Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Poppysmic: Verse Attack

Poppysmic: Verse Attack:                                                      Just not a Mother I always saw her as a mother, I repent for not seeing her any oth...

Just not a Mother

                                                              Just not a Mother

I always saw her as a mother,
I repent for not seeing her any other.

She was also a girl with gusto,
Fearless fetish vivacious,
Her smile buried deep sorrows,
Her desire to live was voracious.

But why I saw only a mother?
A girl sometimes peeped through beneath her duties,
A soul eager to live
Lost in the worldly niceties.

Why didn't I see a teenager?
Fun frolic coquettish-Oh! what a pleasure
But I saw you just as a mother,
A sage, provider, giver and nothing other.

In you I wanted only affection
For the world-child love is the only perfection,
Nothing else matter,
You're a mother- nothing other.

You cared for us round the clock
Watched every step like a hawk,
But it was also undeniably true
There was a woman curled up in you.

I never knew or bothered about your wish
To express it, probably you had to be selfish,
That's what all the world want
A widow should cry with her husband's urn.

But why didn't I see?
There is a woman in front of me!
Are you just a symbol of sacrifice?
For whose vice? Why did you always tried to be nice?

You reared me with love and care
But maa, where is your share?
Oh! I forgot, you cannot have any desire
that 'll ignite the world's ire.

But, why did I fail to see
A girl and a woman in thee?
I silently followed all
As though commitment was your only call.

Why did I see you as a mother? 
Nothing other, nothing other.

You are just not a 'mother' for me
A living soul with dreams--you see,
I feel it as I am a mother now
But how does it matter anyhow?
Because it's been quite long,
Since you are gone, you are gone.  


Friday, August 31, 2018

The Girl and the Living Walls

I am 407/4 Pratap Lines, Jaipur Cantt

Earlier this week I was applied double coats of distemper, few furniture were replaced, couple of damp spots in my wall repaired. I can’t tell you how happy I was. I always felt cold with those damp spots in me and it also made me look dreadful and ancient.

I knew I will have a new family soon. I stopped speculating about the kind of people I would have as all these years I had seen a myriad of them. There were people who considered me as a temporary shelter and there were others who called me home. There were people who passionately decorated me, and some who just crazily hammered nails everywhere which made me look puckered than I was. For some, with heavily framed Egyptian paintings and volumes of crystal items I looked gorgeous and for others with family photographs and in an elegantly woven Persian carpet I turned out to be graceful.

But then I could hardly contain the excitement as I heard the footsteps coming towards me. Here I see them. A young officer with his new bride! The Capt wrapped his wife in his arms and walked in. Her fingers intertwined with hers, swinging back and forth. She moved around me with such childish ecstasy; I would be their first nest after marriage. Next few days saw a flurry of activities. My windows and doors were draped in new curtains, (there were huge arguments over the colour of the curtains - well well, there used to be differences in everything- from placement of the utensil rack, shape of cushions, bathroom fittings, placing the furniture, size of glasses, pattern of bed sheets and which dog breed to get!). He wanted the dominant theme of the house to be white. White bedsheets, white dining table cover, white curtains, white buckets, white tea set and even he searched for white gas burner. When she opposed vehemently he just deviated to off white and beige.

Their disagreements unlike their love, was ephemeral. In the morning when the husband left for office, she was there for a loving send off.

She endeavored her best to cut equal sizes of all vegetables in salad and even halved the grapes with such affection. With my experience I could tell that she was a novice in the kitchen. Once she placed a brinjal in the microwave oven. Later, with teary eyes she plucked out each seed from the oven as it had burst into innumerable pieces. The young man on the other hand was an expert cook. He would cook everything with dollops of cheese and butter and loved his wife more than anything in the world.

She was new to dressing up like a lady in the evening for Mess Functions or Call Ons. She had a hard time to clean up the batter from her face, her baking lessons failed , the maiden cake turned out to be hard as a cricket ball and on top of that she had invited guests at home!

Pall of gloom descended and she thought it to be the end of the world.

But again like phoenix she rose, with lot of assurance from her companion and the day ended well with laughter and banter. The guests described their own hilarious incidents about baking and cooking. The young girl felt better. Her husband wittily glanced at her.

The young officer would attaimes narrate the ways of the Army to her. Sometimes she accepted the sermons, but mostly she questioned and revolted. Why would the mandir parade be on Sundays? What is the necessity for strict Mess etiquettes and why should Tuesdays be chhole bhature days and Sundays biriyani days? She questioned about having so many unnecessary uniforms and shoes, and she for the first time came to know colour of petrol to be blue and white. To her utter disgust white, beige and green colours (even clothes other than uniform) dictated his cupboard. She frowned at the saree fetish ladies. She named Sunday as Sulkingday because her man went to office in civil dress and her worst enemy was the fauji phone. It belched out in high decibel whenever possible. And yes, she failed to understand why the call made on ‘Reporting Time’, should be holier-than-thou and that even a mellowed down sneeze (from anyone in the house) would be a criminal offence. She even scowled at the thought and questioned the valid reason behind naming nature’s call as Jungle parade. But she tied the knot not only with the man but also with his profession and she already had the Married to Olive Green book, the Bible, for civilians married into the army. Just one step left - to flip open and read.

For the past few days, I found her quite withdrawn. Attimes she would recluse in a corner, buried her head in her palms and sobbed quietly. I wanted to help but I was helpless. One evening, after being cajoled by her husband she spurted out that she was exhausted and wanted to wriggle out of ‘lady like syndrome act’, she missed being herself. She felt caged in the Cantonment and wanted a way out. She was an aspiring journalist and her aspirations were snuffed out early. Without a job she felt less empowered. She was way too vexed with the people advising her to do B.Ed and teach, or do gardening or cook new dishes and share the recipes or learn stitching. I was concerned about her and with ages behind me I wanted to tell her that with time every crease will be ironed out. It was love at first sight which brought them together and then the love seemed out of sight. The young man, seemed to be powerless against such blitzkrieg. He was visibly distressed. The only happy soul was the four month old mischievous, curious and playful Doberman pup named Ditto. He was found to be everywhere that he shouldn’t have been. From toilet paper to shoes to plants, he spared nothing. But these days even Ditto’s antics failed to lift the girl’s mood. I keep on referring her as ‘girl’ as addressing her ‘lady’ would entail undue pressure on her and expectations would surmount. Even for me. Then, why? Let time take the course. What is the hurry to make a ‘lady’?

After many such gloomy evenings one day she looked content. The man and his wife whooshed out of the door for dinner, they whispered to each other – and I was keen to know the turn of events. With series of congratulatory phone calls that followed the next day I could make out that soon there would be an addition in the family.

Still, when there was no one in the house but myself and Ditto, she would attimes embrace my brick walls and ask - Will I be a good mother? Am I being a good wife? Am I being a good army wife? I am unable to make great desserts and just clueless about rearing a baby. (Her voice would mellow down and anguish resonated – I would have to give up my career. I cannot hop to countless and remote locations and hope to make my byline on the front page of newspaper…) She became thoughtful.  

I replied fondly, have faith in yourself and hold on! Did she hear? I think so, because she seemed pacified everytime after she spoke blankly to the walls. I felt part of this family.

Certain things ofcourse enraged me. Top of the list was when Ditto scratched my walls fervidly in order to dig hole. I don’t know why dogs do that! I despised it and I am sure he felt my indignation because next he did was leaving a crescent shaped mark of on my walls. Uff ! how I loathed such damp and pungent smell. More so, I still cannot fathom the correlation between a soldier and his love for dog.

A beautiful February morning was abuzz with people running helter skelter. The young man exulted and announced that he was the proud father of a baby girl. Oh! How desperately I wanted to see her and the new mother. I saw her later that day. She was adorable. She peered through her brand new eyes at what must be such a strange world after life in the womb. As she cuddled in her mother’s arms her curled pink fingers brushed my walls. I felt she thanked me for protecting her.

With untimely cries, diaper changes, doctor’s appointments, and baby’s babble –the house, rather I, felt lively as never before. Attimes I saw the baby’s mother physically exhausted coupled with sleepless nights, self –doubt, worry and new parenthood seemed a challenge. Everyone, relatives and acquaintances, advised her how to be a perfect mother and that she should follow their examples. I hollered to the self-acclaimed perfectionists – with a new baby a new mother is also born. So let them be! The house was always throbbing with people but I found her lonesome. I saw sparkle in her eyes when her neighbor came. A very loving figure in whom this girl took comfort. Perhaps in her she understood the real meaning of being part of the olive green family. You are never alone even when you think you are. Even then she would have queries about the Army life, but then it was only to understand and not revolt.

With a grin I said to myself – Time and Infantry Life are great teachers, healers and guides.

They organized a dinner to celebrate their new born. This time, I saw her preparing the list of the invitees,  fixing the menu (easy yet with a twist) something she can manage, ensured she had enough serving plates and this time the sponge cake came out better than before.  She fumbled less, except that she forgot to ask the guests for a second helping and also it never occurred to her to show the ‘sweetened sauf,’ at the end, but beyond that she was almost a perfect hostess.

As a soldiers life is always half packed in trunk, I knew it was about time they move on to a different place, a new house and a new life. The young officer got posting orders. He was moving to the borders. The destination of her stay for the next couple of years was unclear. They had to give away their dog as uncertainty mounted. It was difficult to take care of a baby and a dog if at all she had to fall back to her hometown. They missed him a lot. Even I felt dejected.

But one thing was clear. For next couple of years they will stay apart. In the remaining days they marveled me more. They thanked their first house and called me a part of their life.

Trunks got a new black coating, hiding the word CAPT. Instead with fresh white paint, the word MAJ showed prominence. She carefully put the belongings in designated numbers given to the trunks and meticulously mentioned every item in a list. (Here, I remembered how on the first day she came, rummaged her suitcase to take out her favorite pair of jeans!)

The truck got loaded -not only with trunks but also with memories. The officer with his wife and daughter for the last time came inside. They went to the rooms, touched me (walls) and bid adieu, with a promise to visit me sometime in future. I wanted to hold on to that moment and never let them go. But I am a fauji house and for me as they say change is the only constant thing!

Many years passed. I had so many families reside in me. But I always wondered about the young officer and his wife. Is she lady like now? How about her sponge cakes? Can she manage her life, postings, separation, home, career-all too well or whines helplessly?

Today I got my answers. It was dusk and a couple walked towards me. I am quite old now, with new construction towering over me, I could hardly see them. But the sound of the steps was familiar. Oh! how happy I was to see them again. The young officer was not so young, with gravitas in his voice he ushered his wife and the little girl to walk fast. They also had a son who clutched his mother’s hand firmly. The new born girl is a teenager now. Of course it is been thirteen long years! Children seemed to know about me, the place and Ditto! Curiosity gleamed in their eyes. They came inside and introduced themselves to the lady who opened the door. They were unexpected but welcomed guests. The mother of two shared about her stay here more than a decade ago. I listened to every word carefully. I was happy to know that she writes, takes care of the home, manages all her commitments, keeps up with erratic postings and even plays the role of both parents when her husband is in field area. I learnt that she took up teaching briefly and found it equally satisfying as journalism.

For an army wife, it dosenot take time see life in a different and new perspective. Just like tallying of the ribbons in their husbands’ crests, they become dynamic, versatile and remain unruffled even when facing formidable situations. Ask me, I know all about them.

The officer and his wife frequently looked at my walls, probably trying to find any memorabilia. She went to the terrace and touched the iron loop which was firmly drilled in the wall. It was where they attimes tied their dog when guests came. The loop was probably the only tangible thing, besides me, left of their time. Politely they took leave. The indomitable spirited girl I knew paced graciously towards the door. The confounded maverick was more resolute now. I admired her but somewhere I had started missing the wide-eyed artless new bride.

 Just then, she touched my walls once more and muffled something. I felt the warmth of her palms and heart. I could not hear what she said. But I knew she whispered that she will always remember me.

I saw a lady being born but the girl is still alive in her.

The Colonel wrapped her in his arms, looked deeply in her eyes and walked away with his family.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Just pondering....

Our children are immediately connected moments after birth! Like, the baby's aunt might yell with joy, "he bats his eyelids just like his mother!", mother in law might add to counter, "ohh! but he yawns just like my son!" And so it would continue for sometime till all his features and little antics are associated with everybody related by blood and even more, like...
  • fingers resemble exactly of his grandfather ( paternal)
  • but the thumb is just like his grandfather ( maternal)
  • smiles like his paternal aunt
  • but cries like his maternal aunt
  • stairs like his uncle (paternal)
  • sleeps like his uncle (maternal)
  • looks like his grandmother (paternal)
  • behaves like his grandmother (maternal)
It's never ending till he grows up and creates a another blueprint ( read offspring) of his own!
Well some of the similarities drawn with the baby are true, some are figment of imagination and some are forcibly attributed to establish his strong links to the family tree. But after so many years, as I see my children around I feel I am just a medium. Medium for procreation, for teachings, for life skills etc. Every body is just a medium for the next, and next will be medium for the next and so on.
We call it advancement of human race, survival of the fittest or what ever but the fact is that we are never the end product. For ages we have been the medium for the next and therefore we must give the best what we have learnt in our time with experience.
So will the last man of the human race ( if ever there is )possess all the wisdom, learning, experience and expertise of millions of years? Is there any way mediums can know about it?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Do I dress up or cover up?

Its the fifth dress I tried. Only to return from the trial room with a less cheerful smile added to it is a feeble voice with an unconvincing excuse to the attendant," the colour is not vibrant enough as I thought" or " the fitting is not right " or " its not exactly what I want." But secretly I wanted it, yet dubious about my figure. Of which, once I was so sure and flaunted without any prejudice, now all of a sudden I have become conscious and weary. I would rather take a dress which hides my concentrated body mass at places, basically cover myself up.
The six dress I took in the trial room. Even before wearing I already rejected it , as the suave summary dress would accentuate my hip and sleeveless means I always have to remind myself to work in the gym and the spotlight would be my arms, which reflected the image of a blunt mace. Fear of failure gripped and crippled me- just like my pins and needle moment when I kept waiting for the last tinkle of the OTG oven and prayed ardently that my chocolate cake would come out perfect. Is it always about striving for perfection in every thing?
Sixth Dress
I stood still in front of the long mirror. It was afternoon and there was no bee line in front of the trial room. Therefore I could take time than usual. My mood oscillated from being critical, pensive and then ruminative. Okay, the image in front of me shows that I am mother of two kids, it is implied that I juggle many responsibilities, it gives indication that I am irregular at exercise, it also hints about my sudden chocolate craving and sweetened tea binge with my favourite jeera biscuit and it also reflected that life is like flowing waters - it goes on. Water as it flows through different land forms changes it course, colour , curves, volume and as it surges ahead it fluctuates and intensity differs.  So am I.

I am living, I am flowing, I am moving ahead and therefore the course and curves have changed. But I am still the same.  Therefore, I halted the denunciation of my self.I thanked my body who carefully nurtured my soul for so long and more and...
I billed the sixth dress.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Our black beauty

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..." and as I counted, panoramic view of life with Ditto flashed in front of my eyes. I looked in his eyes. He agreed. We understood each other. It’s a bond for over twelve years now. I touched his paw, frail with the burden of cancer, yet responded with a little tremble. “Wait for me up there…”, I whispered. There was calmness in his look.

Somehow I could pack trillion moments or more in those ten seconds. Fifteen day old puppy to a colossal black Doberman , he had been with me for so long and now ready to play and run freely up above. No leash can restrain him, no command can stop him.
Choosing euthanasia over painful death for him, was the hardest decision I ever made.
He never did any great deed, like catching thief or thwarting a bank robbery, but his every deed was great to me!
Married into the army, attimes I felt lost. I took long strolls and wandered in the cantonment. The planned shopping complex, childrens' park, swimming pool and gym seemed such a contrast to my  locality in Kolkata with unwanted and loud horns of rickshaw, private bus, occasional honking of trucks and hustle bustle from the fish market in the vicinity.
Gradually I started liking the quietude of the cantt. I had many queries regarding my new life. Well, I chose to observe and learn, yet I needed to unwind. I wanted to share my thoughts, woos and worries, constantly.  But with no avail, I got perturbed more until one day when a family friend gifted me the little black dog.
A pet lover to the core of the heart yet I had my reservations, because a dog meant a minimum ten year  commitment. With constant shiftings of army life, why to tangle another life. But my anxieties assuaged, when  I looked into his eyes. “Ditto”, I called, and he snuggled in my arms. And life took a turn.
I was thinking less about my new life. I was in toes always, judging his next chewable prospect and trying to outsmart Ditto. He was a hyperactive young dog, chewing all – from socks, brand new shoes, to worn out mops. But his favorite was toilet cleaning brush and any mobile charger. Attimes I thought God must have sent him to destroy all lines of modern communications! Sometimes, I regretted the decision of getting a dog. Like, one day, when I was busy writing my blog, I heard a squeaking sound. Atfirst I ignored, but then curiosity and suspicion regarding Ditto’s uncanny silence got better of me. I scurried to the drawing room, from where the noise came. To my horror I found Ditto  completely turned white. Not a spot of black was left and it was all due to the flour! The packet was ripped open and the floor was slippery white. Aaaaaaghhhh…I cried out. It was out of sheer anger. Ditto was petrified. It was not due to my anger but his own reflection in the mirror scared him! Later when I thought of the episode, I found it amusing!
When my daughter was born, I was apprehensive of his reaction to the new member of the house. I heard stories of dogs getting jealous and that they harmed the infant in some cases. When I came back from the hospital, with my daughter Juhi in my arms, Ditto greeted us. He jumped once to have a closer look at the baby. I was a little scared. But then I sat down, and he slowly came to me. He licked her feet. Then, got up and brought his chewable bone (his most favorite stuff) and placed beside my daughter’s head. I patted him gently and I knew, he would protect my girl, always. I was right. He was her play mate. But yes,  attimes, tried to eat her porridge and had an added attraction to her feeding bottle, too! He hated the day when Juhi would get her vaccinations. She would be cranky and Ditto would stay right beside her all night, refused to go his kennel. When Juhi started going to play school, Ditto was particularly unhappy. He missed her and stood near the door till she got back. He received her with such gusto, that atimes she would loose balance and fall!
Ditto greeted my son, with equal love and affection. He was happy to get another playmate. By that time we have moved around seven places, and Ditto adjusted to every place with ease. Yes, I tried to follow him. Pets teach us a lot, only we have to silently get connected to understand it! It was a pleasure to watch Ditto and my children play together. He was particularly careful about my son, Jai. Even during snatching the ball games , he left the ball when Jai crawled towards him! When I got tired managing two rambunctious children, I sat down with Ditto and shared my worries. He listened. He got used to them for long!
Another day, I remember, Ditto’s non stop barking alarmed every body in the quiet Army Mess in Poonch. He would not stop for anything. He seemed to get off his leash and became very aggressive. Within minutes I got the news , that my son banged his head while playing in the nearby park and was bleeding. I rushed to the park, which was just about 500 meters away. To my surprise , Ditto already, broke off his leash and was by Jai’s side. My son, was bleeding, but his fear was much alleviated by Ditto’s presence. He followed Jai to the Field Hospital about 3 kms and back.
Gradually, Ditto became less active. Recoiled more in the house, by the fireplace, refused to go out and play with the kids. His look disturbed me. He wanted to say something. Even when my husband came back from office, he reluctantly looked or stood up. Noticing a lump on his neck, I took him to a Vet Dr. Jagdish. The Vet, told me he feared cancer, but would only confirm after the scan. He called me the next day confirming our worst fears. Ditto’s days were numbered. The metastasis gripped his whole body, but being a brave dog, he only recently showed signs of discomfiture. The Vet praised his grit and determination. He had to undergo a series of tests and he went with me to the hospital with slow and steady strides. He stopped attimes and gasped for breath. We walked all through the way, paused in between, looked at each other and perhaps tried to understand everyword.
Children, cared for him. They knew his time was limited. They hugged him often gently, cautious not to hurt him. One day, I was as usually brushing him, when he looked at me for long. I saw tears in his eyes.  I watched how he dealt with pain, but at that moment I felt the pain. I had to free him and he wanted so. I  discussed it with my husband and he favoured the decision. Now the biggest worry was how to break the news to my children. Ditto had been their part of Fairy Tale. Ditto was their pride and a most faithful friend always waiting eagerly at home. My son would threaten his friends after a quarrel that he would get Ditto to settle the matter. Well, eventually he had the privilege and always sorted the matter in the field. So, Ditto always played an important role. My daughter would spend hours with him specially when she got upset. Whether being berated by us or ignored by her friends, she would seek solace in Ditto’s company. Ditto stored many secrets!
I consulted the Vet and he promptly agreed stating that euthanasia would be the best decision, to relieve Ditto from the excruciating pain. He also told me to tell the children the truth about the condition of Ditto and the measure that had to be taken. The same evening, I asked the children to sit by Ditto. He was his happiest best, his expressions changed for good. He rested his head on my daughter’s lap. I told them the truth. I mentioned them about the decision. I fully expected the barrage of questions, and howling cries. But there wasn’t any. Tears rolled down my daughter’s eyes. My son asked, if Ditto would suffer in Heaven. When I said , that there was no pain in Heaven, he was relieved. They loved him so much that, they were ready to let him go. Next day, when they were going to school, it was the longest good bye ever. Ditto stared as long as they were in sight, and even after that.

The pungent smell of various medicines and sound of heavy breath of my pawed love brought me back to reality. Six, five, four, three, two, one….zero. I counted involuntarily. My beautiful friend, lay still. There was not an iota of pain. Our family became incomplete but he would compensate by being the first one to greet us in Heaven.
By the time I hope he would get free space to play, and lots of goodies to chew!

Click Here for another story on four legged friend.


It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.  Hanorah, never knew to stay without Francis. All she knew that her wait would be over soon.

Born in a typical Irish family in Wicklow, Hanorah O’Brien, youngest of the three O’Brien sisters was quintessentially beautiful and witty. Hanorah, loved music, reading and adventure. Though in Wiclow she was unable to satiate her desire to venture further in the Irish coastline for sheer thrill , she harboured the same for someday. Her sisters Betty, and Mary, preferred knitting and discussing about prospects of a handsome groom for themselves. But the sisters bonded very well. Martin O’Brien was the owner of vast stretches of land where he mainly farmed potatoes. He toiled hard outside and Elizabeth, mother of the O’Brien sisters , took care of her family. The fate of O’Brien family, like many others in Ireland changed in 1845. That time Hanorah was fifteen, and her elder sisters Betty was eighteen and Mary, was all of sweet sixteen years old. The great Potato Famine struck, and before it could take a worse turn, Martin O’Brien, sold his property or whatever he could and moved to Finsbury, near London. Hanorah, wanted to learn music but now she knew she had to take care of her family as well, because her family was going through a tough time. The famine had left Martin dejected and anxious for days. “Can we ever go back to Wiclow ?,” Hanorah, asked her mother. Elizabeth looked deeply in her youngest daughter’s eyes, perhaps gathering her words and at that moment they heard Mary’s outcry . The ladies scurried out to see Martin O’Brien fell down from the stage coach and lay motionless. He died with and carried Wicklow in his heart.

 Life changed rapidly for O’Brien family. With three unmarried daughters and meager livelihood, a stark contrast from their lives in Wiclow, Elizabeth became apprehensive of future. She just  wanted her daughters to be married off. When Francis Doyle, a young Lieutenant òf the British Army, expressed his desires to marry one of the O’Brien sisters, Elizabeth was gratified beyond words. The young man met the sisters at the Kennedy’s tea party and took a liking for them. But Elizabeth’s happiness was ephemeral as Francis wanted to marry Hanorah and not Betty. For the next three days Betty retired to her room and maintained an ominous silence and finally on the fourth day announced that she would never marry. “You must forgive me sister, I think it is all my fault”, Hanorah, unconditionally felt guilty and ashamed at the young man’s choice which created a chasm in her family. Betty did not take any notice of Hanorah and never spoke to her. Mary, desperately, wanted the matter to be resolved as she loved both her sisters. Elizabeth tried to convince Francis for marrying Betty but that was not to be. Secretly Francis met Hanorah, and they both started liking each other. Their marriage in 1850, was a happy union. They lived in Finsbury , near her parents’ home for few years .

Britain was in the lap of Industrial Revolution. Population boomed alarmingly, more and more towns became modern and embraced city life. Railways made headlines. But it was also the era of changes, of transformation. Britain concentrated more in colonialism.

“ Han, will you come with me?” Hanorah looked at him with surprise and expectation. “Where?”’   , Hanorah knew that coloumns of British Army was being sent to different places. Francis held her hands, drew her closer and whispered in her ear, “India”. Hanorah, though well versed in all subjects yet knew less of India, so she remained quiet. Francis  sensed the same and gave her the option to stay back. The thrill of the unknown always enthralled Hanorah.  More so, she wanted to be always with her dear husband. So bidding adieu to Finsbury, the Doyles sailed for India in September 1855.

As East India Company with all its might endeavored to spread its root in India, the British Residency in Lucknow stood as a sign of British power. Francis became a part of the forces in Lucknow Recidency in one of the garrison. For Hanorah, she instantly fell in love with India. She felt as if she was born to be a part of this place. She tried to pick up the language from the  gardener, though she couldnot understand the words , she somehow tried to connect.. During the evenings , Francis and Hanorah strolled quietly  in the garden. She loved her newly stitched puffed sleeved frock.  She also wore crinoline and attimes preferred to dress up in knickerbockers. She became passionate about gardening . She loved the sparrows and parrots and even the buzzing of the bees made her happy.  Attimes she accompanied her husband in hunting though she detested the sport. She dissuaded Francis for the same.
They socialized in the ball room and always enjoyed the pleasant evenings with Francis. But she also loved to wander in the local market, though she witnessed many eyebrows being raised. She would beat the curiosity of locals, and tried to utter a word or two, in the native language of the region. Gradually she felt accepted to a point.
She saw an old woman making pots under a shady Banyan tree at the southern most corner of the market. She pondered about speaking to her. She discussed the same with Francis, who refuted the idea. But one day, Hanorah, mustered enough courage and spoke in her broken hindi, “ aaap pottery teach kharogeh?” The old lady, in her 70’s, said,  “meri naam Durgarani Devi hai, mein garaib hoon, mujhe chhor dijiye..”, the old women thinking that the firangi will take away  her business and not allow to sell anymore.  Hanorah stood with a surprised look. She had a pleasant disposition and the tranquility in her face assuaged the old lady, after some time.  
She knew that Hanorah was not a threat. Hanorah often went to the market and tried learning to make pottery, couple of times she also invited Durgarani in the British Residency. The old lady came with her eight year old grand daughter, Sunanda.  From Sunanda, Hanorah learnt to make garlands specially with morning glory flowers. Somehow Hanorah, waited and expected to see Sunanda. There was a strange yet easy bond between the two. She knew motherhood was bliss but till then couldn’t feel it.

In her letters to her mother, and sister Mary, she mentioned every detail of her life in India. Mary was married in a wealthy Welsh family and had two children. Betty, kept her promise of never marrying.

It was 1857 and many Indians were feeling that their rights were violated. She sensed the same discontented voice of  Mukhtar, her gardener. Around 30th May, the condition of Lucknow became volatile. Hanorah learnt that the exile of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, annexure of British Empire in Oudh , revolt by Berjis Quadr, son of the exiled Nawab, mainly triggered massive armed unrest against the British.  Hanorah, worried about the safety of her husband, of all British soldiers and somewhere she also wanted the Indians to get their right. She was caught in ambivalence. It was the night of June 4th that the Residency again shook with sounds of cannon, artillery shelling, and there was smell of gunpowder every where. Hanorah held the Bible tightly.  Francis was out on duty, Hanorah waited to hear from her husband with bated breath. Women and children scuttled everywhere, worried about the present and  anxious about the future. Even with tremendous effort from Sir Henry Lawrence the British forces were forced to bite dust.  At that point she saw Francis, all smeared with blood standing on the other end. But there was an uncanny halo around him. He just stood there as his smile gradually faded away.  Hanorah, heard some rumbling, cracking and breaking sound, but before she could react, with a loud thud a part of the parapet broke down on her. She wreathed in excruciating pain. She could only think of Francis, images of her parents and sisters and life in Wicklow flashed by. Curious little face of Sunanda glimpsed through and then she could feel nothing.

Gradually by November , the siege of Lucknow ended with efforts of Sir Collin Campbell and Union Jack ruthlessly fluttered assuring next ninety years of British dominance in Indian soil. But Francis and Hanorah, nestled where they were, untouched by every commotion around them. They were happy souls.

Its been very long, since the siege of Lucknow. Though the earlier grandeur of the Residency diminished, its glory tarnished, yet the dilapidated structures had a quaint charm. The Doyles, loved their home. Just like their love for each other, it was touched by nothing, not even death. But today, its time for Francis to begin again. They knew it was coming but could not accept it. They argued, fought and then again held each other. They never wanted to let go. But it was Divine intervention and the cycle of life must go on.  So Francis was gone. He faded into oblivion.

It had been 166 years of togetherness until the time came for Francis to be reborn.  Hanorah, his beloved had to wait for her turn. She knew it would soon come.

Time Warp

The gleaming disc of the sun seemed to turn the leaves in patchwork of colours; scorching yellow, lava reds and burnished browns. Somehow  rain was promised and the wind already unleashed: but there would be sunshine and warmth by morning. Time to rebuild and repair. 
The leaves of the gulmohar tree, waved happily upwards greeting gale which started to gather pace. An unwanted stray dog with light brown coat seemed to dart away , probably looking for a shelter. Attimes cry of few birds could be heard. Maybe they were distressed and worried for their young ones in the nest. Continuous croak of the humorous frogs attimes got unpardonable, as it widely meant harbinger of deluge. One or two daring and curious squirrel climbed down the tree but then vanished rapidly again in the leaves, sensing that the rain would last long. Shamita, sat quietly by the window in a small stool. The stool belonged to her grandmother. Kalbaishakhi, or Nor'westers during April, is nostalgic.
The gentle patter of the raindrops grew louder. During the afternoons Shaamu, as grandmother lovingly called her would affectionately would sit on the floor and her grandmother gathered herself on the stool. She narrated stories of Indian Freedom Struggle or read out famous stories from popular Bengali book, “Tuntunir golpo’’ or “Thakumaar Jhuuli.” Shamita, would live those stories even long after. A strange unknown insect like creature popped out its head from a nearby puddle, probably waiting all tiny water bodies to merge and be one, or so Shamita thought. Her life has been the same, she is waiting to connect the dots, attimes looking up dreadfully to find out a way. Love , hate, anger, desperation, all formed a volcano of emotions. Always known to be composed and measured in gesture, her nature somehow is defying her reputation now.
Advik, her six year old son remained asleep in the other room. She now can afford to view and review the past. He keeps Shamita busy, always. Today she asked her maid to go early, she wanted some space. Feisty journalist at some point, is now a school teacher, but this suits her requirements, as she can give time to her son. Besides, Aniket is no more. Capt Aniket Raheja is a martyr.  He eliminated three terrorists before he breathed last in the valley…miles away from Mayur Vihaar, Delhi, where Shamita lived with their son.  Advik then two, was cutely notorious to the extreme.  He took hours to eat and favoured late night sleeping. He had the potential of breaking anything any time. But, he was his papa’s favourite. Aniket loved to hear his son’s lisping over the phone. He waited every moment to come back home. He was toying the idea of taking premature retirement from the army. He wanted to spend time at home. He was tired of the uncertainty of his life.
Shamita, leaned against the wall, put the cup on the saucer very slowly so that it would not make any sound, who knows Advik might wake up! She spotted an odd bird, probably a mayna with its wet and  heavy wings flew from a nearby tree to the other. She remembered the day, 9th July 1999. The telephone rang, with bated breath she picked up the receiver to hear Aniket. During those days either she watched the news or waited for her husband’s call. "Ani ", …she couldn’t hear her husband’s response, instead a husky voice  introducing himself as the Commanding Officer of Major Aniket’s Unit, spoke. Her heart pounded heavily, she couldn’t listen to Colonel Mohan’s voice properly. The words, fatal injury….brave..true soldier, incoherently moved in her ears. Words receded as a distant dream. She fell on the floor. Her looks were vacant. After a few minutes a shrill cry filled the air.
 Everything followed. Media coverage, relatives pouring in, sympathies and everyone made her realize repeatedly that she was the widow of a martyr, therefore not entitled to cry. Aniket’s parents who came down from Gurdaspur, went back. They did not stay with Shamita as she expected. After their tumultuous love marriage, where a lithe yet intelligent Bengali girl married a dashing Punjabi Army Officer, Aniket’s parents kept away. They never could agree to the match, and Shamita’s parents were equally unhappy.
She moved to Kolkata after a long wait. Wait for Aniket’s remains. His body couldn’t be recovered. Advik, till date wanted to see his father, though he doesn’t have any faint memory. But now actually he demands a father! Shamita prefers to keep Aniket in heart more than the wall. She actually hated to put up pictures of Aniket, it pained her more. Her son was growing up hearing stories of his father’s bravery and some how the little mind visualized that one day his father would turn up and proudly he would take his papa around. He would show his latest minions and hot wheels car collections. Advik’s papa in uniform would command respect and even the friends who bullied him, will never dare to do so! He shared his secret vision with Shamita. She maintained quietude thinking it would be cruel to crush her son’s dreams but ardently prayed for the day to arrive when he would understand the reality. It’s difficult to rear up a child alone.
 Shamita didn’t stay with her parents in Dhakuria, though she is their only daughter. She stays in a two bedroom rented flat in Alipore, near her school named Morning Glory.  She was trying to build her life again….until Rahul called her.
Thunder rolled across the sky, seeming to crack the world in half and reveal the fury of Gods. The violent wind made way through the window and whipped her black wavy hair around her face. A numbing coldness gripped her heart.
So how come, after so long, Rahul found her? This question rattled her. He alienated himself during Aniket’s and Shamita’s marriage. This made Aniket curious but he preferred not to speak about it. She never heard from him even after Aniket’s death. She hated him every minute, her every breath cursed him. She would never forgive Rahul, or rather Colonel Rahul for Aniket’s death. Today after four years of her husband’s death, he called up. He did not ask  her address, but quietly yet resolutely mentioned his time of arrival. Shamita’s voice quivered and she switched off the phone.
She took a sip; the tea by that time didn’t taste good. She liked hot tea always. Her mind floated back to the 90’s when all three, Aniket, Rahul and herself were at Delhi University, and termed as best buddies by others. Gradually Aniket and Shamita got closer day by day. By that time Aniket had joined army and hailed as a hero in the university. Rahul harboured strong feelings for Shamita but never let her know until the day he got heavily drunk and came over to her hostel. He cried holding her hands. It was strange for a young man to do so. Shamita was equally flabbergasted. She regained her composure blurted out..“Rahul, you must go…and we are not even friends from now…,” said Shamita. But somewhere she did not want to. Rahul joined the army and got commissioned in the same Unit as Aniket. Relations between the friends strained but only Shamita and Rahul were aware of the reason. Aniket could only speculate. But he never demanded answer. Kargil war broke out, and both were posted in the same region. As some story goes, on the fatal day, Rahul and Aniket were scaling steep hill, which was captured by the terrorists. While Aniket got hurt and eventually died, Rahul escaped unhurt. 
Shamita believed Rahul could have saved Aniket, but he wished otherwise. The fact that Rahul never called all these years, repugnance against him took a deep root in her.
Shamita was so engrossed in the past, she could not even hear the footsteps halting right inside the room. Major Rahul Sinha, entered. Suddenly a familiar fragrance filled the air, Shamita turned around. The Armani perfume was always Rahul’s favourite.
 She became oblivious of Advik sleeping in the other room. She remained bemused for a moment. Bit her lips in a way to control the long pending outburst.  But eventually her composure gave away, barrage of emotions let loose.
The storm outside brewed on the horizon brewed promising nothing but winds to level the mightiest of the trees to the soil. The damp air threatened to  devastate every roof.
"Killer”...she shouted, as tears welled up in her eyes, hysteric anger engulfed her. “Why now? Why have you come to ask for forgiveness after four years?…You hated Ani so couldn’t get his body, even . Why did you snatch Advik’s father from him? Can you give him back?” She dropped on the floor…Rahul remained quiet. He let her cry

The rain was cascading in diagonal sheets in full glory. There was a certain rhythm to the downpour. Fierce yet pleasant. Probably the smoldering earth was quenched, the unrestrained brutality of the sun was answered and every raindrop was welcomed.
Few minutes passed. It seemed like years. Slowly, Rahul came to her. He sat beside her, placing his barret on the table. Cupped her face. He narrated the incident of the day of Aniket’s death. “Shamita”..he cleared his throat, “Aniket’s body was battered beyond recognition…had we tried to recover his body we would have lost more men. I never cared about myself, you know that”, he continued, “when the terrorists were gunned down, the bunker caught fire. Nothing was left to bring back. But I could understand your feelings about me, so I never dared to face you. You were wrong but it took me four years to come to you, to muster enough courage and make you understand the truth.”
Whistling and shrieking, the wind raged though like a vexed bear. The noise enveloped the room and  its surroundings. It demanded to be heard.
“But you hated him…you …” her voice choked.
 Yes. I did, initially. As luck would have it before the final assault on that day, I told him the truth. He was not much perturbed or angry. Perhaps he knew it. He trusted you and cared for you and Advik beyond words. He just smiled at me. We shook hands and hugged.”
Rahut stopped and took a deep breath. “ I saw myself as a loser there, probably  I couldn’t have given you such selfless love. Somehow I couldn’t face you all these years. But after getting my posting order in Kolkata, I decided to come to you the day I land here. I was dying each day, I couldn’t take it anymore,”…he looked at her …as tears rolled down her eyes like the unremitting rain outside.
With muffled voice, the man in uniform continued, “ Shamita, I have lost many things, too. I lost you, lost my best pal, lost my parents a year back in an accident in Mumbai. Probably you heard about it. I live with memory now, atleast you have Advik. I just want that…,” he tried to gulp down the lump in his throat. “Your son, should not hear stories of hatred about me, it’s not true.”
Shamita looked up. Somehow hatred and anger against Rahul lost its intensity. She felt relieved, rekindled and happier, after a long long time.
“You must know something…,” Rahul cleared his voice, looked into Shamita's eyes deeply and spoke with some authority, “I am a true soldier, I would have saved my fellow brother officer if I could have at any peril. But this truth will be buried with me. ”
He stood up to leave.
She knew Rahul. She knew he spoke the truth and his veracity cannot be questioned under any circumstance.  She didn’t need any validation. Little Advik stood at the door wondering about the man in olive green. There was wonder in his eyes. Was he dreaming?  Rahul, turned towards him and ushered the boy but he remained nonplussed. Too overwhelmed with awe to respond.
Shamita wiped her tears.  The rain had stopped. The bright yellow beams of sun, teared through the dark clouds and softly touched everything. A slice entered the room through the open window. The flecks of golden sunshine mixed with a few wispy clouds in the sky, gradually wore the look of an azure sea overhead. All signs of rain and storm vanished into thin air. There was no struggle to be seen.  
Shamita whispered to her son...
Meet your Father.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

An encounter with life


It was just another Monday for me, with barrage of anxieties. My daughter did not fair well in the first term exam, my 5 year old son, Jai suffered from high fever and the maid did not turn up. The bathroom tap leaked and the plumber did not come after repeated calls, I hardly got time to do exercise and pitied myself as I looked in the mirror. My work did not gain momentum as I expected and all these I could not have shared with my husband since he was posted in the Field Area. I was the Olive Green queen wearing the crown of thorns! First I berated my daughter for her miserable result, went to the Military Hospital again with my son, got back and cleaned the utensils, did the remaining household chores and figured out that my dog, Laila had run away. I endeavored to recollect the last time I saw her. Definitely around 9 in the morning when I gave her food. And it was late afternoon then. I was coping with challenging situation that day and did not notice her absence. 

I couldn’t muster more courage to beat the situation. I slumped on the sofa and wept bitterly. After couple of minutes, I got up and went to check on my son. He lay asleep and is fever seemed to subside. I went to my neighbor, narrated the string of events and requested her to keep an eye on my son as me and my daughter went to look for Laila.

Delhi Cantonment is quite sprawling and our Bakharwal dog was capable to go anywhere. A pure white beauty but fiercely independent and quite known for her Runaway Bride moments.  

Armed with a dog leash we called out her name repeatedly. Some one pointed out the way in which he spotted our dog couple of hours ago. My mind raced with many thoughts – What if she had ventured in far flung area or bitten by pack of strays and left to die elsewhere or kidnapped by breeders or may be hit by a vehicle and lay dead somewhere!

Oh! I forcibly halted my confounded and anxious thoughts focused on what was required on that hour. My daughter and I decided to go towards different directions for a more effective search. In the meantime I called my neighbor and found that my son was still asleep and that the fever had completely subsided.

I resumed the search with more gusto. An hour passed with no trace of Laila. I saw my daughter from afar walking towards me, alone. I was more distraught to see my daughter. She never spoke. But moist, downcast eyes and her dejected look spoke a lot. It was a tough day for her, too. I realized it for the first time, probably in several months. These years, while steering the ship all alone, made me only look at the shore and not the way.

We decided to walk back. There was a quaint charm in the air. The breezy yet silent late November afternoon with rustling of dry leaves,  occasional squeaking of the squirrels and chirping of the birds had a message to convey.

We walked slowly. Partially because I still hoped, though faintly, Laila might surface from somewhere and more because I wanted to initiate a conversation with Juhi.

Earlier that day I was quite peeved with her. But at that point, a calmness descended upon me. Maybe I accepted the situation instead of incessantly complaining about it. I nudged her affectionately and asked her about school and friends. It was her seventh school and she was in sixth grade, she studied in different cities and towns. Its part and parcel of Infantry life. The bag or rather the trunk is always half packed for  us.

‘I don’t have many friends here. Nobody shares anything with me,’ she said in a melancholy tone. ‘Don’t have to be friends with anyone, just do well in studies…be a leader don’t have to follow others..,” I rattled.

‘ But maa..I am alone….,’…she raised her voice, not with arrogance but with a plead to hear. It struck me. I kept quite. After a while I asked her to be my best friend. ‘But you are busy….and I need someone of my age too,’ said Juhi emphatically. This time I did not lecture, instead mentioned that I will always support her. I assured her that all I wanted was to be her happy. She seemed contented and I knew that I was able to build a trust with her.

We almost reached our apartment gate. As we crossed the bungalow on the left with high boundary, we heard laughter and giggles. Nothing extraordinary. A dog barked and the laughter and giggles grew louder. Juhi suggested seeing if it was Laila. I thought it would be inappropriate to go inside. She insisted and I had to go.

We quietly approached the gate. There was no guard. So, we went inside. The beautiful lawn suggested a very well kept house. We tiptoed towards the backyard where the noise came from.

There…there she was! And what was she upto! She was jumping aimlessly, rolling over and running helter skelter- matched with her antics was a little boy’s giggles, confined to the wheel chair. His father sitting beside him and laughing heartily. None of them noticed us and we did not want to get noticed. As we stood beside the huge Erica palm, I also became one in their jubilation. Simple yet ecstatic. Common yet heavenly. Celebration without any serious cause or clause. Divinity which ruled over every compulsion. Happiness is not elusive which I thought to be!  I glanced at Juhi, as she watched the scene in front, intensely. Even her little soul was touched.

Laila sensed our presence and ran towards us. We emerged from the shade and introduced us.

The 5 year old, little boy named Naman, blissfully smiled at us. His father mentioned that he was a special child and always confined to his chair. According to him Naman loved dog but taking care of an animal would be difficult since all their attention was towards their only son. ‘His life, dosenot have much variety - after so many days he enjoyed today,’ he said wanly and walked towards his son.  I saw a doleful look in Naman’s eyes as were about to leave. I promised Naman to let Laila play with him everyday.

The sudden radiant glow in his face and gurgling sound which emanated from his throat as he tried to cough up words – all meant Thank You. He seemed elated. He would have ran and kissed me, if he could. But he did more. He was not confined to a place. I was. I was restrained to my unhappy musings, judgments and thoroughly critical of myself. As the sky wore a crimson hue, bidding adieu to the sun, he taught me to be grateful to life and look for happiness- stand taller than your situation-Win over yourself.