Short Story Archive for Holidays:

Delhi

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It’s a precipice, this city. Sharp, rugged, unbracing.
Everywhere you go in Delhi, the edge never leaves you.
I look out at the precipice that the city is.
Sharp with the setting sun’s rays.
Rugged like the Gulmohar’s bark.
Enticing nonetheless like a kaleidoscopic slope seen from afar. ..Nabina Das
Delhi …the old world Dilli…dilwalonki Dilli ….of Meena Bazar and narrow bylanes where sounds of “azan” intermingle cheek by jowl with fervent temple bells….the tinkling of anklets and bracelets shyly giggling at lovers’ trysts….

the fading jaded decadence of bygone era of opulent excesses…

the reverberating sighs of a deposed ruler poet Bahadur Shah Zafar exiled to far flung city unceremoniously plucked from beloved hometown by money and power hungry British Company Raj

“Lagta nahi hai dil mera
Ujde dayar mein
Kis ki bani hai aalame
Na payedar mein
Keh do in hasrato se
Kahi aur ja base
Itni jagah kahan hai
Dile dagdaar mein
Itni jagah kahan hai
Dile dagdaar mein
Umre daraz mang ke
Laye the char din
Do aarzu mein kat gaye
Do intazaar mein
Do aarzu mein kat gaye
Do intazaar mein
Kitna hai badnasib
Zafar dafn ke liye
Kitna hai badnasib
Zafar dafn ke liye
Do gaz zamin bhi
Na mili kue yaar mein
Do gaz zamin bhi
Na mili kue yaar mein
Lagta nahi hai dil mera
Ujde dayar mein.”

My heart has no repose in this despoiled land?Who has ever felt fulfilled in this futile world???The nightingale complains about neither the sentinel nor the hunter?Fate had decreed imprisonment during the harvest of spring??Tell these longings to go dwell elsewhere?What space is there for them in this besmirched heart???Sitting on a branch of flowers, the nightingale rejoices?It has strewn thorns in the garden of my heart??I asked for a long life, I received four days?Two passed in desire, two in waiting.??The days of life are over, evening has fallen?I shall sleep, legs outstretched, in my tomb??How unfortunate is Zafar! For his burial?Not even two yards of land were to be had, in the land of his beloved
~

…the light and sound magical enactments in old Red fort of old Delhi…these draw and spell magic to my history enamored heart and mind…

the rundown smattering of crumbling tombs, Qutb Minar , Hauz Khas, Nizam-ud-din and sundry historic monuments….the draw of National museums housing saved treasures ….this is the Delhi I love…

new Delhi….is as stated by Nabina Das above…it is sharp and edgy and not above drawing blood from the unwary …

forcing one and all on their toes for sake of life, limbs, dignity and what’s in pocket/handbag …. Give me my beloved Bombay any day… I’d take
“Amchi Mumbai” any day over your smog bitten Delhi..

image above is via Google only ~
Amchi=our

A foggy polluted evening at the Vijaypath facing the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on monday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi 071215

A foggy polluted evening at the Vijaypath facing the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on monday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi 071215

Dante’s Inferno and Florence

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Dan Brown’s Inferno and Florence Italy – on visits and associations

Of late I’d been thinking I suffer from ADD but when I just finished Inferno by Dan Brown in a day and half – I felt I am finally getting back to my old form.

Hugely enjoyed Inferno especially as I’ve just visited all those places in Florence mentioned in the book and it came vividly alive for me –it was as if I had a firsthand experience. There is simply nothing to top that “cat licked cream” kind of delicious feeling than when you visit a city and experience it blow by blow in tandem with a book that features around the very same city. After Da Vinci code, I had visited Paris with greater excitement and had viewed the glass pyramid in Louvre with newer “enlightened” eyes along with Parisien churches.

I have always been a great aficionado of cloak and dagger whodunits and murder mysteries and Dan Brown’s books with all those ancient symbols and Cyrillic scripts with heady scrambles outsmarting the pursuers made for the best well spent buck for my money. The rustle of turning pages in the dead of night ignoring wind whispers emanating from our backyard, leafy wrestles, rustles and falls, suddenly creaking stairs for no rhyme or reason maybe remembering otherworldly footfalls, everything added an extra “uff” element to this read and am happy to share this here and now.

Just like my dearest young friend Suja said, December is a month of hibernation and reading and that’s what I am going to do.

Seriously avow
I have stacks and
racks of books
to termite
thru’ n thru
!
bookmark
with silvery schmear
from my fingers
gleefully
grinning from
ear to ear
~
Mentally I’ve retired from work even though my boss won’t hear of it nor agree to it. He has accepted me on my terms and it feels good to be this wanted hence I am not complaining.

Yesterday marked our fifteenth year of togetherness – Ganesh and mine and two calls early morning gave me a bit of good news as well; Even though I am still fuming from being soundly drubbed by Ganesh in a game of scrabble, today is another day and another chance to avenge my defeat.
~
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Timepiece

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.

 

 

The Fog

The Fog

Seth household was like a war zone.  The three “bahus” (daughter-in-laws) were constantly bickering and elder Seths had had it up till here.  They decided to make an early run for it to their summer home in the hills.  Their one and only daughter Minnie was visiting from USA with her twin boys Samir and Ranvir and she decided to go with them. The foursome along with the nanny got in the family jeep early a.m. and took off without a backward glance.

**

Minnie had met Alex Burns at NYU (New York University) and had fallen headlong in love.  They were kindred spirits with lots in common. Once married, they never looked back.  Alex had had specialized training in military intelligence and was on call as and when needed.  Currently he was on an assignment.   Minnie took this opportunity to visit her parents in India for a few days.   

**

Seths quickly settled in and the caretaker couple soon had a warm fire crackling with hot food on the dining table.   Warmed and replete, they decided to retire early.  The peace here was a stark  contrast from the pandemonium at home.

**

Whimpering sound in the middle of the night woke them all up.  They hurried to the nursery and saw Ranvir crying in his sleep.  He was having a nightmare.  Minnie took him in her arms and coddled him.  Suddenly the elders screamed, “Where is Samir?”  His bed was empty!  Minnie turned to stone!  Hurriedly she thrust Ranvir in her mom’s arms, and armed with flashlights, her dad, nanny, housekeeper and she fanned out in search of Samir.  A thick fog hung like a curtain, hiding everything.

**

Sirens cut the silence and fog like a knife! Squealing sounds of tires burnt the asphalt.  The tolling from the prison bell tower a couple of miles away announced  the escape.   The night was fraught with danger becoming nightmarish progressively.

**

The ringing phone startled Mrs. Seth.  It was the DC (District Commissioner) calling to warn them to be careful as the convict was armed and dangerous.  DC and their elder son were classmates.  Mrs. Seth secured the house tight and started reciting Hanuman chalisa (holy mantras).

**

There was a soft knock on the back door.  Mrs Seth opened it cautiously and a gun was thrust in her face.  A ferocious wild looking man was carrying Sammie and waving the gun at her.  He pushed her aside and hastily closed the door.

The front doorbell rang.  The convict hid in the next room.  Standing at the doorstep was a young couple.  They were lost in the fog and wanted directions to nearby hotel.  Mrs. Seth invited them inside so that she could give them written instructions.  The young couple looked at each other wondering why she looked so edgy.  Mrs. Seth hustled them out on the double.  They drove off soon after.

Then the front door opened.  Mrs. Seth quickly hid him in the children’s room.  Her family had returned, downcast.  The fog had hampered the search.  They decided to wait till it lifted.

In muffled tones Mrs. Seth filled them in.  They sighed in relief and then were full of consternation.  They decided to let the escapee rest for the night in the children’s room and worry later.  Things settled temporarily.  Their minds were racing trying to find a solution to this risky dilemma.

**

After a couple of the longest hours of their lives,

they all trooped into the nursery.

The sight that met their eyes took them

by surprise filling them with delight.

The convict had dozed off and little Ranvir

had calmly picked up his gun and sat pointing it at the convict.

 His eyes were unblinking! Samir was hiding behind Ranvir.   Elder Seth quietly dialed the DC’s number.

(picture from the internet) 

(just wrote this for a creative challenge- a fog- a house at a hillstation, a 3 year old missing, escaped convict w/cops in hot pursuit and a lost honeymoon couple)

 

picture from internet