Life in general, particular
I often react to people as in total strangers and have this inexplicable pull to engage them and blurt stuff that emanates involuntarily…it can be both uncanny and weird…plus I get goose flesh to boot..rather strange if I say so myself…
Happened again this evening…met two lovely Brits holidaying in Italy in length/breadth as much as time out of their “life real” allows…..
Both had this heavy kind of aura of sadness and melancholia about them that my own lightness of spirit wanted to brush away…
I blurted stuff that was already in one’s back of mind and brought it to their forefront….they seriously thought of considering this journey to regain their joy and it made me content and at peace somehow…
I felt I was merely a conduit in their life’s journey …a carrier pigeon albeit a roly-poly one! …and am not one to question these urges of mine any more…
Life is what is…strange, marvelous, miraculous…incredible..
Moi avec Mt. Etna, Sicily
Aditya Raj had an over whelming urge to visit his ancestral home before his by-pass surgery inNew York. His wife and kids dissuaded vociferously but to no avail. He was sure that after completing this niggling task left undone in his old home; he could go under the knife worriless. Hence, sixty five year old Aditya returned toIndiaaccompanied by his elder son Vijay Raj.
Raj family had migrated toNew Yorkafter Aditya’s marriage. He was in the family’s diamond business and had entered into a 50-50 partnership with his childhood buddy Shiva who was already settled inNew York. The ancestral home had been in their family for almost two hundred years and he had left it in the able hands of his younger brother Satya and grandmother. Their parents had retired in the holy place ofBanarasbut the old grandmother refused to leave the home where she’d come as a bride. No lure of a holy place could pry her away from this house. Then five years ago just before grandpa’s first death anniversary, grandmother had taken ill and passed away. Satya was single and had no desire to wed, hence joined Aditya inNew Yorkafter granny’s death. The house was left in the care of their old faithful cook and jack of all Ramu and his wife.
Aditya and son Vijay had a good night’s sleep and were ready to walk down memory lane. This was their first visit after granny’s demise. Sounds of joyous laughter and scampering feet reverberated in their ears. Granny’s beckoning voice the loudest. She had a whole repertoire of fairytales and delicious goodies to share with her grandchildren. The kids adored her. Neighborhood children came by even after her grandchildren had migrated toNew York. She never tired of telling stories.
Zeba Khan was very attractive. Classic features, long brown hair and almond shaped eyes and an hourglass figure made her an instant cynosure for all eyes. She had eyes for Satya Raj only. No one else existed as far as she was concerned. All alliances put forward by kith and kin were summarily dismissed.
By one pretext or another, she would visit Satya in his oldDelhijewelry store and chat him up. She intimated that one of her ancestors had been an important minister inDelhi’s royal court where Satya’s ancestors were the royal jewelers. She shared many such anecdotes with facts and figures leaving no doubt in Satya’s mind that indeed, their family lines were interconnected. She tried to dangle a family secret as a carrot as she was madly in love with his looks and demeanor. But Satya would have none of it. Zeba was beautiful he admitted to himself and had gotten under his skin but he never gave up his resolve to remain celibate like his beloved deity Hanuman. Plus he was a staunch Hindu and she was a Muslim. His folks would be scandalized, not that he wished to marry. Then granny had passed away.
Caretaker Ramu and wife, in order to properly care for the house and make some extra money on the side, rented the house without Raj family’s knowledge. It was Zeba and her elder brother Ali who had rented the house. Unbeknownst to Ramu and wife, both Zeba and Ali searched the house every night. They especially targeted granny’s room. They had almost finished searching every inch of the room when by accident, Zeba’s hand hit upon the center rose carving on the bed’s head board. With a whirring sound the rose opened up and inside was a secret drawer. Full of excitement, Ali pushed his sister back and stuck his hand inside the drawer. A velvet pouch touched his fingers. With shaky fingers he extracted it and opened the bag. Out popped a priceless diamond, the size of an egg. This is what they had been seeking. Finally their hard work had paid off.
Ali was up to his eyebrows in gambling debts and needed money badly. He was aware that he was living on borrowed time. Zeba cried that in all fairness half of the money belonged to the Raj family as it was their property. As family history ran, this diamond was meant for the favored Queen of the King but she had been mysteriously poisoned and subsequently the King had declared the diamond unlucky. Raj family had since then hidden it from view for sake of its safety and family honor. Ali had no intention of sharing the proceeds from the diamond’s sale even with his half sister Zeba. Hence he had no compunction of ending her life. He smothered her with a pillow when she was asleep and fled. Ever since that day, Zeba’s ghost roamed the corridors of the old mansion always on the lookout for her beloved Satya Raj.
The caretaker and his wife had come to know about this ghost as it had appeared to them while cleaning the house. The police case had been closed after thorough investigation due to lack of clues. Ali had vanished into thin air.
Ramu and wife reluctantly confessed to renting the house in their absentia and the murder thereafter. Aditya and son were quite upset. Somehow Aditya felt, maybe that was the reason he had this urge to return home. He decided to play it by ear. That night he slept in granny’s room with her favorite shawl around his shoulders. After a while, he felt the air around the bed change a bit and he felt a presence. He saw the floating figure of granny and she seemed to be looking at him with love in her eyes. Aditya’s eyes moistened involuntarily. Granny seemed to be pointing at something. Then her finger elongated and touched the carved rose on the headboard. Aditya decided to examine it. He tapped it gently and it sprang open. Excitedly, he put his hand inside but came up empty. Then he pushed it further and came into another compartment and in that he found a small diary and a pouch. He removed both. The diary was written in pristine “Urdu” language (Urdu -is a register of the Hindi-Urdu language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia).
Luckily Aditya knew Urdu and read the diary with growing excitement. In great detail it narrated the story of their ancestor, the royal jeweler. His son had been fatally wounded while fleeing from dacoits. The ancestor had prayed to Lord Krishna promising a twenty one diamond studded crown in return for his son. The son healed in record time and now the promise was yet to be fulfilled. Somehow, the favorite queen got a whiff of this through her spies and wanted a necklace made with the biggest stone from the lot of 21 diamonds. Even before Satya Raj could plead his case, the queen died mysteriously after being poisoned. The diamonds were declared unlucky and went underground. This news did not deter the court’s greedy sycophants. Thus began the quest for diamonds. The promise to the lord remained unfulfilled. The chase was on.
Gafoor Ali Khan was one such greedy minister plagued by his many wives for expensive baubles. To end his money troubles, he set his sights on those diamonds. In the interim, Satya Raj had a master carpenter build a solid bed with a carved headboard with secret drawers. In the first drawer he had placed a false diamond; the size of the largest one to misguide any would be thief. He had the carpenter swear to secrecy on his only son’s head. The elder sons of the clan were privy to this secret only. Time sped and the diamonds stayed hidden in the second drawer, to this day.
Aditya Raj was inNew Yorkon business when grandpa shared the family secret with granny on his deathbed, to pass along to him only as Aditya’s father; their only son was unworldly and had no interest in family affairs. Granny had waited to convey this secret on grandpa’s first death anniversary when Aditya was sure to come down fromNew Yorkbut died without revealing it.
Aditya got in touch with one of his old trusted craftsmen. He had him overnight craft a beautiful crown for the lord studded with the promised twenty-one diamonds under a cloak of extreme secrecy. After swearing him on Lord Krishna’s name, he quickly left for the Lord Krishna’s temple in Vrindavan to make good the promise and uphold family honor. The Lord had a playful smile after receiving this offering.
Aditya and son returned toNew York. As promised, he checked into the hospital for the by-pass surgery. He felt on top of the world. A sense of well being pervaded his person. The doctors were mystified. After several tests, they discovered that his heart was completely normal and blockage free. The Lord smiled mischievously in his temple inIndia.
*Lord Krishna and Hanuman are Hindu deities
Builder Ram had purchased the lot including the old house and stables for a song. It was in the older part of the city and upwardly mobile people these days preferred newer suburbs with all the mod cons.
Ram loved old things and recalled his grandparent’s grand old mansion which now belonged to his cousins. He too wanted to build a similar house in its full glory and it would be a perfect property for film shoots as well. After all he was a businessman. Before the structure was pulled down, he had salvaged all usable mantles, doors, windows, fixtures et al. Now they were preparing to lay down the foundation. It was then that his laborers found two urns full of ashes. They were covered with red cloths covered in ancient script. The work was halted as the urns were carefully lifted and placed in a secure spot. Ram decided to investigate regarding them.
Three houses down lived an old priest called Shastriji. The priest’s ancestors had looked after the needs of the whole neighborhood since times immemorial. Be it birth, death, marriage or special prayers, they were much in demand. Recorded journals with names of all the family members of every family with detailed history were in his possession. Ram hit pay dirt when one of the local workers told him to approach the priest.
Ram: “Greetings Shastriji. I’ve bought that old house three doors down your lane and seek your help”. The priest sat up straight as these days clients were a rare sight.
Shastriji exclaimed, “Oh! So you are the one that bought that house. I know the history of it well. No need to refer to my detailed journals. This will take up a while so I hope you have time to spare. Let’s share a cup of tea first.
That house belonged to Surya Pratap the younger son of Raja Ratan Singh of this state. He was an ascetic and a devout Hindu who preferred all things Indian. He had no love for the East Indian Company and the British upstarts. He was married off to the beautiful second daughter of the royal family of the neighboring State. Sita was so beautiful that Surya Pratap succumbed to her charms in no time. With love and patience she smoothed out the sharp edges of his personality. Surya became mellow and less obdurate in nature.
They had four children. Three sons and one daughter Eldest son and daughter was educated in England at the urging of his wife Sita who herself had schooled there and the other two received their education in local schools and colleges. Their daughter Chandni was incredibly lovely and the family’s lucky charm. Ever since she had been born, many good things had occurred in their lives. Whole family doted on Chandni and she too had a lovable nature. Chandni had long curly dark hair, big almond shaped light blue eyes and perfect features like her mother Sita. She was a great archer and equestrienne too. She met and won many a challenge her three brothers posed. She was their match in every which way and more.
Chandni finished her education in London and returned home to settle down and eventually get married. Many alliances arrived from far corners of the country for her hand. She turned them all down. She wanted to spend more time with her loved ones.
Then, something unexpected happened. A young British officer Peter Pruitt had been sent to the nearby Company Residency as a second in command. He was very handsome and loved all things Indian. He was kind hearted too unlike his haughty supercilious colleagues.
Chandni’s best friend Tara had given a birthday party and Chandni was looking forward to catching up on the local gossip. She dressed herself in simple clothes and even then she was the cynosure of all eyes. Peter Pruitt and his fellow officers had been invited by Tara’s parents as they undertook contract work from the Company on various projects. They managed the local workmen well and hence rarely was there any friction or untoward incidence.
At the very first glance Peter and Chandni fell headlong in love much to the consternation of everyone present. Chandni knew her family would never accept Peter but she had lost control over her wayward heart. Peter’s state was equally bad. His friends too advised him against it as Chandni’s father’s reputation as a stern Hindu was well known. He was inflexible on many fronts. Soon the affair became known to Chandni’s parents and even as the lovers were eloping with the help of her faithful nanny, all the three brothers caught up with the fleeing lovers and in a heated moment, the hot headed eldest brother shot the couple. All present became stunned and he the most. He was shocked at what he had done and in reflex action shot self too. The remaining two brothers quickly carried the three bodies home. Peter and Chandni’s bodies were secretly taken to an underground cave to be dealt with there. All the servants were sworn to secrecy for fear of repercussions at the hands of the cruel firangi (foreigners). It was decided that since Chandni had disobeyed the family, she and Peter would be secretly cremated and the ashes would be kept in urns and buried deep in a chosen spot by the family priest. The urns were then duly sealed by red square materials that had a fine print of tantric mantras all over. As a punishment, the ashes were not released in the holy Ganges. The lovers were left to languish in anguish till eternity.
The son was given a royal sendoff with all the rituals. And that was the beginning of the end of this family. Their luck ran out with the departure of their lucky charm Chandni and they fell on hard times. Soon everything dwindled- lives, money and the hangers-on leeches. All the fine carpets and fixtures- everything was sold off one by one and finally only the bare bones of this lovely house remained. Hence, this property was sold for a song. People swear that they have seen the lovers’ ghosts on the roof in the evenings.”
Shastriji became silent after that and builder Ram’s mind began racing. He rubbed his hands in secret glee. He was not perturbed at all. This house was going to be used by movie makers and the ghostly touch would be an added allure. But first he vowed to give the lovers a decent sendoff with full fledged rituals and fanfare.
The renovated house’s inauguration and the Lovers’ send off simultaneously would be great publicity. Ram silently chortled to himself. Thanking Shastriji profusely, he hurried off sporting a huge smile on his chubby gum chewing face.
Circle Of Love
Our ship had docked and we decided to explore.
Sandy was native Alaskan. I, Sonia was from New York. We’d met at a summer camp, fallen in love and got married. That was five years ago.
A friend hailed Sandy but I decided to explore further- we decided to meet at the dock in a couple of hours.
I found a lookout point from where I could feast on the glaciers which drew me. I was joined by an elderly stranger. He told me a lovely folktale of this point.
Aaleahya was native Alaskan. She loved Iqniq (fire) the chief’s son. They were to wed next full moon day. Meanwhile their village got attacked by white man and Iqniq was killed. Aaleahya was sad. She came to this point nightly and stared at the glaciers. She died of a broken heart. Visitors often saw Aaleahya and Iqniq’s spirits embracing here. Stranger showed her his locket with their faces. She saw Sandy and herself staring back!
this picture is from inernet
Little Bobbie was in seventh heaven to have the secret room as his very own and wanted to sleep there as well. His parents decided to make him happy as this way they could keep an eye on him more easily.
Bobbie was an only child and ever since he learnt to walk, he would be all over the
house playing with toys in hand. His mom Raji tried to restrain him in his room by feeding and playing with him there. Gradually Bobbie kept to his room and when he was lonely he would start speaking with his friend Kanha. He would say” Kanha, please come and play with me. I want to be your playmate.” Suddenly, Kanha would emerge from the silver statue and they would play for hours together. Now the sounds of two pairs of anklets would reverberate in the house. Raji and the maid would hear this delightful tinkle and smile. It never occurred to them that it was the sound made by two pairs. After Bobbie got tired and fell asleep hugging his pal Balgopal, the Lord would merge back into the statue.
One day Bobbie woke up early and looked for his pal but he was not there! Instead there was a lovely peacock feather on his pillow.
He stared at it in wonder! He had liked the feather on Balgopal’s gold crown and had wanted one also. Carefully he put the feather in his Alphabet book.
Raji had finished cooking and was between chores. She decided to sit early with Bobbie to teach the alphabets and numbers. On opening the book, she found the lovely peacock feather. Upon asking the child where he got it, Bobbie said “Mom my pal Gopal gave it to me!” Raji was mystified and questioned her son further. She asked “Which Gopal?” Bobbie pointed to the silver statue in the swing. He said “He plays with me every day and even sleeps with me. I had asked him to get me a feather just like the one he has on his head.” Raji was overjoyed and believed her son! She realized the room had a very peaceful aura and instead of the usual musty smell, it had a pleasing fragrance of fresh jasmine flowers and camphor. She hugged her son and kissed him in pure joy. She joined her hands and prayed babbling her thanks to Him for gracing their home.
It was Janamashtami day and Bobbie’s parents both fasted and broke it only after midnight. Next day they held kirtan in their home and invited all the neighbors for lunch. The silver Kanha seated in the swing occupied the place of honor in the living room where one corner has been converted into a temporary temple. Fifty six varieties of sweets had been prepared for the lord and the house resounded with sounds of bhajans and rejoicing celebrating the birth of the lord. Finally it was over and the lord was returned to Bobbie’s room. Bobbie had been excited by the day’s goings on and had played to his heart’s content with the guest’s kids. He had other playmates now.
Bobbie was often invited to other homes and between play and day school he became busy and hence did not call out to his playmate as often as before. Their meetings became infrequent and then stopped completely.
Bobbie was sent home early from school as he was unwell. Raji immediately took him to the doctor who said he had caught a virus and gave him a mild sedative and medicines. The child’s fever was very high and Raji sat by his bedside placing cooling cloth pads on his forehead to lower the temperature. She was weeping silently. Then as Bobbie settled down into a fitful rest, she left the room.
After an hour or so, Bobbie woke up suddenly and cried out to his old pal Balgopal. He said “please Kanha come and talk to me. I know I have been busy but you know I love you very much Kanha.” The lord emerged from the statue and sat by his side. Then Kanha placed his tiny hand on Bobbie’s forehead and in a few minutes the fever vanished. Bobbie got up and both played as before. Then the Lord told Bobbie that now that he had become a big boy he did not need him any more and that whenever he remembered HIM he should close his eyes and he would appear as HE lived in his heart. He said he had to visit other boys who needed him. They hugged each other and the Lord merged into the statue never to appear again.
Kesar and Rajratan smiled happily in their portraits which hung in Bobbie’s room and which his sons had left for Bobbie along with the silver statue and the swing.
all pictures are from the internet except last one which is mine