Intense joy, grief no longer etch inroads in a heart that stays a mere pump as at this point in life
I stand dead centre of emotional highway’s crossroads –
untouched in my core –
is this detached state a leg up to the final turnstile of this life’s fold?
know not, this subterranean river serenely babbles other notes-
I stay engaged, detached player, spectator, sport
I can offer many platitudes, pros cons and other sops, yet world and events are what they are, and even when I see and hear all the awful news- current and old and even when my eyes and heart get grief laden and I formulate a lot of scathing chides but they all simply fizzle out when I stand before God- only words that come to mind are: You know best what you are up to and
quietly back away, serene and light of heart –
sue me now,
but that’s how it plays out …
each and every time
The shy blushing bundle was carried in with fanfare. Finally Sheila Rani Kher had found a bride for lame son Raju who had been afflicted by polio since childhood. Sheila was actually the great aunt of the bride. Maya, the newlywed had just lost her parents in a rock fall during a pilgrimage to the family shrine in lower Himalayas. She was barely sixteen and lack of dowry had brought her to this impasse. Maya was still under shock and had performed marriage rituals in dumb misery. Apathetically she curled up on the nuptial bed adorned with rose petals. Her extremely fair hands and feet were covered with intricate traditional henna designs. Maya was wearing a ruby red salwar suit (harem pants and top) and her dupatta (scarf) was laced with tiny gold bells studded with gold lace stars. On her forehead a gold Tikka glittered (forehead ornament) hung by pearls string from her hair. Her anklets and bracelets made tinkling sounds each time she fidgeted. She had a black and gold bead necklace called mangalsutra around her neck which was the symbol of a marriage. She was a sumptuous feast wrapped up in gold and rubies. She waited for her husband with heart in mouth.
Distant beat of drums could still be heard as women relatives continued their song and dance. All the men were hung over on country liquor and sounds of puking could be heard sporadically. Sheila had a haranguing tongue that kept husband and son in check and now she was letting loose choice epithets as she and others were forced to clean up after the men. Still Sheila was very happy as she longed to become a grand-mother.
Raju was slim, of medium height, fair complexion, high cheekbones, a perfect nose and chiseled lips. A small neat moustache formed a great base for his twinkling kindly eyes. His dependency on a cane had not soured him and he thanked god for a wonderful mother. She massaged his limbs daily and tied a fresh amulet on his arm every other week and fed him his favorite dishes. He was aware of her mixing various herbs in his food. He still ate everything knowing it was for his betterment. The latest concoction had been the flesh of a cactus which an itinerant monk had given to her to enhance Raju’s manliness and strengthen his limbs. Raju hated the taste but grudgingly ate it as he had implicit faith in his mom’s love. Raju had a pet mule “Shera” who helped carry him over mountain passes. He travelled into satellite towns to purchase goods for the family’s dry grocery store when inventory ran low. This also gave him news of their community, district and state. Raju had a fine brain and with the help of a kindly headmaster had obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics. Now he taught English and math in junior classes and was happy with his lot. He had been bulldozed into this marriage by his pushy mother against his will. Thus, he entered his bedroom with equal trepidation as his bride.
Raju and Maya had met briefly at family gatherings only. Maya was still wallowing in misery and was scared for her future. She was however savvy about birds and bees as her mother had prepared her well, tutoring her to expertly fend off straying hands and other mauling. She always carried a tiny dagger on her person. It was a family heirloom and very ancient. One peculiar thing about Maya’s mother’s family had been that it was a family of seers and often a child was born with a third eye. In olden times people ostracized them due to ignorance but these days they were respected and much sought after.
Per umpteen movie scenes of first wedding night, Raju removed the veil covering Maya face and spoke to her very gently. Listening to his kind tone, Maya lost a bit of her fear and paid closer attention to his words. He said “First and foremost I wish to express my grief over the loss of your parents. Rest assured I will not make any demands on you until unless you yourself are willing and ready. In the interim we can become good friends and understand one another. Also please do not fear mother even though she is like a prickly pear. She has a heart of gold.” Hearing this, Maya’s worries vanished. Time has a way of passing and it was two years already since Raju and Maya had married. Now they had become fast friends and Maya was ready for a family. Raju felt great joy at his chance of happiness finally as he loved kids and longed to be a dad. Maya had come to love and respect Raju and his parents who had been extremely patient with her. Maya was not a shirker and helped Sheila in tending home and caring for the cows and kitchen garden. In nine months Maya presented the family with twins, a boy and girl. They named them Suraj and Tara after sun and star.
The kids grew like weeds. Suraj was a handful whereas Tara was placid. From early on family tiptoed around her. They felt her quiet power as though some goddess had reincarnated in their home and treated her with deference. Tara was born with the third eye and often in sleep she started making predictions that always came true. Be it the rainfall or lack of it, a birth, death, windfall et al. Soon whole town clamored after her but she only spoke in sleep state. Maya protected her daughter fiercely. She knew well that such a gift could be a curse too.
Tara was very fond of her brother and always covered up for him. Suraj too loved her very much and even though she was his twin he looked up to her.
Suraj was playing ball with his friends after school when one of the volleys’s overshot and landed in the bushes. The kids ran to retrieve it. By sheer bad luck Suraj got bitten by a cobra that was nesting there. The quick thinking kids spat out the venom by biting into his leg. Poison was spreading fast. Two of them ran to fetch help.
Suraj’s vitals had become feeble. The local doctor was trying his best. The family sat praying non-stop. Then Tara came running and put her hand on her brother’s forehead. She started swaying and chanting in a strange ancient tongue. The venom started transferring from Suraj’s veins into Tara’s. Suraj stabilized and Tara fell into a deep swoon.
A week before Tara had had a vision and knew Suraj had a short life span. She chanted non-stop for two days before the deity appeared. They had made a pact. The twins would now each live to fifty and not a day more. Tara had happily given up half her life span for Suraj. No one knew about this pact.
Word count: 1168
note: Third eye means clairvoyance in the Hindu religion
picture from internet
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
Little Bobby loved to venture now that he could crawl. His mom Raji was usually at her wit’s end turning pots n pans, closets, nooks and crannies for him. Finally she’d extricate him with cobwebs hanging on curly locks and dust smearing his cherubic face. His endearing smile melted her anger and she hugged him to her bosom, thankful that he was safe.
“Mom is really busy today and now that my tummy is full, I can go and seek new adventure.” His tiny anklets tinkling, the baby made a beeline for his favorite haunt, that secret room with big brass inlaid doorway and old fashioned chain and lock where happily he gurgled and cooed as though playing with someone. Luckily the door had been unlocked for mopping and dusting.
“Today I am going to explore that dark corner which has some really interesting jars and pots. Even though I like that silver baby in the swing a lot but if I can crawl into the rocking chair, then I can have a better look. Let’s see if I am able to climb on.”
Pre-Partition of India and Pakistan
Chowdhary Ratan Singh was greatly respected in his town in West Punjab, now in Pakistan. His family owned a flourishing business in dry fruits. His brothers and their families also lived in the rambling mansion. Ratan had one son and two daughters. He got his girls settled early and was on the lookout for a suitable bride for his son Rajratan(Raj). Around that time there was a problem in the dry fruit supply from Kabul and he sent Raj to investigate. Raj went to meet their main supplier Aftab Khan who invited him for dinner. There he met Khan’s daughter Kesar and fell head over heels in love with her. Kesar felt the same pull. She knew her father was ready to marry her off to her awful cousin Kaif who was a mean person and hence knowing their families would never agree, they bolted to Delhi.
Kesar’s mother was in the know and not only approved but had given whatever money she could lay her hands on and jewelry. She even sent a maid to help them. Both the fathers were angry and washed their hands off them and forbid everyone from even uttering their names. Ratan cursed his first born but on his deathbed forgave his son and wished they had patched up.
Rajratan Singh and Kesar were hardworking and after selling their jewelry and diamond ear-rings they were able to have enough seed money to start they own dry fruit business in Delhi. Both knew the supply sources and through a trusted hand were able to build up their business from scratch. Here in Delhi festivals and marriages took place all the time hence dry fruits were always in demand. They had chosen well. The couple missed their old homes. They constructed their new home incorporating the beauty of both ancestral homes. The doors had brass inlaid work and the windows and latticed balconies had intricate colored glass designs to keep the harsh summer sun out. Cross ventilation kept their home cool. They were happy except for the one recurring pain in their bosom for their kith n kin whom they missed dreadfully. Raj and Kesar each had worn cameos of their parents around their neck and hence got paintings done of their elders and it occupied a place of honor in their diwan khana (drawing room). The kids would get to know their grand parents in this manner only.
Time sped and Raj and Kesar’s two sons decided to study abroad where they subsequently married and settled down never to return. The parents grieved for their sons realizing how their own parents must’ve felt. They reconciled and now took one day a time.
There was a lot of unrest against the British rule. Some firebrand Hindus decided to bomb the local prison and set free their leaders. Raj and Kesar were in the bazaar when the bomb misfired and were killed instantly. Their horse buggy driver and jack of all cook Bakshi quickly gathered up their mangled bodies and got them cremated before sundown. Then they dispatched mail to their sons overseas to return home and immerse the ashes in the holy Ganges. The letters never reached as the post office was bombed the next day. The sons remained oblivious of their parent’s demise. Finally the family lawyer as per instructions sold off the mansion keeping one room locked with family heirlooms for the sons whom he had informed via telegram. It was a clause that was agreed upon by the buyer in the sale deed. Their parent’s curse did not let Raj and Kesar rest in peace and their ashes languished along with the heirlooms. They lingered on.
This was the room which attracted the baby most. The keys had been provided to the new owner for mopping and dusting and for this service the sale price had been adjusted.
Little Bobby managed to climb the rocker in the forbidden room. He was in seventh heaven. There were so many interesting objects on the mantle above the fireplace. Also there were those huge pictures of old people. He scrambled down and crawled into the corner, when suddenly four hands quickly embraced him and hugged him. He felt kisses being showered on his cheeks and squealed with delight. The maid was passing by and heard the sound and came rushing in. She brought out the dirty squirmy brat and then his mother saw perfect lip marks on his two cheeks! She got the fright of her life! She decided to investigate. She saw the nook where Bobby had crawled and there under the red velvet cloth lay two pots tied up with red threads. They looked like someone’s ashes!
So the old people’s spirits were still in residence! Oh my God! Her hand flew to her mouth in a silent cry. She quickly called her husband home and showed him the ashes.
Next morning they called the local pundit who knew the departed well and said that they were waiting for salvation at the hands of their sons. Fortunately the sons were finally in town to tie up the loose ends of the family business and property sale and had indicated that they would like to see what their parents had stored for them. They were grief stricken and remorseful about their callous neglect. But it was too late. Next day they performed “Havan” and all rituals required to speed off their loved ones. They immersed the ashes in the holy Ganges. In their dream their parents had asked them to gift their silver swing with Bal Gopal to little Bobby their little playmate whom they had enjoyed during transition.
Bobby was in seventh heaven as now the secret room was thrown open and made into his playroom. He slept with the Balgopal by his bedside. His elderly friends no longer played with him. They were resting in peace.
pictures from internet- not mine