prince. She is rebuked for her thoughtlessness and dereliction of duties at the temple. The father reminds the girl that she will merely be one among the many unwanted in the king’s harem.

It’s when the flood waters of Musi threatens to submerge Baghmati’s village that the prince braves the swirling waters to save his beloved. He takes her to his palace .In spite of prevalent skepticism about her ability to fit into the role of queen of the palace, Baghmati carries out her responsibilities with élan. The Prince recounts how his respect for her grew multiple times after she gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Hayat. Later, Baghmati converts to Islam and is called Hyder Mahal from whom the city of Hyderabad is said to derive its name. The king also constructs the famed Charminar at the spot where he first set his eyes on Baghmati to commemorate the eradication of a deadly plague in the city.

So far so good, but apart from the folklore there is no  historical evidence to suggest the existence of such a queen! The debate as to whether the love story of Quli Qutub Shah and Baghmati is a product of popular imagination or a reality remains unresolved.

But it should not matter to the play goer. If you want to have a  good time,  experience a good story, travel back in time, Quli : Dilon Ka Shahzada is indeed a good choice.

It was Noor Baig whose twinkling eyes effectively  portrayed the effervescence of Baghmati, Rashmi Seth, who commanded the stage as Quli’s  mother and Vijay Prasad, the authoritarian father of Baghmati who stood out in the rendition. Did these actors overshadow Padmashree Muhammed Ali Baig, perhaps they did!



Seek and you shall find!

Are you brave enough to ask?

Do you have it in you to go out and seek?

Would you rather be the Ms.Know-It- All even when a google search won’t do much for you? Or would you  seek help and trust another person enough to allow him/her to help you?

Ratan stared hard at the clock. Time was running out. He knew he would not be able to make it . The imaginary consequences of  his inaction slumped him down to weariness. But he could not think of  asking for help.. he sat motionless,dreading the worst.The next day Chandrika asked  him over  a cup of tea , why didn’t you tell me? I would have helped you out…

Aravind was a proud topper at school. He enjoyed every moment of his life ,yet a certain unease was settling down on him. He was losing interest in  studies, school and everything else.When Nithin his only rival in the class started performing well, Aravind felt a pang of  jealousy. He wanted to recover his lost glory. He did not know how. He was too scared of being teased if he asked for help…After the exams, Nithin called him,what happened brother, why didn’t you come to my house? We could have studied together…

Lonely and isolated, Anu’s battle with tears continued unobtrusively. She was overwhelmed by the  inner turmoil that left her sleepless and tired. She noticed the changes that were manifesting in her behavior but like an indifferent observer she shrugged them off ,refusing to seek professional help from a counselor.

Instances such as these are one too many….

What stops us from asking for help?

Why are we so afraid of reaching out?

When I first  met Amita, my friend and my counselor,I was pleasantly surprised by her ability to understand and empathize with me. When I looked at myself through her eyes, I felt rather good about who I am. In fact I realized that the naive,meek,diffident girl that I was would be very proud to meet the woman that I am.

Friends like Amita,Aditi,Maya..have helped me sail through some of the most trying times.The  cure to loneliness is perhaps to step out and seek..

Seek and you shall find…











Shadowing! I laugh when Rama confesses her crime to me.

Apparently there’s this young couple in her office who follow elaborate rituals to keep their love safe from the prying eyes of their colleagues. Each day after work the young man and the beautiful girl leave the office at different times and  meet far away. My good friend, harmlessly ambling to her vehicle bump right into them.The girl turns a bright crimson,the boy speeds his vehicle and swoosh! they vanish.

The second time, the boy parked his bike at a farther location,awaiting the arrival of his paramour. When the girl huffed and puffed on to the bike and turned, guess who she met ??? Rama!!! This time she gave Rama a rather nasty look that sent shivers down her spine.

I was beginning to suspect Rama’s intentions, when she told me that the young man was on a long leave . Saved from your evil eyes, I exclaim.

The next day, Rama was dancing her way  to a nearby theater in the twilight eager to experience a drama in the real sense when she stopped herself from bumping into someone. She looked up, looked down,hunched her shoulders and disappeared in the melee. Luckily they had not seen her this time, thank god!

You are a curious cat, I tease Rama. I have  the  super natural ability to sense romance in the air, Rama declares in self-appreciation.

I think about the couple,what makes them guard their love so fiercely? Why so secretive?

It is not difficult to guess the answer.


Of loving as you grow old

Every time I call my mother, she giggles at  how her miserly husband cribs and complains about the expenses. She tells me how he would give her 100  Rs. if she needed  150 and  will also have the audacity to  ask for change later!

I listen to her realizing  how there is no rancor in her voice, just an amusement and an abundance of affection for the incorrigible man.

When he makes her walk long distances, or goes off always with out his mobile in hand, or when his morning walk takes him so far that he cannot walk back, she  laughs it all off with an amazing ease. I ask her to fight it out, get her due, not to give up easily but none of my advice makes much impact on her.

My father complains of  his wife’s manic cleanliness rules, of her unwillingness to rest, of her desire to attend every single women’s committee meeting in the town….in thunder, rain or storm and in general of not being at peace ever..

And he does try to help her, sometimes by dusting the place which has already been dusted or by helping out in the kitchen, sometimes managing to cook something that’s actually delicious…

The visitors at home look on amused at the squabble. The endless chatter about each other’s inadequacies  continues as they walk away with a smile.

My good friend,a few sixty years old,with a bob of white hair and an angelic face,misses her husband sorely, she tells me, he was crazy,we did crazy things together….. He called her ‘wife’, yes, just that…. Wife, you have come, he would ask, when he was bed-ridden for the last decade of his life…To enter the house without his calling out to her is dreadful, she says.

Loving more as you grow older…. ….. how many can manage that?



The Difficulty of Being Bright

Kiran was an exceptionally bright student.  She was  most certainly the teacher’s pet. During the Open House, teachers sang paeans   to  her ability to grasp, to express, to explain and so on and her parents  beamed with pride every  single time.

It was a given that she had to be so. Her parents were  reputed medical practitioners. Those who knew them said, Kiran had to be bright. Look at her parents!

Kiran loved the attention and adulation. Some times in an attempt to make friends, she even laughed at the average  jokes of her classmates and it helped. At least while on picnics or excursions, she didn’t have to be alone all the time.

When she came to ninth standard, the ambitious Principal decided to try out a new strategy to reap more glory .She picked toppers from all sections and formed a new class, the star batch of the school. These were the kids who bore the burden of the reputation of the school. They were reminded of their sacred duty every day. The chosen ones were a proud lot. Kiran  too enjoyed the recognition.

As the session started Kiran was at her  competitive best. She worked hard  to beat her competitors whom she knew were not to be taken lightly. She did reasonably well but was not outstanding  among these nerds. She had started calling them that. She felt confused and unhappy. A heavy silence of resentment set in her heart. Home was not as welcoming either. It took her more than a year to come to terms  with the situation. That one year was when she was her saddest. There was no one to talk to. While her  heart wept and hormones played havoc with her emotions, her  doctor parents remained aloof, leaving it to their  capable daughter to top the class, no matter what.

Meanwhile, her walking  back home with a similar troubled soul had sparked a new rumour. Aunties in the colony knew for sure what  her problem was, Distractions, you know, they whispered.

At the Engineering  college, Kiran was again a loner. But now she had her defense in place. She rarely interacted with the  mediocre or the unruly. Her focus was to be the best and that she did consistently.

Many years later as the GM  in a reputed company ,she opened up to share her  pain, her hurt in front of her juniors.  She  spoke about her struggle of being a bright student.  She said that its her husband who told her it was OK to be the way she was. And that was when  she  learned to relax and let go…

Its OK is a powerful phrase indeed.


How OLD are you?

My perception of old age changes as I grow older.So, perhaps does yours. My mother’s does for sure. She often tells me, you are just in your 40s, you have a long life ahead and enough time to do what you want. I wonder whether she was so kind to herself in her 40s.

During a class room discussion one of my students talked of how a 40-year old, middle aged man thoughtlessly reprimanded him for nothing. The old man, had no business messing with me, the boy thundered. I did not like the way the 40-year old was being described, as if his age was his fault. Luckily before I verbalized my discontent, I  realized why I was so sensitive ,I had just hit the 40 mark and was perhaps, not very happy about where I was.

To a younger me, if 40 was the far beyond the prime then  60s and 70s were pre-historic. It’s like the question I get asked often, especially by those of my students who  I taught quite some time back in my 14 year teaching career. Mam, You still teach!!!????  (Some times it makes me feel that I should be in a museum!)

To my father  in his sweet 70s I often say, how dare you think that you are old? It pains me no end  when my mother says that the doctor took the liberty of experimenting with her medicine because she was old.

Whether I admit  it or not, age does get to me and  I find myself cribbing and crying  about  my poor old nerves.

When I hear myself mouth the very same inanities  as my parents and especially those which I enjoyed making fun of , I really know that I am going down the hill,diving into the sunset of my life, ready to kick the bucket…

I have watched a young man live the life of 60 year old in his 30s. He seriously and sincerely believed that mentally,emotionally,spiritually he was at par with his grand old uncle. I have also seen a 50 year old show enough zeal and zest for life that would make a teenager go green with envy.

As I  reach another anniversary of my accidental advent on the planet, I  push the bar of youth a notch higher, after all age is just a number, what say???