I simply adore the three little friends I’ve made on my street
Simon (his name is pronounced as Simone-the latin way) – he is half Latin half Jewish and same age as my 6+ grand-daughter – we do have animated conversations whenever I run into him. He knows me from day one -you see
Then Gabriel- (three plus) he is half Korean and Half English – he is too darn cute and now has a lil sister named Maya. Gabriel’s llittle girlfriend Georgina was in Italy for a few months but is now back and Gabriel is on cloud nine.
Gabriel- loves to take Ganesh’s name over and over- guess he likes the feel of it on his tongue.
Lucero is almost three -fully Latin with a crown of curly brown hair, and dark brown eyes and my heart completely melts whenever I see him. He now shyly replies to all my queries.
they are my treasures as they make me deliriously happy
Image is of Gabriel as a baby
lastly as I’ve lived on this street over fifteen years – the little boys from before are now entering college or already in college – these kids are unfailingly polite and courteous to me and a couple of them have offered to even help carry my stuff as I huff and puff up the slope as we do live in Park Slope and the slope is very much there !
one little Chinese girl Bailey who was adopted is very friendly to me whenever her adopted parents are looking elsewhere – they are rather reserved even though the agent who sold them their brownstone is a friend and introduced me to them !
guess it takes all sorts…
Carved hearts by childhood’s pudgy hands patiently waited for love’s caress. Destiny had other plans. Time brought them face to face at same airport. Sluggish veins gained momentum. Linked by facebook they recognized each other easily. Both now unencumbered in sunset years, flew to Las Vegas to fulfill old vows. Next revisited childhood’s favorite tree.
A surrealist masterpiece, René Magritte’s 1928 painting, The Lovers, (via google images )
Every winter the story teller came south to a heartwarming welcome. His advent was eagerly looked forward to the whole year by both the children and adults. His spun tales enchanted everyone.
He began, “Today I am going to tell you about the Wishing Tree. It is a true story.
It was an exceptionally warm day. Everyone was trying to cool off with flavored ices and frequent showers. Rains had been plentiful that year.
We were a ten strong group and moved everywhere in unison. Two brothers in our group were catholic and attended the localchurchofVirgin Mary. It was Sunday evening and we had congregated at our favorite spot near the town park’s swings. It was a sticky hot day and we had cleaned out the sweetened crushed ices seller of his ices. He had left for the evening. It was then that the two boys blurted out something that startled us all. Both of them had seen tears streaming down the face of the Virgin Mary during morning mass. They had spoken to no one but invited us to verify for ourselves.
We rushed to experience this phenomena for ourselves. We took our cues from Johnny and Tommy and knelt in the pews and stared hard at the Virgin Mary. I can still feel goose bumps even now in recollection. We all saw the tears stream down. We decided to ask the church pastor about it.
So far only our group had seen this miracle. The pastor came and verified too. He was all excited and kept making the sign of the cross again and again. In exuberance, he had the church bells rung to beckon the believers. They all came and marveled too. No one knew what to make of it. The bishop was also informed. After a week, the tears stopped. Thereafter, within the church complex, a dead tree stump suddenly came to life. It was as if the tears streaming down the face of Virgin had brought it back to life. Soon it grew to its full height with strong branches laden with healthy green leaves. It was the holy *Peepal tree, much revered by us Hindus.
A worried mother, wrote a note to the Virgin asking her aid in healing her one and only very sick child. She tied this note to the tree branch. Within a week, the child was healed. Soon others wrote notes to the Virgin asking for help. The church coffers filled to bursting and on hold repairs were finally undertaken. Then the Virgin appeared to the church priest in a vision night before Sunday mass and said that everyone whose wish is granted must untie one note from the tree and help that person as pay it forward and she would help through that person only. Next day during mass, the priest shared his vision and thus the town started helping each other through the notes tied to the Wishing Tree.
One day an agitated neighbor came and knocked our door. My father was theKrishnatemple priest and much revered among the Hindus. His advise was often sought to settle petty disputes. The neighbor had sought help from the Wishing Tree and in return had brought back a note which had shaken him to the core. He wanted advice from father on how to go about fulfilling this wish. The note said, “Dear Virgin Mary, I live in the orphanage and long for a mommy and a daddy of my own who will love me. I was left at the church steps when I was very little. Since I am nine years old, no one will adopt me as everyone says I am too old. Please help me. –signed Rose Da Cunha.”
Mr. Shiva Sharma was a devout Hindu and it would be very hard for him to fulfill this wish even though his own had been met by the Wishing Tree. He looked at father for guidance. Father suggested that he talk about this note at home and ask for everyone’s opinion. Since the family wish had been met, they were honor bound to pay it forward as desired by the Virgin Mary. It had been very easy to ask help of the Wishing Tree in the church ground but very hard to cross the bridge of religious differences. Sharma family was divided. The Sharma children were open to sharing their home with Rose as their adopted sister but their mother would have none of it. She had a hard time managing her own brood of three boys and two girls and now a sixth one and that too a possible meat eating Christian would be too much for her to handle. She stayed adamant.
It was early morning time and Mrs. Sheila Sharma was busy performing the daily prayer rituals and had lit the lamp before the deity. Suddenly, the image of herKrishnaidol became that of the Virgin Mary and she beheld tears streaming from the idol’s face. Mrs. Sharma rubbed her eyes to reassure herself whether this was real or not. Her belovedKrishnaidol had morphed into Virgin Mary! She had a change of mind immediately and agreed to adopt Rose as her sixth child. She realized that the inner divine is the same in all religions. Rose was rechristened *Roshni Sharma as she had brought enlightenment into their lives.”
The storyteller then dropped a bombshell. He said his wife’s name was Roshni.
Notes: Roshni means light and Peepal tree: The Sacred Fig, Ficus religiosa, or Bo-Tree (from Sanskrit bodhi: “wisdom”, ” enlightened.
The heirloom, an antique timepiece was the family’s prized possession. It had been given to their distant ancestor in recognition for gallantry by Empress Catherine the Great herself. He had been a Cossack in the royal guard. It was also a reminder of their Russian bloodline. Names like Nicholas, Peter, Ivan, Anton and Alex were often given to their newborns either as first or second names.
The revered heirloom had to be kept within the family and not sold. The four brothers had no solution for the only condition in the will. This became a real headache as they lived world’s apart managing the family’s vast foreign holdings. How to meet this condition?
Their beloved housekeeper came up with an ingenious solution.
She said, “Each of you should keep it for a year and a week before the time runs out, you should gather here in this family home for a vacation and then hand it over to next in line. This will keep you all closely connected, even your children. Consider it as a yearly family vacation.” Everyone loved the idea and it was at once agreed upon
The Cossack patriarch beamed in satisfaction from his portrait above the fireplace.
Secrets in Safe
Bunty, Goldie and Raja, aka the triad sat staring at the safe they had just unloaded from the van as if it were a cobra! They had never done anything illegal before but in this case the cause justified the means.
They were all headed back to India during summer break and by a mere fluke they had been privy to a cryptic text message on a fellow passenger’s cell phone. They had quickly noted down all the info and had decided to investigate upon landing.
Raja’s dad was a bigwig in the airline’s corporate staff. Through his aegis they acquired full data with copy of fellow passenger’s passport. Their job had been made easy by this information. The safe’s secret had to be unlocked to get to heart of the matter. Excitement tinged with fear was palpable.
Raja was tall and reedy in structure with a prominent adam’s apple but due to his dark liquid eyes, all the girls shamelessly gave him chase in the college campus. He was shy to boot.
Bunty and Goldie were the extreme opposites and were constantly riding love’s seesaw on an off and on basis. Bunty was of rugged build, fair and tall and had a wonderful voice. Hence he too was much sought after.
Goldie was the nerd of the triad and hence kept them afloat in studies singlehandedly. Goldie was hooked on workouts, if not busy solving difficult problems. He spent half of his free time tackling weights. His body was like a Greek God’s and hence cynosure of many eyes of both genders.
The passport revealed the name of the passenger to be Salim Malik. The message had come from a girl named Ameena Begum. On further research they were able to locate the whereabouts of Ameena. They had to find the alleged safe quickly to get to the bottom of this plot. Here they faced a stone wall. They went into a huddle to solve this issue.
Fortunately everyone was from Mumbai which made things much easier. They solicited aid from local police station officer (SHO) who thought if this yields some crime in the making, he would make headlines and hence helped them with all means at his disposal. With inside information from the cell phone service provider they had nailed down the exact location of the house and hence the safe. The police usually made the rounds in the riot prone areas and hence their SHO with help from his Mohamed Ali road counterpart, effected a raid on Ameena’s house.
Ameena’s father Abbas Baig was a cab driver and father of five girls. Ameena’s mother Samina Begum was deathly scared of her bully husband and did his bidding. Hence the children suffered without respite being girls. The SHO had seen the dilapidated safe hidden in a small alcove in the backroom wall covered by a dirty curtain. He told the triad that now it was up to them to retrieve, open and put back without anyone the wiser.
The trio rejected the numerous invites from local friends and relations and went into a huddle. A series of festivals were imminent and the streets would be teeming with processions and an odd blast here and there to create communal disharmony. Keeping all this in mind, they designed a harmless noisemaker as a diversion and planted it near Ameena’s house. As everyone ran out, they ran in and retrieved the safe.
Finally the SHO with expert help pried open the safe and it yielded three neat dollar bundles along with passports of Ameena, Samira and Aamna the three older girls aged 17,16 and 15 years. All had Saudi Arabia visa stamps in them. Apparently the girls were being sold to rich Saudi sheikhs. They were all shook up to confront this human trafficking by a parent. Now they wondered how Salim Malik their plane’s co-passenger fit in here. They decided to visit him.
The SHO explained the whole situation to Salim and then he told them of his own heartache. He was in love with Ameena from childhood but knew her abba (dad) was bent upon encashing all his daughters and had forbidden them from meeting. They were only able to meet near their school or the mosque at given times. They communicated via a note they left under a designated stone at a nearby park. About two years ago Salim had gone to USA on scholarship and had been saving money to buy off Ameena from her Abba. The information about safe and other details were messaged to Salim by a desperate Ameena who was scheduled to be married within the fortnight to a Saudi Sheikh along with her two younger sisters who had brokered a deal for all three of them paying handsomely to cab driver Abbas Baig, their father. Now all the pieces fell in place. The girls were under age and hence this was an illegal trade.
The SHO openly returned the safe back to Ameena’s house even as the camera’s from all news channels rolled in live action. Abbas Baig was arrested and all the girls were rescued. Ameena and Salim Malik were married by the mosque priest and rest of the girls along with their mother were whisked off to a new neighborhood under different names with relevant paper work, ration card etc… With Salim’s permission, Ameena sent money to her mother each month to meet all the expenses. No one missed cruel Abbas Baig.
Ten years later
Raja, Goldie and Bunty as preplanned inaugurated their brand new NGO called Safe Haven meant for all homeless, abused and society’s pariahs seeking care and shelter.