Once upon a time, on any given day I used to read one-two books on daily basis. With photographic
memory and an inordinate love for lingua Anglais it was pure manna for me. Being an outdoorsy sporty type as well,
I used to play with friends after school until sun died down and cows went home! At home, I’d curl up in nooks
and crannies being quite slight in build and dad would have devil of a time searching for me and admonishing roundly
as he worried about my poor eyes –but in those days I rather fancied “spectacles” salivating for a pince-nez
on my perfectly formed nose! Later when I did get them as a wish fulfillment, I learnt to hate them malevolently! Ha!
I read just about everything I could lay my hands on but “thrillers, whodunits and then romances” were genres
I liked most in that order. Books found me like magnets to metal. Friends, acquaintances unloaded their piles
on me throughout the years and I’ve happily obliged.
Then I got married, became a wife and mother. Arranged marriages are usually hit or miss – mine was a huge miss-
enough said. For quarter century I lived a full fledged internal life behaving like an automaton externally.
I never thought there was an out until destiny declared ‘enough is enough’. Books had become a distant dream
during this period of my life. Then destiny decided to turn my life on its head and I got remarried.
I came into a house of book lovers in the big Apple no less! My suppressed love for words surfaced
and I swam in it deliriously. Regardless of good or bad times, I never lost my sense of humor –fake
or genuine; I took my laughter pill religiously. Above all, I survived. Writing became my outlet and poems
are my lazy way of expressing what’s in my heart and I think I’ve become adept at it- I have to be grateful
to two office colleagues who literally kicked my behind to get me started on my writing gig.
Now that I have a free hand and total freedom, I find that even though books give me a high like none other –
am unable to stay put and read one at a go – my long suppressed persona is like an imp that has suddenly
whooshed out of bottled life and wants to drink life real’s elixir firsthand and travel gives me these
highs and lows. I greedily drink nature in its full regalia with my 20/20 vision post cataract surgery
and being a people watcher I get further entertained. My home is overflowing with books that I fondle
lovingly; consoling them with words like “one day when I retire and come
to a full stop” I will sip you page by page cover to cover like my favorite masala chai!
Until then hold your horses”
What to do, life is short, I need to be everywhere in person, eyes all agog in wonderment. Still, that has
not stopped me from downloading books on my IPad and also buying “spined” ones. That is it – my confession
in a nutshell. I may also suffer from ADD -(attn. deficit disorder- maybe) lol ~ Finis.
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 )
Today was D-day. Neo prayed desperately. Lab. Rocky howled. A year ago Doctor Neil performed emergency surgery. “Injuries are superficial. This beauty will heal fast”. He thought. Monica returned for last check up. She realized she’ll miss him. Attraction was mutual. Their marriage was more between two business houses. Monica and Leo were childhood friends. Their son Neo’s was a miscalculation. Monica dumped him in nanny’s arms shamelessly. Leo adored his son. For baby Neo, nanny, Daddy and Rocky were his world. Dr. Neil collected information on Monica. He resolved to have her by hook or crook. He became privy to Leo’s movements. ER “I am dog tired!” Callously he killed the patient. He was alone. There was no paperwork. Shift over; he sped away with deceased. Leo was drunk when he left the club. He hit gas pedal hard. Crash!! He hit something, passing out slumped on wheel. “Hello 911! Headlines blared, “Playboy Leo kills competitor Mark in cold blood.” Witnesses had heard Leo threaten Mark at club barely an hour ago. Neil had masterminded whole sequence of events like a maestro. He patted himself. Everyone bayed for Leo’s blood. Shocked Monica realized she did love her husband. It was time for damage control. “I will save him”, she vowed fiercely.
Gorby (Govardhan) – Ghost, Ravi’s friend/adversary/ TV-movie star
Biba – Gorby’s love, Monu’s mom, Ravi’s wife
Monu (Mandeep): Ravi’s son fathered by Gorby
Kaka- bungalow caretaker
Ms. Rosie: Monu’s nanny
Silently, ninja entered the house. Surefooted, knowing exactly where to go, he reached the bedroom. He tapped awake the sleeping man ever so gently. It was movie and TV star the Great Gorby. Once he was awake he threatened Gorby menacingly, “Leave Ravi Talwar and his family alone or else you will be sorry!” Gorby quietly extracted a gun from under his pillow and tried to shoot but his hand was shaking badly and the nimble ninja deflected the gun. Gorby shot himself instead. The gloved ninja left same way he’d come.
After initial hue n cry, the death was declared accidental. Mumbai’s tinsel town, notorious for its short memory span, soon forgot Gorby.
Gorby’s ashes were ritually immersed by his grief stricken dad but he never left. His ghost roamed the bungalow determined on seeking revenge. The caretaker Kaka was sorry that he had rented the place surreptitiously. He should’ve asked his “sahib” first. It was too late now.
Ghost Gorby was bored. He longed for real people to scare. Ever since his ignominious end, he had been thirsting for revenge, stuck as he was between the living and the dead. To date, he had merely scared caretaker Kaka and a bunch of adventurous kids.
Ravi Talwar was a restauranteur in New York. He had had no desire to join the family business that was well run by other family members. Quick wits and hard work had paid off and now he owned three successful restaurants offering ethnic Indian food. He had dark thick hair, laughing eyes, big forehead, biggish Talwar nose and full lips. His body was athletic due to morning workouts and careful eating. Altogether, he was a well dressed easy on the eye marriage prospect. Happy and ready to settle down, he proposed marriage to his childhood fellow prankster and love, Biba.
Biba was a distant relative of Ravi’s mom and often came to stay in their house with her parents who were also their business partners. Only child of doting parents, she had become a spoilt princess and being beautiful, everyone simply indulged her shamelessly. Only Ravi did no such thing hence Biba had a love hate fascination for him. She always tried to get the upper hand but failed- this had earned Ravi her grudging respect. She even felt a sneaky kind of love for him. The minx had determined that only way to make Ravi succumb was to marry him. So far, Ravi had held out.
Ravi’s proposal had been everyone’s dream come true and they became engaged.
Gorby after graduation had left for tinsel town Mumbai to try his luck in movies. A few pulled family strings had panned out and he had landed a small part in a TV serial. He was a consummate actor and soon got noticed. His drop dead looks, green eyes and chestnut hair also helped. His mom had been a fair green eyed Kashmiri beauty whose family had been uprooted from their beloved Kashmir valley. Enroute to their second home in Dehradun, militants had struck again and she had died on the spot. Pandit Kaul hastily made a makeshift pyre to consign the body to flames and waited for dawn to gather her ashes. Thereafter, he hid his three year old son under his shirt and headed non stop for Dehradun. His wife’s ashes were duly consigned to the holy Ganges there, amidst tears and chants.
Mr. Kaul’s close friend and neighbors, the Talwar family had taken them both in and healing had begun. Talwars and Kauls were business partners and to occupy his grief stricken mind, Mr. Kaul took upon himself all out of town travel secure in the knowledge that his beloved son was in caring hands… Gorby was easy going and charming but with a flexible slant to life unlike Ravi who had been molded by his mother and grandmother in strict moral code and conduct. He and Ravi were close buddies.
Biba heeded to her inner drummer alone. In their heart of hearts Ravi’s mom and granny would’ve been happy if Ravi had chosen another. But love is blind and they were happy enough with this choice. Better to deal with a known devil than an unknown one.
Dashing actor Gorby swept Biba off her feet at the engagement party and she fell headlong for him. He praised her looks outrageously and encouraged her to become an actress. Ravi and the rest were unaware of this.
A week before the marriage day, Gorby and Biba eloped to Mumbai. Spoilt Biba was in for a rude awakening. Nymphets like her were a dime a dozen and she was not amenable to the casting couch. She was blacklisted and Gorby had to apologize to everyone and mollify Biba as well. He genuinely loved her and wanted to marry her. They both felt terrible about backstabbing Ravi but were madly in love. In a moment of weakness, they made love after another scathing rejection of Biba. She became pregnant. Both were aghast as they did not wish for a child. Repentant and tear stricken she returned home.
Ravi still loved Biba and both the families quickly got them married and soon after they left for New York.
The nurse brought the wailing baby to Biba but she turned her face away. She had gone into depression. Ravi singlehandedly took care of both and finally engaged an Indian nanny to care for his son. They named the baby Mandeep but called him Monu.
To prove to herself her own self worth, Biba soon took an interest in the restaurants and became a cordon bleu chef. Digging out old family recipes and begging family ladies for recipes, she dabbled and created new dishes. She gave them exotic names and gradually introduced them in their restaurants. Their revenue trebled. Finally the family had come together. In time, she came to adore her geeky son Monu as well.
Monu was in the process of boarding his school bus when a brakeless car slammed into the bus injuring several kids. Monu’s spine was injured and he lost the use of his legs. He was only ten.
After trying all treatments, devastated Ravi and Biba decided to sell everything and return home to their beloved Dehradun valley. Fresh air, Ayurvedic massages were next on their agenda.
Exercise equipment, physical therapy aids, computers et al had been shipped in advance. The bungalow was readied for wheelchair accessibility. It was then that Kaka made a clean breast of having rented their bungalow to actor Gorby without their knowledge and his subsequent accidental death. Kaka was unaware that Gorby, Biba and Ravi were childhood buddies. He also said that their house was haunted. Ravi and Biba laughed in his face. Sheepish at this reaction, Kaka slunk out.
Monu was a nerd and it had been agreed by his US school principal that he could appear for exams online- so everyone was happy. His Indian nanny Ms. Rosie had agreed to travel with them and Ravi and Biba were relieved.
Monu was a night owl and as he worked on his homework, he felt a presence. He turned his swivel chair and saw a man seated on his bed. He was looking at him with love. Monu asked, “who are you?’ Gorby replied, “I am your dad son! “ But how can that be Monu cried my dad is Ravi and not you! But Gorby insisted. Then Monu asked why are you still here? Gorby said he wanted to know who had plotted to scare him to death literally. Then he saw that Monu was unable to stand and was stricken. He came to know about the accident and their move back home.
During subsequent days he noticed the love and devotion Ravi had for his son and he softened.
The day before, he had been seething in anger when he’d overheard Ravi and Biba talking. Ravi had confessed to Biba that he had sent his close friend, a New York cop to scare away Gorby from them for good. On chatting with a local Dehradun friend, he had come to know about the paying guest in their bungalow. The town was all excited to have Gorby the actor in their midst, his friend had expressed. He had had no intention of killing him he told her emphatically. She’d believed him.
During childbirth, Ravi had come to know that Monu was not his son, but had forgiven Biba and loved Monu as his own flesh and blood. Now he only wished to keep Gorby away from disrupting his family again. That was all.
Gorby forgave his childhood buddies and quietly departed from their lives. Next to Monu’s pillow they found an exquisite cameo with Gorby’s mom’s picture in it. Gorby had worn in his neck when alive.
Quick wits, hard work and destiny relented at last; breathing new life in Sanjay’s withering branches. Gradually and then by leaps and bounds his (business) tree sprouted shiny new leaves and succulent shoots. His trunk became a force to be reckoned with. Nature’s ferocious furies failed to move it. It had arrived at the pinnacle of its potential. Now he Sanjay, an oft scorned relative became “a wishing tree”. Many a time, his help was sought when a business was on its last legs. His monetary aid became a “sanjeevani “medicine, reviving it.
Needy kith and kin who had given him the wide berth before now suddenly found his whereabouts and closed in. Smarmy and wheedling they soon ingratiated themselves to him. Success can and does go to one’s head and he too was not immune. Drunk with success and shamelessly pandered to by his many hangers on, Sanjay became insufferable. He still helped people but made them grovel besides humiliating them in front of his coterie. Aid seekers were grateful to him for his timely help but in their heart of hearts they started resenting him. Sanjay’s one saving grace was that he never forgot his bad times and often helped many needy folks secretively, no one being the wiser. Only his personal chauffer knew this side of his persona. He had sworn him to secrecy.
Trying to keep up with the in crowd of society had slowly weaned the creative side of his personality. He had been a fine poet in his time. He no longer penned ghazals and verses. His refinement had been overtaken by shallow superficiality. He was oblivious to the price eked by success from him.
Sanjay’s old mother saw what had happened to her elder son. She was treated like a well preserved cared for antique and nothing more than that these days. Sanjay no longer visited his mother in the evenings like before. She missed him dreadfully and grieved… The old lady prayed to the lord to knock some sense into her generous albeit misguided son. But it was too late.
Cycle of destiny took a full turn. Long period of drought took its toll and Sanjay “the wishing tree” soon suffered huge financial losses. The multi business branches were chopped for financial reasons. The Wishing Tree became a mere shadow of its former glorious self. The hangers on vanished like hair from an age ravaged bald head. Sanjay was now left with only his own small family, faithful jack of all chauffer and mother.
This change in fortune strangely enough did not perturb him. In reality Sanjay felt at peace. He had more than enough for his family’s needs. The old lady smiled contentedly knowing that her “wishing tree” son would flower again but with prudence this time round.
Notes: No personality can be termed black or white. Everyone has saving graces/ redeeming qualities along with in between shades. That is my contention.
In Hindu mythology, Sanjeevani is a magical herb which has the power to cure any malady. It was believed that medicines prepared from this herb could revive a dead person –source-wiki
Ghazals: is a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in 6th century Arabic verse. It is derived from the Arabian panegyric qasida. The structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in stringency to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation. It is one of the principal poetic forms which the Indo-Perso-Arabic civilization offered to the eastern Islamic world.- source -wiki