plaitsnponys

Where Talent meets an audience…

The Old Lady and The House…

Nothing remains of that old house and nothing remains of the old woman. This isn’t a story of the house but of the woman. Not about the house being razed to rubble to be replaced with a two-storey, landscape hogging, eye-sore of a construction either.

It was that 5 am history studying that woke me up with her. I needed an alarm, she needed the cold of our hilly geography to alert her to the arrival of dawn. And with seeing her run the pipe-chilled water from the government tap to do her laundry, it never failed to remind me of the story that the village served up about the woman whose Sunday best’s had a plight worse than a common kitchen rag. Nonetheless, she cared for them the only way she knew how. Coming to the village gossip.

Her story started out like any other, living the village dream with her husband and son. It became one-dimensional with the passing of her husband and her world and all became her only connection to him-her boy. But when that cursed serpent took her son from her, he robbed her of all the treasures life had presented her with because with her son, she lost the house as well.

That’s when I met her. That quaint old house stood locked and bolted for the better part of the day and I never glanced at it twice. Stray dogs strutted through the property at will, mating and birthing in cycles. Weeds grew green and brown through the monsoon and summer respectively, not a force in play to hinder their progress. The tiled roof stood proudly blackened, a testament to the years it had borne the brunt of the winds and water that lashed it during the rains. White paint stood steadily stroked with the light brown dust kicked up in a delicate caress, like a painter would have on his blank canvas. The windows that surrounded the place stood forever shut and when I first moved to the neighbourhood, I was certain, in all the wisdom of my eight years, that the house was positively haunted (mind! the stories I was fed with did no good to change that misconception). The rust kept eating away at the iron bars that clung stonily to the aged concrete of the windows and the doors creaked with the weight of termites that were burrowing into the beams that held up the roof.

A well sat bang in the middle of the compound wall that parted her land from the next plot and it seemed to be her only functioning object linking her to her former life.  On better days, when the lunch hour had worn dry, you could see her painstakingly draw from it, her bony frame cringing from the effort and exhaustion of her other menial work. In the hot and humid Mango months, she would go the extra mile to pluck a mango or two from the tree in the next property. That I would assume would go towards satisfying her hunger at dinner. Common sense predicted no other choice.

As the sun would turn into an orange disk in the distance, she would then gather up the thin cotton shards of clothing she had left to dry on the tall weeds that grew unabashed beyond her wall. I honestly could never decide if the weeds tore holes in her clothes because the fabric had worn thin or they were just worn before the weeds got to them.

As the day would wind down, she would lurk in the balcony and never once enter the house that I always assumed still belonged to her. It was one fine Sunday afternoon when that gaudy blue hatchback drove up into the compound and made her beat a hasty retreat did I put two and two together. Like I said, the serpent had stolen her son and her house. She was homeless and living on the cold floor of the balcony to her former house. The world turned on and nobody seemed to notice.

Sometimes she would notice the young me next door, sneaking a peek at her while she went about her activities while the blue car owner was not around. The look in her eyes, now fixed in my brain, was the saddest form of resignation to one’s fate I had ever seen.

Years crumbled by and the old house had grown weaker with every passing season, its former owner meeting a similar fate. But all that came to an end when one morning, around eight years ago, her house no longer stood to fight its losing battle with the elements. The blue car man had made his presence felt and on the foundation of the old house now stands a big blue building. And the old lady disappeared without a trace. Whether death claimed her as his own or the heartbreak of losing the last of her worldly possessions drove her to a distant land. The village gossip mills have dried up about the old lady and the house now……

 Old Lady

My salute to the old lady….

For showing me that NO MATTER HOW HARD IT GETS…LIFE GOES ON…

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The Stylings of a self-confessed Home cook!

For these delicious Cottage Cheese & Mushroom puffs

Cottage cheese and mushroom puffs

I find this perfectly swift and healthy for a quick dinner after a long day at work and you are forced to wrestle with the idea of making something the entire family will love.

You will need:

8 sheets of store bought spring roll base

250 gms of cottage cheese, chopped

500 gms button mushrooms ( 1 packet)

50 gms cheese

2 onions

Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 tsp of oil

Salt and pepper to taste

A paste of flour and water (to glue the base together)

 

How to go about it:

1) In a shallow frying pan, steam the cottage cheese with the mushrooms with salt, pepper and a little oil. Cook well till the mushrooms shrink and the cottage cheese is perfectly crispy.

2) Add the freshly chopped coriander and stir. Do not cook it for more than two minutes! (I like my coriander a fresh green and not black or tan…).

3)Fold the sheet of spring roll base in half and cut according to how big you want the puffs to be. As for me, I like them small and bite- sized.

4) Add the filling in the center of the base, add small cubes of cheese for taste.

5) Seal the puff using the paste of flour and water.

6) Grill in a pre-heated oven at around 180 ‘F for around 10-15 minutes.

7) Cut long, thin strips of onion and caramelize suitably. (It adds a lovely earthy sweetness to the contrast of the tangy cheese and the pungent pepper)

8) Once the puffs are cooked, garnish with the onion.

And that’s about it! It looks and tastes just as gorgeous!

It’s a lovely snack too and isn’t much trouble either… Try it out this weekend, I am sure it will be a huge hit!

 

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The Storybook Escapade…

What had started out as a planned jaunt with comrades turned out to be a memory that managed to etch its way into record books, a memory that will someday jerk a tear or two when our youth has long been gone. Living in a place your entire life doesn’t in any way imply that you have been to every nook and cranny of the said place. And a visit to a little town called Marcel on the outskirts of Goa’s capital, Panjim, was proof to the above mentioned statement.

A splendid lunch, horribly late by the clock, was what opened the doors of realism that an untapped beauty lay even in places you had never dreamt were possible. Be it the simplicity of the happy folk that lined the busy market streets on that grey-skied afternoon or the vibrant green of the monsoon grown weeds that ran through every inch of bare land left uninhabited by mankind. A marvellous and refreshing change from the concrete confines of the classrooms that were part of the schedule just broken away from.

Ganesh Chaturthi. And like state level crib competitions at Christmas, Idols of Lord Ganesha made by the incredibly talented and artistically inclined youth of the warring areas also compete for a similar title during that period. The first idol that we were privileged enough to lay eyes on was a massive beauty made entirely of sky blue mosaic tile bits. Even with the tiny stones pricking the hard skin underfoot, my attention remained affixed to the extraordinarily patient creators of such a marvel. Also, they deserve commendation for authenticity and attention to detail what with motorized snakes that oscillated along the ground at regular intervals. Remarkable!

The next one managed to knock the wind out of me! It was made entirely of something we are all familiar with as workshop waste- sawdust! Believe it or not, this idol had intricate detailing too! Unique to this particular idol was the system they had worked out to transport the water poured by a devotee into a conical flask like structure right onto the shiv-ling at the foot of the idol. And for the civil engineers to ogle at- the walls, the chandelier, the carvings of various Gods’ and Goddesses that lined the corridors, all had the very same building block in common- yes, Sawdust! The golden lighting and antique looking drapes added to the rustic charm of the place. Even the wooden platform that was meant for devotees to tread on, led beautifully past smaller idols, each telling a story of its own and speaking volumes of the effort that had gone into creating this wonder!

A brief drive through more lush countryside led up to a hillock that oversaw a breathtaking view! A view that was beyond the perception of the naked eye as the horizon seemed ceaseless. The grey clouds crowded up and stuck close as a cool breeze wafted through the light green sharp blades of grass that stood upright against the uneven terrain.

Climbing up to the highest vantage point just below a larger than life statue of Jesus Christ, the river, the tiny boats, the bridges in the distance and the endless green that rolled on for miles and miles around, all seemed so dream-like and mesmerising all at once. Pinching myself made it more plausible. A few snapshots with the group aimed to forever capture an unforgettable moment out of many.

 

Leaving that perch for the lower-down fort (Called Sambaji’s Fort), the thunder rumbled in the distance as if God had revved-up his Harley-Davidson. A light mist of rain began to tumble for the heavens as the steep laterite stone way led to huge wrought iron gates that led into the fort itself.

 

A white painted structure awaited silently as our amused and curious selves broke the long-standing stillness that had filled the place. The white domed structure had an unlocked door at one end and comprised of two rather oddly shaped rooms (forgive the lack of architectural detail) that echoed our every whisper.

 

Like every other forgotten historical monument, the walls of this one too stood vandalised in shame with random scribbling littering the white walls. A shame indeed! Well, the walls of the fort itself seemed to be perfect ‘shower seat’, as that mist that had begun to tumble turned into a heavier spray which steadily graduated into a drizzle and then a mighty downpour. Scrambling for the cars while taking care not to trip on a concealed root or rock, the fort had to be abandoned rather hastily, I regret, just because the rain had played spoil-sport.

The rain drove the group indoors. Specifically, the house of the friend who had led us to all these spectacular spots. Well, the house had a quaint beauty of its very own what with matching furniture that was custom made to perfection. Laughter rolled in ceaselessly and came as a welcome break to tired souls who had spent far too much time with the mundane.

The last idol deserves to win hands down! Made entirely of a metal grey coloured clay-like material, this particular idol towered above all else. Well, not only in size but in every department that you can perceive. Engineering, Art and beautiful craftsmanship. Engineering for the usage of technology to depict pottery with a continuously revolving pottery wheel. Art for the amount of detail incorporated into every inch of the idol- tusk to toe! Craftsmanship for the immense work and dedication that the makers required to complete this masterpiece! That’s when even God decided to add his stamp of approval to ours and sent in a downpour that had us huddled inside a temple for a good while, waiting for the intensity to reduce just enough to make a dash for our vehicles parked a little distance away.

And darkness followed the rain and put a full-stop to the perfect first visit to Marcel. Making our way back into the market place, lights lit up the street from nearby shops and commuters scurried around to the bus stop in a nervous haste to avoid another possible monsoon entrapment under the roof of some random building. But the beauty of this memory is that the sun didn’t set on the laughter and fun that ensued in the car ride back to where we had started from. A perfect afternoon in a faultlessly pristine place. Is there any better antidote for a life driven by a time-table of submissions and deadlines? I think not! And like a movie critic would culminate his review- The ending left me yearning for more!!!

 

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The Sacrifices of Success..

 

My Love-Hate relationship with my alarm clock had taken a turn for the better. The burden of unfinished sleep that was clearly visible in the dark black pouches that hung below my eyes was of almost little significance. I was going after a ‘bigger’ goal that meant working hours, long ahead of my time and contemporaries. Inspiration? Ah! There was plenty! Stemming from the basic avoidance of the idyllic afternoons that would have been spent sprawled before the idiot box (or laptop!) or for that matter even catching up on some snooze that would further confuse my biological clock, a summer internship seemed to be my life boat out of sheer boredom.

But there really was another reason fuelling such an eyebrow raising option to pass such a long awaited and much required vacation at the culmination of the dreaded semester examination: a role model, my mentor. Sacrifice had been written on her very tongue and success had followed her like the Hutch pug. Sincerity towards her vocation had earned her my respect and considering she was more like me than anyone I had the privilege to meet, I found myself more than inspired to work with the same dogged determination that she brought to work every day.  And it was in her muttering to me one day while in conversation with a cheerful laugh, “I’ll think of resting when I retire!”  that steered me onto absorbing a maturity that had even my parents and whoever cared to know, blindsided!

Coming to the summer internship itself, like any other new venture, the first few days proved to be the hardest. It was worse than I ever imagined! It was like being thrown into a world that could not in any way possible, be more different than the world I had just come from. Starting from scratch is an understatement! Be it making friends (I resist from using the word ‘acquaintance’ because even being the youngest of the 9 girls in the entire building, I was never treated like the “new girl” or even what I really was “just an intern”!) or respecting the hardworking employees I had chosen to surround myself with, loneliness seemed to seep through the dam of determination on particular occasions.

Just when it seemed like an easier path to quit and forever rescue myself from the hardships I had faced initially, I stuck to my guns while reminding myself that I still was short of attaining the ‘goal’ I had been inspired to attain. Slowly, the alarm clock that woke me up at an ‘ungodly’ hour (according to the rest of the people in my age group) no longer was the nuisance call that led to another dreaded exploit. Instead, I began to slowly enjoy the alarm song that slowly amplified with each passing second to transport me from dreamland to the cosy comforts of my bed. The constant roaring of the machines and the general noise that filled the place no longer sounded like the dreary wails of tired background singers. I began to discover the amazing new opportunities that sprung up every day, the obstacles, the handling of those obstacles, and the challenges that only teased my brain into a creative frenzy, like none I had ever experienced before!

And leaving all of that just as I had come to love the familiarity of the same glass walls, aluminium grey surroundings, deep blue tinted windows, air conditioned offices and friendly smiles that would respond to my cheery “Good Morning!”,  was no less of a struggle! Even the friendly ladies from the housekeeping department would offer a knowing smile when they would pass me in the corridor armed with my brown diary clutched closely to my chest and my knuckles turning white with the grip that held my pen.

A number of myths stood busted in that fortnight. I would like to enlighten the many who have not had the honour to experience life in a work environment.

First, a good boss can always tell the liars from the honest ones. So if you belong to the slacker club, be reassured that your antics will not go unnoticed. And never even try lying when you’re in the wrong! You get caught once and then, earning the trust of your boss for any ambitious project you had in mind, will indeed be a herculean task (There are a lot of frowns from the boss, uncomfortable encounters in front of your colleagues and not to mention the embarrassment of being ‘sent for’ at the behest of the boss by the intern!).

Second, to be in good books with your boss, you need to be at your efficient best. He wants a report at the end of a particular task or month, you must get it done before he even asks for it. That is sure to make earn you a nomination for employee of the month.

Third, there is a certain dignity associated with every task in an organisation/ industry. It is entirely wrong to disregard or even look down upon the people who work under you and with you. If they didn’t do the job they did, your job would turn out to be a lot harder than you can imagine! In all simplicity, treat your colleagues with the same respect you would want to be treated with. It’s a simple give and take system.

Fourth, to be well liked by your co-workers, you need to open your mouth! I do not in any way advocate you aping a chatterbox. I merely imply a friendly banter during lunch or tea breaks with everyone at your workplace, even the newer employees and interns. Avoid work related or personal quarrels of any sort. The animosity makes working together entirely cumbersome.

Fifth and most importantly, make sure that the job you have been hired for is something worth pushing aside the bed covers for every morning. Only then will you truly enjoy every moment in your workplace. Willingness towards your work, no matter how dull it seems to the world around you, will make the end-of-the-month wait for the pay check seem shorter.

So what did I take with me as I left? Well, a diary full of learning, a dozen new friends and most essentially, a comprehensive understanding of industry oriented practises and work-life that is of vital importance and value to my curriculum vitae. Doesn’t this count as a sacrifice of success??

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Of Work Ethics and Larceny…

That fresh bundle of cash stood ever so magnificently in the cashier’s open draw, so his observantly swift eye caught in fraction of a second whilst engaging in light conversation about the families. Tempting was an understatement. The wife had hinted at a new fridge while window shopping that weekend, the son had been nagging for an Intel-core i5 processor laptop and the little girl had incessantly tugged at his sleeve while passing the toy store. The sole breadwinner, the rest had remained oblivious of the economic depression and it’s repercussions on the I.T industry that funded his monthly pay check, which seemed to dwindle with rising inflation. Understandable is the state of affairs that compelled him to sneak into the accounts section and siphon off some much needed dough. Criminal by law, but not in the eyes of his oblivious and needy loved ones.

Someone once very wisely said that it is our choices that make us who we are. But does wanting to support and provide for your family make you a criminal? In that fleeting moment overpowered by temptation, the choice made ultimately defines the people we become in the eyes of the society we live in. While our honesty and work ethics should forbid us from being a part of any such derogatory activities, why is it that corruption and larceny continue to bear roots in every establishment? And how do we judge the degree of these crimes? On basis of its repetitions?

Another wise someone once told me that thievery is a habit of the affluent as well! For the mere thrill of it, apparently. How is causing an innocent somebody much misery from the loss of something dear/valuable even remotely thrilling?? My grey cells fail to comprehend the motivation. Living on Lack Street was never the reason, as it is for the many, who resort to such antics. But in judging this limited class of defaulters, how do we explain away the criminal nature of either case?

There is yet another class of working men and women (wanted to use the word “workmen” but didn’t want to evoke feminist sentiments against the use of such a word) that resort to general laziness at their respective work environments. No matter how ‘deadline hurried’ the task at hand may be, avoidance seems to be their only way out of doing something the laziness in them simply can’t overcome in spite of the fear of the guaranteed hassling from the boss. Why can’t it be the other way around? Be less lazy and this time escape the ire of the usually short-fused boss.

The next obstacle arises when it comes to dealing with such work dodgers and for lack of a more polished word, common sneak thieves. Work ethics oblige us to maintain positive relations with all those we must come in daily contact with and the negativity that would arise out of the pre-determined punishment for “squealing” to the higher authorities would merit nothing but utter contempt. Stuck between the devil and the deep sea, no other phrase would better suit it. And it is this choice that defines our mettle when faced with adversity of this nature. The easy route would be to turn a blind eye to all such occurrences and ultimately let the company we work for bear the brunt of such strictly forbidden malpractices. The less traversed route would be in reporting these incidents/instances to whomsoever is in-charge, thereby dooming the defaulter to the punishment set by the jury that is responsible for course setting the next step.

In conclusion, the vicious cycle of lack lustre performances at the workbench and larceny go hand in hand, and when coupled with a general dissatisfaction with one’s job description/designation or some other ‘D’ word, the combination proves utterly disastrous for the unsuspecting employers. Eradication seems to be a distant aspiration, as the aspirations of the undeterred employee remain cyclically unfulfilled for reasons unfathomable and unsolvable. The buck stops at each one of us as loyal employees regardless of the constraints that compel us to resort to such illicit activities. A simple choice to walk away. Back turned to wrongdoings. True courage. Loyalty.

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Lessons Learned…

Watching the neighbourhood kids hollering at the top of their lungs at each other in desperate bursts as they play the English inspired game of cricket on the ‘weed-lawned’ playground, brings forth a poignant nostalgia. That very playground was once filled with the echoes of our playful gurgles too. And we didn’t let the boys decide what we would play! Playtime would begin as early as 3 in the afternoon, unmindful of the sweltering heat, and cease well after the sodium vapour lamps had reached full glow and the nearby chapels’ Angelus bell had sounded its gong. Seven tiles was a favourite for hot summer evenings, which would culminate in well fought battles of badminton. Not just a single male dominated sport, but many that involved everyone! Those were our days. Now another generation has replaced our pre-puberty voices on that playground while we ruminate before laptop screens.

Gone are the days when the striking, pink flowers that grew plentiful in your grandmothers’ backyard were plucked, soaked in a plastic tub that morphed into a sand bucket for building sand castles at the beach, then scooped out and the brownish-grey water labelled ‘perfume’. Gone are the days when the orange and old tarpaulin, lying somewhere in the confusion of the outdoor storeroom, was propped up with stray sticks meant to be firewood, over the washing stone and turned into a personalised clubhouse (No, we did not skip the password aspect either). Many an eventful afternoon memories were established within the closed comforts of that ragged old tarp.

Never again will the backyard be our desert plains, which we would cycle endlessly through till the sun drove every molecule of water out of us. Cousins, together, at home, Merry! Gone is the chance to ever perch ourselves as high as we possibly could on the backyard mango trees and chat away about the cartoons that had us impressed. Gone is the time when the smoke from the firewood station heating up our bath water, sent fits of comic choking down our throats. Geysers existed, only weren’t half as fun! Gone are the allowed lazy lunches followed by mango binges at the dining table, which would leave mango pulp at some corner of our lips and have sweet juice drip along our hands and onto the clean tablecloth. Will this current, technology infested generation ever be at liberty to proudly reminisce like I just did?

Being born in the 90’s was probably the best thing that ever happened to me and my contemporaries. We were brought up with cartoons that had matter and yet entertained (Who can forget timeless icons like Tom and Jerry, Speed Racer , The Looney Toons Show, Scooby Doo, Swat Cats, Johnny Quest etc. etc. ??) without the distraction of cell phones, iPods and Play Stations, and physical activity was a part and parcel of our adrenaline fuelled childhoods. Books. Enid Blyton, Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie, Franklin .W. Dixon- These were the authors whose books we frequented and not the series sensations of J.K.Rowling and Stephanie Meyer (No offense intended, I have great respect for both authors and thoroughly enjoyed my reading their works).  Reading from hard copies is a dying habit and e-books attempt to recreate the magic of a book sitting between your palms. The sadness of changing times and scenarios. Does this current generation have the honour of staking any of the above claims?

Now the most obvious question is: What is in store for the generations yet to come? For the children we are to one day bear? Are they going to have the privilege of the same childhood memories or are their eager eyes going to contend with the sights offered by the LED and LCD display screens of their television sets? Is good old cycling up the village hill to pluck ripe cashews going to be replaced by a 20 minute workout in the nearby gym? Sadly, as parents, there is little they can control considering that society has trained our youngsters to object and stubbornly refuse to meekly obey any form of rules laid down without it being “properly justified”.

As for me, it is my upbringing and childhood experiences that has made me the person I am today and I am eternally grateful to every hand, every factor that has helped me on the way. And as far as the future generation goes, I opine that it is in our best interests to pay some heed to the famed adage: Spare the rod and spoil the child.  It is in discipline and the right sort of rearing that the children of tomorrow stand any chance of retaining the values, traditions and customs that our forefathers fought hard to pass down to us. It is thus our moral responsibility to first be the pillars of our progressing tomorrow and then hand down the torch to our heirs, our lessons learned…

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My Heart Will Go On…

The crisp white lifeboat inched closer to the chilly Atlantic waters as she looked up wistfully to her husband, smiling and waving over the rail as he was jostled about in the raving crowd. Tears shimmered in a glittering cataract down her pale cheeks as she comprehended that it would be the last time she ever would lay eyes on the man she had married. The sailor assisting at the deck had hollered above the din “Women and children only!” and that had set into motion her last goodbyes- the forced separation. Other first class passengers sat in a muted trance besides her in the lifeboat while desperate and doomed third class passengers would hurl themselves off the deck in vain attempts at survival, not anticipating the trauma of the frozen knives of the ocean. As they were lowered to the bottom, they were able to fathom the magnitude of the calamity that had befallen them. The R.M.S Titanic. Unsinkable in theory, had met her watery grave on the night of April 15th 1912, in what would go down in history as one of the most awful passenger liner catastrophes.

100 years have elapsed since that fateful night took the lives of more than a thousand passengers who had dreamt of making the trans-Atlantic passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic while the reason for the disaster still remains a perennial mystery. A mere 705 survivors picked up by the S S Carpathia, which arrived a couple of hours too late, lived to tell the horrific tale. Repeated expeditions by the United States and France found success when the wreckage of the Titanic was discovered in the year 1985 about 800 kilometres southeast of Newfoundland.

The interest garnered by the tragic tale of this ship, believed to be the safest afloat, has known no bounds. Books and movies followed, each concentrating on a fictional love story between a trapped, high society British lady and a free-spirited pauper travelling in steerage. The alternate reality that he exposes her to and the forbidden romance that blossoms in the few days they were destined to be together. (The book ‘SOS Titanic’ however reverses the situation- a high-class British boy who falls madly in love with a penniless girl, on board with a horde of underfed siblings and parents. The tale ends on a bitter-sweet note with the lovers surviving the sinking of the British steamer.) The unnecessary emphasis lies on the intolerance towards the lower class and how Love is meant to triumph against stringent barricades laid down by society. None, however, dwell on the technical aspect of the misfortune that many ascertain could have been evaded.

Eyebrows are raised when the idea of dodging the iceberg emerges. As per the detailed study made by the National Geographic channel, the radio communication that ensued between the Titanic and Cape Cod on the evening of the 15th, requested a further south bound deviation from the designated route due to presence of ice bergs- the amount of ice in the ocean had skyrocketed owing to a large amount of breakage from the Arctic shelf. It was during this communication that a desperate signal to halt from a nearby ship cross-connected with this steady stream and the operator at the Titanic was unable to receive any legible warning. On the contrary, the operator implored a termination in communication with the liner that had issued the danger signal and instead maintained a firm link with the operator at cape Cod. That warning neglected and the moon-less night ensured that the ship hit a massive iceberg that dug a 90m gash in its hull. “SOS Titanic” had reached the S S Carpathia, but even at full throttle, it was a good four hours away.

The orders to shut down the boilers that powered the massive liner came a little too late and the collision was inevitable. At the rate at which the ship was soaking in water, the Captain anticipated that he had around 2 hours to abandon ship and save as many passengers as he possibly could. The lifeboats the ship had been equipped with would not be sufficient to carry even half of the 2200 passengers on board. Yet, he resolved to ready the resources he could gather before the ship went down. Hell broke loose as panic gripped the lower decks as foamy white water gushed in from every corridor, the upper deck the only resort. The ship had now tilted with the lopsided weight of the water it had drunk. The power went out and the entire area plunged into a darkened frenzy. The first lifeboats carrying mostly women and children had been lowered away into the ocean while the fight for survival continued as the steerage passengers quarrelled to find a spot in the few available lifeboats with society biased sailors, with strict instructions from the captain himself, in charge of the evacuation operation.

Hundreds had lost all hopes and an acute desolation had filled those who meekly clung to the rails surrounding the massive sun deck of the liner. The water gushed into the ship with such ferocity that it wiped clean every lick of grandeur that had made that ship an icon for generations to come. It was then that the entire ship cracked with the weight of the water, like a biscuit into two halves, a boiler broke loose and gravitated to the ocean bed. The section that still remained afloat bobbed around like a bottle cork for an hour before joining it’s other half on the ocean bed, a fair distance away.

The black ocean waters had been filled with countless pleas for help, a bed of humanity thrashing around in the frigid embrace of the Atlantic. Furniture had broken loose in vague fragments and floated around with those who refused to give up as they clung on to any inanimate object that had a density less than water. Hours passed in sheer darkness as the select few survivors mourned the loss of their loved ones who didn’t make it to safety. Slowly the murky waters stilled with the lifeless and frozen corpses of the hundreds that had succumbed to the biting cold, their life jackets keeping them afloat.

And in the midst of this epic tragedy, the loss of lives, comes the exploration of the remnants of the ship, which now languishes alone on the ocean floor surrounded by other debris and aquatic life. Ocean rust has eaten through the steel tonnage and rotted wood hangs in haunted shards surrounded by an occasional pair of abandoned boots worn by one of the ill-fated passengers to their watery tomb, no tombstone, no identity… However, in a bid to grasp the technical glitches that caused the mishap, are we destroying the very sanctity of the mass grave that the debris stands for? Should we let the souls of the innocent lives that perished on that unfortunate night rest in peace at least now?

A remorse laden tear never fails to appear at the mere mention of the Titanic for the many interested readers and enthusiasts, just like me, who have spent many a waking hours envisaging the morbidity of the entire episode. The Titanic had set out on a noble and admirable voyage and succumbed trying. This is my tribute to the thousands like Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo-di-Caprio in the movie) who set out on that voyage with commendable dreams but for no fault of theirs, could not see those dreams become their realities. RIP Titanic.

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Those Pearly Wonders…

Love had brought her to life. How could that same Love kill her too? The instant the discovery of her existence was established, hell had broken loose. Somewhere something had gone terribly wrong and her very life had become a burden to the people that housed her. Sadness prevailed. Dark times. And before her eyes could marvel at the wonders of the outside world, her heart ceased beating and life drew its curtains gravely over her tiny, crushed skeleton.

Female foeticide. The brutality of this sexist world. Her creator had foreseen wonders for her but the wrong ones were entrusted to her care and upbringing. Amniocentesis had sealed her fate and an abortion had robbed her of an opportunity to live. So what if she was the second girl in the family? She was still very much human! Somehow though, the world deceives itself into believing that an abortion is far less gruesome than a murder of a full grown individual. The actuality of it all tells a completely different story. It is indeed sad that the gift of conception is a miracle few appreciate. See the pain in the eyes of those who want to but can’t and that is when it hits you with all its might.

Laws have banned sex determination and statisticians have taken turns at repeatedly proclaiming how deplorable sex ratios in the country are. Not only is amniocentesis, which involves removal of the amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus for testing, an entirely delicate process but it has also been deemed to be entirely dangerous for the developing baby! Blind are the dictators who so easily convince themselves that girls are never meant to see the light of day and thus take it in their hands to mercilessly end countless innocent and defenceless lives.

While feminism is a different debate altogether, it remains to be seen how long this misconception thrives considering that our country is slowly limping its way up on the literacy charts. But somehow, all levels of education are in vain when this unfair prejudice against the fairer sex manifests in ill-treatment even after the birth of the child. It is comparable to snipping out a little birds wings and still expecting it to pick itself off the ground and fly!

Examples of powerful women that have conquered all odds in male dominated domains, has become stale news and people in rural areas mostly, are least perturbed by the consequences of the progressing world and its limitless opportunities for women. Therefore, providing more such tales of success at this point is of no use. We know the story, but fail to implement the moral. Doesn’t it happen always??

She was the hand that rocked you to sleep when you were at your cranky worst. She was the hand that patiently fed you sustenance and entertained you with fables when you grumbled about the days’ menu. She was the woman who sacrificed her sleep when that nasty bug raised your body temperature to a scary pitch. She is the woman who makes sure that there is always edible food before you and spends countless hours ensuring the same. She will gladly go to hell and back to safeguard your happiness and lead you to the path of your dreams even if it takes away hers. She will melt the instant she sets sight on your sorry face no matter how cross you had made her. In short, she is the reason you are alive! And yet, we choose to slaughter her before she even has the chance to prove her worth.. Oh, the insanity of it all!

While monitoring the state of affairs at the grass root level is near to impossible considering the underhand nature of such operations, which continue to be carried out. Most remain unmindful of the repercussions, or choose to do so for their own selfish gain. While the ethics of doctors are questioned continually, most fail to point fingers at the real culprits. While a mother will always want to save her child, there will always be someone who will allow her to continue with her pregnancy only if she is carrying a future heir to their family name and what not. The only thing that they have been trained to see is the burden of feeding and marrying the girl child, who will not provide for the family when she comes of age. Dowry is another issue that looms ominously, like the gallows, above the poor girls head. Like a worthless asset, she is sent to her in-laws along with gifts that will somehow explain away her presence in the family. A son however, they assume, will remain rooted to his parents and see them through their retirement. It sure does come as a slap on their face when the well provided for and pampered son chooses to leave them to their own sorry plight.

With technology came a double sided-bargain, a new way of finding soul mates considering the accumulated shortage of females- matrimonial sites. It is indeed disgraceful to read the ‘requirements’ for the perfect partner. “She must be young, tall and pretty…” “She should be well educated, command a decent salary and cook good food…” Processed goods, are we?? Demand and Supply. Unsatisfactory adjectives are meant to do justice to us? Grow Up!

The buck stops at each one of us ultimately. It is our choices that define us and in accepting a girl child as a blessing just as much as a boy, we prove ourselves to be truly literate in the real sense of the term. Talking and reading about the inhumaneness of female foeticide makes no difference up till the moment when it we implement that tolerance to a female baby into each of our lives.

Let me Live, Mommy…

I’ll be a pearl someday…

I Promise you’ll be proud, that day…

Someday, Someday, Someday….

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Poverty by the Road

TALES OF THE NEGLECTED…

A little brown hand tugged at my sleeve sticking out the bus window. “Didi, le lo na..” was all the little boy muttered, his left hand outstretched with an almost brown garland of flowers, his voice exhausted with the repetition of the same line to the countless others he had come across that day, and his eyes filled with pity and sorrow that explicated his plight. He wasn’t alone. There were others too! Many more just like him… Some shoeless and some in rags… All bound by the same fate, the same garland vending business…

While declining, the look of absolute desolation that weighed down his tender shoulders, which should have been groaning from the weight of his school books, tugged at the very tissues of my heart. How lucky was I to be in a position to ‘jingle’ more change in my pocket than he would earn in an entire day! His bony legs carried him to a bunch of old ladies, who looked at him like he were the plague and pretended not to hear his quiet and desperate pleas. Flowers hung from their well-oiled heads in neat bundles yet they saw no need to help the little boy out when their requirement of his wares were crystal clear. He moved on and my bus moved out slowly, his frail shadow lingering on my retina…

How fortunate are we when we can sleep soundly at night with the reassurance that the next day brings no major uncertainty. How fortunate are we when we can enjoy more than two square meals a day! How privileged are we to be exposed to the world of literacy and books! Even the luxury of a mattress and bed!  That little boy at the bus stand isn’t. He’ll be lucky if he manages to sell all the garlands in his designated quota, barely enough to please his boss, who ultimately calls the shots and pockets the profits of his toil. His dreary life, his future even more bleak…

While our government ‘does’ all within its’ capacity to ensure that all children are provided with the most basic primary and secondary education free of cost, how come innumerable children like that little boy are excluded?? Not only is he starved for food but he’s also being robbed of his right to education and most importantly, his childhood! His memory will hold no recollection of childish pranks or play with children his age. Instead, he will forever be tormented by the stick of his boss that would mercilessly lash his puny and defenceless body for the smallest wrong doing. Orphaned by fate or burdened with a responsibility to help support his family. Fledgling shoulders. Huge obligation!

Countless reforms have been introduced by the ‘thinkers’ of this great nation that ban any form of child labour, but where are the ‘doers’? When we see a little boy carrying a massive stainless steel canteen of tea weighing more than his entire body mass, we look the other way; while his employer goes Scott-free! Few will notice the rags the boy is compelled to clothe himself with in the biting cold of the morning and even fewer will care to do something to brighten up his world. Heartless are the humans who would even consider such torment to those innocent lives, the future of our country. Statistical data on slowly improving literacy rates does not change the ruthless brutality of child labour, not even remotely. The ‘thinkers’ keep thinking and the ‘doers’ aren’t doing…

Cradling her crying infant in her arms, wrapping her sari ‘palloo’ around him to keep him warm, she made her way around the pavement, waving her severed digits before passing pedestrians, begging for spare change. A ghastly road mishap had taken away her husband and her primary fingers, leaving behind her new-born and opposable thumbs. Nobody needed her even as a maid, she was incapable of any menial work. Her in-laws had deserted her; she was a shame to their family, and now of no use to them, their bread-winning son no more. Begging around town got her insults and the sort. Yet she persevered. The little life in her arms was all her wealth in the world, and that baby needed her to keep returning to the same unfriendly streets of the town, hoping to get by each day with the pity of the passers-by.

Lighting a kerosene lamp to erase the cover of darkness the dying evening brought, a little boy ran around the “Dhabha” wearing a rather dirty vest and shorts, making sure that his boss’ business establishment suffered no loss on his account. Light amused him and he wished to know the secrets of its magnificence. Sadly, his earnings as a waiter cum cleaner did not permit him the extravagance of education and the world of white collar jobs it would lead him to. He had his little sister to provide for, or his boss would take her away he said. Where, was a gruesome place and he flinched at the mere thought of it. His heavy labour provided a roof and meals for his sister and him. The rest had to wait till he grew up to be a man, earn more and ensure his sister had the life he never did. For now they were just dreams, years short of fulfilling them.

The poor kid cried again,

Crying for alms but in vain,

On a filthy pavement he sat,

Often getting strange, unfriendly pats.

Wearily he rose,

Striking his malnourished pose,

People stalked past in the town,

Even ladies in glittering gowns!

The night all risen, dark and misty,

The poor kid hungry and thirsty,

But no one cared,

The rich had not a morsel to spare.

Bravely he drunk his fate,

With not a fly on his tin plate,

Hope would bring another tomorrow,

And from dustbins he would borrow…

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The Weary Traveller’s Woes…

The last available bus seat had your name almost engraved on it. Gratefully, you claim it with the 
smile of a soldier, who has just returned from war, on your lips. Well, a war the day has been. 
From the usual morning melee of the bus terminal to the in-time  appearance at the work place and 
right down to the hard stare from behind shiny lenses from the man who ran the show. War. Crusade. 

Let’s begin with a timeline trace of daily footsteps. Breakfast, namesake and speedy, almost 
perpetually tardy. To the bus terminus in a haste ear marked by quick steps and hurried shoves. 
Then to locate the automobile destined to transport you to your destination. While wading through 
the throng that sometimes needlessly crowd the expanse, you begin to wish that magic did exist. 
No, not to suddenly ensure a breakdown or strike of all the plying vehicles or even a holiday at 
work, but maybe, just maybe, that all you had to do was shut your eyes and wish you were at your 
destination And hey presto! Apparate in J.K.Rowling terminology. 

The bus jerk and the speed bump warrant a reality check. With no such thrilling options at your 
disposal, the only available alternative is selected most reluctantly. 

Most often than not, entertainment is left to the self. How, is your own riddle! Either you choose 
to admire the lush green fields (if any) with swaying blades of grass or attempt to reason out 
why the raindrops appear to slant from within a moving vehicle or listen in to the banter within 
the confinement of your moving prison. Neither is appealing when your journey’s end is agonizingly 
distant from your starting point and you are coerced into a continuous 5 day repeat telecast. 

The monsoons add a tangy masala of their own. Wet umbrellas dripping water from cracks in overhead 
shelves, shut windows confining the myriad smells of drenched raincoats and rubber footwear, and 
mud coated soles finding footing on your perfectly unsoiled feet. Through the thick layer of 
condensation on the oily window glass you then attempt to recognise objects from their foggy outlines. 

Masses of green and fat water droplets clinging to the glass, are all you manage to decipher with 
the occasional whiz of a speeding vehicle. 

Suddenly the greasy and dirt clogged finger nails of the bus conductor appear as he briskly snaps 
his fingers to distract your dreaming eyes. Hastily you place the correct change into his 
outstretched palms and retreat to your serene entertainment of landscape scrutiny. As if to 
escalate the overall torment, the downpour increases just as you approach your final destination. 
While darting towards the nearest shelter, you bend your head to face the ground, disgusting stray 
obstacles to avoid. 

Around dusk, it’s time to go through the entire process once again, this time however, the 
destination is far more alluring. But now, the freshness of every co-traveller has been long gone. 
Dried and fresh sweat replace the crisply ironed clothes and perfume. Let your imagination predict 
the rest. The heightening of the torture. The soft evening breeze helps to ease the agony of it all, 
if you are fortunate enough to procure a window seat. The approach of the terminal brings much 
needed relief accompanied by pangs of dread of the next day. Enthusiastically your feet descend 
from the last few stairs. The ordeal complete. The woes done with for the day. The weariness 
to fade away. Another sunrise. Recurrence.
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