Jagat Singh

I come down running from the stairs of my second floor flat in South Delhi. My mom is crying out my name from the balcony.

‘Bunny, Bunny. Please don’t leave; please come back.’

Nothing seemed right at that moment. Her voice is too sweet, and it pierces through my heart.  I wonder why is Dad silent? Why isn’t he stopping me? But then, this is my decision. I hated simple things. Mother’s affection, father’s love; emotional attachment are fake for me. I am plagued by nightmares for past many years. I clumsily drag my hands through the hair repeatedly with a gaze that bounces from place to place. As I walk down the road, I feel a striking pain on my right shoulder. It is the tattoo. I got it scratched last week. The bloodstains are not yet fully dried. The artist gave me a lot of ideas for the tattoo. I wanted one that made me feel detached and free. So I chose an eagle flying against a shining and rising red sun. I loved colors, and they are part of my life. So is this brightly color tattoo. I walk towards the main road and take a three-wheeler to the bus stand. On the way I take a small halt at the Khan Market. My friend Zakir taught the art of sculpture making and painting here to some handful of students. I too had joined the class as a hobby. There are no students inside except the office boy who says Hi to me. I quietly pick up my small toolbox that had all equipment and my favorite paintbrushes. Then I head straight for the bus stand. The journey to mountains is going to be long and hectic.

The bus stand smelt of dirty unwashed clothes in a laundry. The sun raged like a fireball. I go to the newspaper vendor and buy Times of India. There is news of some politics, thefts and killings. I am not much interested in this. I reach for the global page and look for some exciting news. And there is news that interests me.

‘Man wins one million dollar lottery ticket. Buys a villa in Hawaii Islands.’

‘Rubbish’ I thought. ‘Why is this person not me? When the heck will I be damn rich?’

My mind so lost in the summer heat, I even forget the date. I glance at the top of the newspaper.

It is 28th of May 1999.

My first year of the corporate job nearly choked me. I desire to be away from the crowd, probably in some cold hilly region. During my course of work, I meet a client, Ganesh Engineering. The owner, Mr. Nanda, is a wealthy man. He is a contractor and supplied equipment to various Hydel Projects including one located next to a sleepy town, Dharchula, near Indo-Tibetan border. It is a valley and just a hanging bridge away from Nepal. My father often mentioned this place. A ferocious serpentine river ‘Kali ‘ named after Goddess Kaali, about fifty meters wide, made its way on one side of this town. Dad was posted in this town for a brief period in Army. Finding it as an opportunity, I quit my corporate job and joined this contractor. The best part is, I get a Mahindra pickup jeep upon my arrival to be self-driven by me.

Around evening, the bus develops a snag at Lohaghat, located at foothills of Easternmost Himalayan ranges. I get down. As I enjoy the view, I hear the cry of a child. A drunken labourer is beating his child mercilessly for a petty mistake. Other passengers and I confront him. An hour passes. The passengers and the luggage are shifted to another overcrowded bus. There is some space on the roof. I climb from the rear and sit next to the same drunk laborer.  I try to sleep. A few minutes later, the bus halts with a jerk. The laborer had fallen from the roof of the running bus and died. Police questions everyone including me and conclude it as an accident since the dead man was drunk.

.

I settle in Dharchula and rent a house on the first floor of a single-storey building located close to the river Kali. The Hydel project is about 30 km uphill from the town in a place called Chirkala. The landlord’s family along with his 99-year-old granny stayed at the ground floor. While gossiping with the owner’s son, he jokingly mentions that her great granny knows black magic. I thought I believed him because she had a perfect chiseled face and glacial eyes of the Bhutia Tribe, one of the oldest inhabitants of this region. One night while coming back from Chirkala, I dash into her. There is no one around. She keeps staring at me and then calls me near her. I am slightly scared but gently move my feet towards her and sit close. She whispers in my ear. ‘You are cursed.”

I am surprised and ask ‘What does that mean.’

‘The path of your life and all those emotionally attached with you will go to dungeons’ she said.

I nod my yes to her and ask ‘How do I come out of the curse.’

‘’You have to sacrifice another cursed living soul, may be animal or human.”

‘And how will I know who it is?’ I asked.

‘You have not come here by your wish; Destiny has brought you here.’ she said.

Then she whispers something in my ears. I go to my room bit terrified and spend the night tossing and turning in my bed, trying to avoid the same nightmare that has been disturbing me for years. I often hear gut wrenching sobs of a child and visual hallucination of him alone in a room with a devil’s picture hung on the wall.

Next morning I hear the news of passing away of the old lady in her sleep.

I get occupied with my work on the construction project. I headed the sites and followed up with the payments. Japanese and Korean Companies mostly managed the project. One day while taking a walk on the outskirts of the town, I notice a board of an Orphanage. I quickly follow the road and reach the orphanage. The place seemed very recognizable to me as if it connected to my previous life. I see many children playing around. But there were few of them with sad eyes.

I move further inside and see a beautiful young female. She introduces herself as Samaah. She has a sweet syrup voice and worked there as the caretaker. Her beauty was a painter’s imagination of a masterpiece. She had midnight-black hair, and it toppled over her shoulders. Her innocent eyes and kiss inspiring lips flattered me. She lived in the compound of the orphanage. I fall in love with her instantly and complement her of doing a noble task. She too seemed to like me.

I come back again next Sunday to meet her. This time, an ugly man in his late fifties greets me. He has a razor-edged hairstyle, raptor nose, and craggy jaw. I presume him to be the father of Samaah. While shaking hands with him, I don’t get a healthy feeling. Rather it is unpleasant.

‘Hi. Who are you?’ I asked.

‘I am the manager here and Samaah’s husband, Jagat Singh.’

Life cannot be worse than this, I told myself. I had only one choice. To return to my room and drink to glory. I did not know when I fell asleep.

Next day, its dull cold morning I wake up early. A jog for few kilometers along the riverside refreshes me and then it’s my usual hot tea. The best part of the day is to drive my jeep from town to the construction site further up to more risky half constructed roads. Today, I have a meeting with a Korean Engineer Mr. Jung at the tunnel site regarding pending payments of the company and Mr. Nanda has been following up with me. Jung was holding it for quite a long time. He was also corrupt. Once Nanda sent me money to bribe Jung for releasing the company’s payments. He was not very polite. One day he made me walk nearly 30 miles to one of the highest point ‘Narayan Ashram’ close to the Tibet border. It snowed here all year except three months of summer. I admired the place and also the10th century Temple of Lord Shiva, next to it. Hardly a soul lived here.

One day, he gave me a neatly packed parcel to be personally delivered to Nanda at Delhi. He also accompanied me in my jeep to Dharchula, as he wanted to visit the local markets of Nepal. It was raining, and there were chances of landslides. I drove the jeep very cautiously on a narrow stretch. Two workers accompanying us sit at the back. I sense danger and notice a massive rock rolling from the top straight towards us. I press the accelerator hard and reach a blind point with a sharp right turn. It was impossible to control.

‘JUMP.’ I screamed.

Both the workers and I push open the door and jump from the speeding vehicle. The jeep plunges straight into the deep Kali River. Unfortunately, Jung couldn’t open the door on time. Miraculously, we suffer minor injuries. There was a day’s mourning at the construction site. Local Police meet us the next day to question us. Mr. Nanda also reaches. Such accidents occurred every other day in this valley, due to deadly mudslides. Nanda asks me about the package,  that Mr. Jung had given me. I tell him it has gone into the river along with the jeep. He told me not to worry about the loss of jeep as he has brought another one along with him. I noticed his petrified expression as if death of Jung was a huge loss to him.

Few days pass. At times while driving back from the site, the face of the owner’s granny came to my mind. I think I even saw her blurred image on the backdrop of the snowy peaks far away.

One night, while everyone is back in their tents, I drive out of the site in a dark moonless night. I stop my jeep next to a pounding waterfall crashing down on the rocks in a fit of rage. I take out my bottle of whiskey from under the back seat and pour it into the glass. Making myself comfortable, I sit cross-legged on the bonnet, facing the waterfall. The stars dazzled like scattered diamond dust in the sky. I enjoy my neat pegs of three large ones. I spend around two hours till the sky becomes cloudy and black as a witch’s soul. Thunder enflame across the clouds, roaring and blasting. I put on my jacket and drive back home. There was some uneasiness in me. Finally, I make my mind and decide. I drive fast and reach a distance closer to the empty bus stand. I knew Jagat Singh was out of the station and was supposed to be back by the last bus around thirty minutes past ten. He would then reach the orphanage covering a distance of nearly two miles on foot. The rain is dinging furiously off the tin roofs. It is barely visible. Not a soul in sight. As planned, I spot a man walking towards my jeep, asking for a lift. He peeps inside the jeep with his vulpine eyes. Yes, He is Jagat Singh. He recognizes me, and I call him inside the jeep. He thanks and sits inside while I reverse my jeep to a different direction.

He says,‘ It is not towards the orphanage.’

‘ I know’, and I hit his head with a jack, making him unconscious.

He gains consciousness around midnight. We are in a small shabby unused hut in an abandoned graveyard, next to the grumbling Kali River. His hands tied on the back. A sky-stabbing Phantom like mountain faced us on the other side of the river.

‘Why did you do this’ says Jagat Singh in a wavering voice.

‘Because you have ruined the lives of hundreds.’ I said.

‘What did I do,’ he asks with his raised sickle-shaped eyebrows and a bland face.

I take out my scout knife, move at his back and chop off one of his fingers. He bawls in pain.

‘What the hell are you doing!’ he said.

‘Bastard, you know, you are suffering from Infantophilia.’I scream.

He looks vacantly at me with his eyes wide open. There is silence for some time. Then he shows me his foxy smile, which turns into a psychotic laughter.

‘Oh God, you are the only person in this world who knows this. But, how do you know? Little ones forget it. Don’t they. Are you one of them? How did you remember?’

My eyes blaze with anger; I hit the jack on his face breaking his two front teeth. There is blood everywhere. He could barely speak. The sour smell of his blood was macabre and vomit inducing. I sit down on the floor.

‘I am the ONE you remember, who was adopted by an army man 22 years ago. Now speak…tell me the whole story.’ I said giving a hard blow on his nose.

‘Ok Ok…please don’t kill me. I will tell you everything. It…it goes like this.’

‘ More than two decades ago, your foster parents were posted here. They were issueless. They adopted you from this orphanage.

That’s fine, ‘Who were my real parents?’

‘Can I have some water?’ he pleads.

Sure, I take out the hip flask from my jacket and pour some neat whiskey into his mouth. He seems little relieved and takes a deep breath. Then he speaks.

‘Your mother, belonged to a royal family of this region. She was quite lonely and stayed with her father. Once a foreign tourist visited the town and fell in love with her. He left for his country with a promise that he will be back soon to marry her. Little did she know that she was carrying you? Neither he nor any news of his came. She wrote many letters to get in touch with him, but nothing went through. Finally she took him to be an opportunist. Your grandfather could not take this. To avoid embarrassment in the society, he sent her to Shimla and you were born. One night in utmost secrecy, your mom came back to Dharchula and left you with us in this orphanage. This incident left your granddad shattered. He died of heart attack leaving your mom all by herself. A few days later, all of a sudden your father turns up, say.. after a gap of a year. Upon asking the reason of his absence, he disclosed to your mom his real identity of being a gangster in his country. He had indeed fallen in love with her and went back to his country only for a brief period. Unfortunately, he was arrested in a gang war and jailed for a year. Hence, could not even contact her. She on hearing this visited the orphanage to take you back but you were already gone. She cried her heart out and repented her decision. Finally, she took charge of her emotions and married that criminal father of yours and left India forever. She kept your birth a secret from your dad.

‘Ah.Nice one. Do you want more whiskey? Your lips must be parched.’

‘Yes…please.’

I drink some from the flask and pour the leftover in his mouth. He soothes down.

‘I visited your place unexpectedly the other night and found you performing a prayer ritual with fire and few skulls around.’

‘What kind of black magic was that?’ I asked.

‘That was done to ward off evil spirits.’

‘Good one, and then you prey on the little ones and leave them alone once they grow. No one knows anything. No noise. Only your damn pleasure, huh.’

‘Now that you know this, please kill me. I don’t want to live anymore.’ he pleaded.

I pull the knife again and swing it on his right thigh. He screams to hell.

‘You know I am cursed.’ I said.

‘I know I know.’

‘Tell me why! TELL ME WHY. Only you can tell me why am I cursed.’

‘This story goes five generations back.’ He cries.

‘I have plenty of time. Go on…I am listening.’ I calm myself.

‘One of your ancestors of past fifth generation was joy hunting in a thick oak forest here and killed a lioness, not realising that her five cubs were left alone and taken away by wild wolves. A Sage was watching all this and cursed your forefather that his next five generations will never prosper. The sixth one can be out of curse if he sacrifices another cursed living being.’

‘Fine.’ I looked at my watch. It was half past three. The rain was thunking angrily against the grass and tops of the trees. Jagat Singh’s eyes were begging for life.

‘In which country is my mom now.’ I asked.

Jagat Singh gives away his last try to save his life. ‘I won’t tell you unless you let me live. You have to let me free.’

I finally stand, sharpen my knife against a rock and dig it deep into his chest. I tie Jagat Singh to a heavy stone and throw him in River Kali. Sorcerous lightening fuels up the sky booming brashly, shattering the womb -like silence. Looks like the Gods just blessed me.

Next morning, news about a missing idol of Hindu God from the ancient temple near the town spreads. Meanwhile, Samaah also files a complaint about her missing husband. Local police starts investigation and relates missing of Jagat Singh to the idol. Nepal police is also informed, but there is no sign of him. The Police suspect that he has fled the country with the idol, which is worth million dollars in the international market. His name also gets attached to another idol theft, which took place a month back from a temple next to Narayan Ashram.

Two days later, while dressing, I find my watch and my gold chain missing. I rush to the spot where I killed Jagat Singh but find nothing. Disgusted, I go to Samaah. She doesn’t seem to be in distress at the loss of her husband. I tell her that how much I love her. She was delighted, and I couldn’t help myself from hugging her. She accepted it. Then she goes into the room and hands me my gold chain.

‘I found this in the hut.’ her eyes had a haunted look.

‘Samaah, I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered.’

‘Don’t tell me anything.’ She said as if she knew already.

‘Ok. Did you find my watch there.’

‘No.’ she said.

‘Why did you ever marry a devil like him?’

‘I had no option. I was poor and an orphan. I thought him to be a good man.’

‘No problem, things will be better now. Just wait for Me.’I said.

I leave the place and go to the PCO booth in the town. Firstly I call Mr. Nanda and announce my resignation taking him by surprise. Then I make a second call to Zakir. He is perplexed by my demands. I pack my bags and leave for Delhi through road route of Nepal. As I travel and trek through angel White Mountains of Nepal, I enjoy every moment of refreshing earthy smell of damp earth of deciduous forests. I reach Kathmandu and stay there for a day. In the afternoon, I enjoy my coffee in a local coffee shop. The Englishman sitting on the opposite table seemed familiar. I recollected him to be the British whom I had met at Mr.Nanda’s office. I get up and greet him. He tells me that he worked with a famous auction house in London. He spills beans about Nanda being an antique smuggler. He was pissed off since Nanda took a heavy advance from him but did not fulfill his commitment of providing antiques. Nanda’s construction business is just a cover-up.  I spend around two hours with him and leave for New Delhi.

I reach Delhi and first thing I do is inform Delhi police special idol wing about Nanda’s activities. Nanda gets arrested and a huge idol smuggling racket gets busted. Later I meet my best friend, Zakir. I tell him I wish to meet my parents. Zakir holds me by my shoulders and shakes me.

‘Come on Bunny, not again.’ He screams.

‘What is it, I asked. Something I purposely did not want to hear.

Your parents are no more, you know that. Your Dad died in a road accident a long time ago, and Mom died of depression. Your Delhi flat was heavily mortgaged and is taken possession by the bank. That is why you left this place. You are undergoing neurotherapy.

Zakir tries to support me as I fall on the floor with grief. I cry for hours with Zakir on my side. I wanted to forget this, but somehow it came back to me again and again. After a while, I ask Zakir about my immigration. He told that the papers are under process. I need to visit the French Embassy.

He says ‘Why France?’

I don’t reply. My application gets processed under creative arts category. The officer from the embassy is satisfied with my work and knowledge of paintings and various sculptures I made.

Meanwhile, winters set in and the glaciers are full of snow. The water in the rivers recede. The jeep that fell in the Kali River was quite visible. Police and the locals were able to pull it out and old police files re-open. They find few remains of Jung. Police cuts open the jeep and find that all doors could be opened except for the one where Jung was seated. It could be opened only from outside. They suspect foul play and inform the headquarters. Few locals also spot a decomposed body wrapped with a rock, and another police investigation begins. They take him out of the river and identify him.  They also find my watch in the riverbed wrapped in one of the weeds.

Back in Delhi, the French embassy clears my immigration, and I am given the go-ahead to move to France. It is the month of February year 2000.  I pack my bags and book my air tickets for 14th February. The day arrives. I bid goodbye to Zakir and leave for the international airport. Unluckily, the investigative officer of these cases in Dharchula is the same inspector who investigated me for the person who fell from the top of the bus. He recognizes my watch and finds a common thread in all the three incidents. Soon a police team is dispatched from Dharchula and Delhi team is also informed. The police reach my south Delhi flat and find it being auctioned by the bank to another buyer. Then they raid Zakir’s house and inquire about me. Zakir knew nothing and informs them about my departure to France. The date is 16th of February. I am already in Paris.

I buy a shop in one of the famous streets of Paris and open an art and antique gallery. After all, sale of two antique idols had fetched me nearly ten million dollar at the London Auction. On the opening day of the gallery, I invite wealthy and famous personalities. Mom is one of them.

I have finally arrived. It is now my turn to call Samaah to Paris. It is unfortunate that devils like Jagat Singh punctured my life right from birth and all these series of past events became part of my life, but this is for a larger purpose. That purpose is my Love for Money and Luxurious life. I could have never won it in my usual day job. All I wanted to do was to take one single risk in life. But a word of caution here.

Risk is your finest temporary friend. Make it your best one, and you are doomed.

I came to know later that the Investigative agency contacted Zakir about me. He settles the matter with them as he had his share of friendship. He starts an NGO with the money I sent him. He also takes charge of the orphanage at Dharchula. I am declared absconding with remarks ‘SKIP- Correct location not known’. My file is tied on all four corners with a tight red string. It goes straight into a heap of records of some rusty, dusty, lousy store.

The Web Banking

The Web Banking

Sanjay was dragged out of the Kasbar Night Club, Dubai by two bouncers and hurled to the ground. As he lay there, he could feel the soreness in his back.

‘’Why the damnation did I ever come to Dubai,” Sanjay yelled at the bouncers.

He picks up his mobile phone from the ground and gets up. He staggers but tries to recover himself. As he limps towards the taxi, the whole succession of past events moved like a puzzle motion picture before his eyes.

Sanjay and Vinay worked in corporate sales group of a multinational Bank in Delhi. Both were MBA pass outs from Delhi Management College and had joined the bank two years back as a part of campus recruitment. Vinay was married to Maya whom he met at the college.

‘‘Maya”…a straightforward young lady from Moradabad…Stunning, dim complexioned, long chestnut hair with spellbinding eyes of a deer. An immaculate looking female from a legendary Indian story. She also got campus enrolled for another bank in Delhi. Her engagement with wealth management group kept her entirely occupied.

All three of them knew each other from their MBA days. Vinay was a keen and studious individual, belonging to the family of educationalists. Maya regularly consulted Vinay for any of the troubles in her subjects, chiefly the bookkeeping part.

Furthermore, Sanjay; a shy but sneaky man from Meerut, U.P was the one, who constantly put on a show to be a companion to both, yet adored Maya subtly and frequently attempted to approach her in the college. Maya was without a doubt close to him. Sufficiently close to talking about everything about Vinay. What Vinay thought, how he acted, what marks he scored thus endlessly. Be that as it may, since Sanjay fancied Maya, he overlooked this.

It was a Holiday and a splendid Sunday morning. Sanjay was unwinding in his sweet single room leased flat. There was a thump at the entryway.

”Coming, coming,” said Sanjay as he strolled towards the door. Sanjay was taken aback to find Maya and Vinay together holding a fancy looking gift in their hands.

”Greetings, come in”, said Sanjay, ‘what a surprise.’ They both sat on the couch.

‘’What will you have, and ……uh…what’s this in your hand.” said Sanjay vacantly.

‘’Oh. We thought we should share the good news with our closest companion first.”

‘‘We are getting married Sanjay, and this is our invitation.” said a thrilled Maya.

Sanjay was about to suffer a heart stroke. His body struck as he sat glued to the hard wooden chair.

”Congratulations ”. What stunning news and doubtlessly this is fabulous”, said Sanjay with his eyes very nearly in tears.

‘‘You both just can’t understand my sentiments, I am, actually now emotional and so happy.” Sanjay gets up and hugs both of them. After a while, both left, and Sanjay fell onto his bed, smashed and heart broken.

A couple of months passed. Maya and Vinay were making the most of their happy wedded life. Be now, Sanjay’s psyche was getting sharp step by step. He was simply not able to tolerate this and was thinking about each plausibility of either leaving the bank or flee from Delhi. Other than this enthusiastic torment, Sanjay had different issues too. That issue was Sonia, his Boss.

Sonia was Boss to both Vinay and Sanjay. A divorcee, in her early thirties, sharp, reasonable, tall with a flawless ego of a boss. She now and again bullied both of them for the non-accomplishment of targets. But almost cherished them if everything went on well with authoritative objectives. Their mobiles loaded with dozens of business-related SMSs of Sonia. Late hour meetings and con-calls were a usual affair. Maya detested this. She was annoyed at Vinay on any discussion on Sonia. Sanjay recalled a day when he had gone for dinner to Maya’s House. Maya appeared to be exceptionally angry with an SMS from Sonia to Vinay, which read. ‘Magnificent Vinay, I adore you for this.” Sanjay knew such content were entirely basic from Sonia to anybody in his group who had done work well.

But one day something different took place. The entire group was called for a business meeting which began little late in the evening. Sanjay was late for the meeting as he was on a market visit and was trying to rush back to the office as quickly as he could. As he was about to enter the room, he saw Sonia’s cell phone lying on her table outside her cabin. What’s more, this was the day when Vinay had also forgotten his mobile at home.

‘’What an opportunity.” Sanjay thought, ‘I must do something fast, I have no time.”

‘‘Should I write something, imagine a scenario in which Sonia turns out all of a sudden and sees me, no, no, I ought not to dare.”

After a quick battle with himself, Sanjay picks Sonia’s cell-phone and in a glimmer of a second writes ”Vinay, it feels great to see you day by day at work,” and sent it to Vinay’s phone. He instantly erased it from Sonia’s mobile and went into the room.

‘’Where have you been dear, we all are waiting for your presentation.”

‘’Sorry Sonia got stuck in traffic,” said Sanjay and gave out his slideshow, his forehead sweating badly.

The following day turned out to be exactly as Sanjay anticipated. Vinay wasn’t in a decent state of mind. He was by all accounts conversing with himself.

‘Are you OK Vinay.” asked Sanjay guiltlessly.

”No I am not, you know Sanjay. Sonia’s propensity for keeping in touch with everyone of us with all sorts of writings. She texted something yesterday to me, and Maya read it. She just confounded it, why doesn’t Maya comprehend this hellfire corporate world, ‘Vinay was completely befuddled. ‘I am making a decent attempt to persuade her however of no benefit.”

”Try not to stress, I will converse with her,” said Sanjay with all sorts of wild musings in his psyche. As his cerebrum was making all kinds of changes, his cellular phone rings with the other ringtone, which was obviously what his ears were waiting to hear. It was a ringtone extraordinarily set for Maya.

Sanjay moves to another corner of the workplace to take the call.

“Hi.” said Sanjay with a delicate voice.

”Hey, Maya here.”

”Goodness, Hi Maya, it’s been quite a while. What an awesome feeling to hear your voice.”

”Sanjay, would you be able to come home at this point.”

”At this time, I am in office … but…but… I can try.”

”Yes, Sanjay, I am on leave today, but don’t tell Vinay that you are coming here.”

”Fine.”

Without squandering much time Sanjay informed Sonia about an urgent meeting with a corporate customer and takes off. He reached Maya’s home and rings the doorbell. Maya opened the door.

‘‘Oh, Hi…” said Sanjay, his eyes stunned by her beauty.

”Hello… ”Maya embraces Sanjay. Sanjay never needed to part away with the embrace yet did as such.

Sanjay sat on a couch with Maya sitting beside him. She was calm. There was a pause of one moment.

”What is it Maya, you look strained.”

‘Time flies.” said Maya with tears rolling down her cheeks. It is the worse time of my life. I never thought in my wildest dreams that Vinay would have an extramarital affair. It’s been less than a year since we got married.”

”What are you talking Maya?”

”Sanjay, let me know the reality about Vinay and Sonia,” asked Maya with her voice dry at this point.

‘‘What, nothing that I can figure ” said Sanjay.

‘’What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?’ Maya’s patience was at its lowest ebb, and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious. ‘Look, Maya. Nothing is going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.’

‘Flirting? Healthy flirting? Sanjay . .’ she rolled her eyes in disgust. ‘That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.

Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.’ She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, ‘Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?’

Sanjay was not confounded at this point. He recognized what exactly to reply.

”I don’t have a clue,” said Sanjay making a face indicating precisely he knew everything.

”Sanjay!!!!! ”Maya screamed.” ‘Don’t shroud, simply talk and I am prepared to listen to all the scrap.’

”Yes!! He slept! Is that fine with you. ”Sanjay’s pitch was high at this point.

Maya went still. There was a long hush. At that point, Maya breaks down. Sanjay gets up and wraps his arms around her as a caring gesture. Maya’s head was on Sanjay’s shoulder, and she continued crying.

”Leave now Sanjay, I will be okay.”

‘‘All right, however, take care, and if you need anything, please call me. Also, kindly don’t tell Vinay that I let you know this, Please, please.”

”Try not to stress, I am matured enough to handle this,” said Maya sobbing.

Sanjay clears out. It had grown dark by now. Sanjay decided to pay special mind to the closest bar to have a marvelous lager.

Days pass by.  Maya would battle almost every day with Vinay over the Sonia Issue. Vinay’ s strain was indicating badly on his work. He was depressed and appeared to be lost the majority of the times at work. He was the person who was getting the majority of Sonia’s bullying for non-execution. And Sanjay exploiting this, dealt with Vinay’ s work more often and got much-awaited appreciation by Sonia and other seniors. He was without a doubt coming closer to Maya as by now she was sharing a lot with him.

One day Vinay was missing from the office. Sanjay rang Vinay.

‘’Hi Vinay, where the hell are you.”

‘’I won’t be able to come today, please inform Sonia.”

‘’What happened?”

”Sanjay don’t tell anyone, but Maya and I have split. She has packed her bags and already left for some place.”

‘’What…Sanjay was shocked?” He could not believe it. ‘Don’t worry, just take care of yourself.”

Sanjay promptly rang Maya and conversed with her. She told him that she could no more stay with Vinay and was getting ready for a separation soon. She was staying at her best friend’s place for the time being. Sanjay comforted her and guaranteed all backing from his side. He even specified a decent legal advisor for her.

Sanjay began calling Maya every day and even traded SMSs. After around a week Maya sent the separation notification to Vinay. Vinay tried hard to make up with Maya. However, she was resolute. Vinay was not able to discover the genuine explanation for this. He had now no decision yet to acknowledge the turn of the occasions as they dropped by. His profession additionally began demonstrating a descending pattern as he scored exceedingly terrible in his yearly evaluations. While Sanjay got an impeccable ‘’One Rating” on one to five scale and at this point, turned into almost a sweetheart to Sonia.

Sanjay rings Maya and shares the uplifting news. ”

‘’Amazing Sanjay, that is great.”

”Maya, I need to meet you.”

“Why?”

”No, this is something I can’t let you know on the phone.”

”I can’t meet you, I am leaving this place.”

‘‘Goodness, don’t Maya, alright I am coming at this moment.”

‘‘Ok, then come to Nehru place, ‘Bistro Espresso.’ ‘I am here for a meeting with a client and will be free in fifteen minutes.’

Sanjay and Maya meet at the Coffeehouse.

‘Maya…I need to ask you something, ‘Sanjay appeared to be urgent.

“What?”

”I wouldn’t fret on the off chance that you say no.”

‘‘All right… what?”

”I want to marry you.”

”What!! Don’t Sanjay, kindly don’t do this to me, I am already a harassed woman, don’t harass me more.”

‘‘Why, you have already filed for divorce. We can begin a new life.”

‘’No Sanjay, it would be better for me to take a transfer from my bank to some other location and leave. I don’t think I need anyone in my life.”

But Sanjay continued demanding. He had all the earmarks of being very nearly at her feet.

‘‘Ok, fine.‘’ said Maya with an expressionless face.

‘’Oh I am so delighted.”

‘’But when?”

‘’Today, tomorrow, whenever you say, we will get married in the temple and afterward break the good news to our friends and relatives.”

After a chat, they decide to meet each other on a coming Sunday morning at 8 am in a temple. Both were excited.

‘I would arrange for the Panditjee. ‘ said Sanjay.

‘’Sure, but don’t tell anyone until that day, I want this to be a very close affair. We can tell our families after I officially get the divorce. And we won’t stay together until the time our family performs a formal function.”

‘’Oh, Ya, sure.” Sanjay wanted to acknowledge everything.

Both leave the place. Sanjay was now happy to the point of bursting.

‘’Vinay was never meant for Maya from the beginning. ‘Sanjay thought, ‘’she was eventually made for me even by Gods.”

At last the D-day touches base for Sanjay. Because of excitement, Sanjay could scarcely rest the previous night. He gets up at 5 am, takes a hot shower and wears a fine linen white Kurta Pajama he had purchased recently from Fab India. He takes out his Red Maruti car and leaves for the temple and reaches there by 7.30. Upon entering the temple, he finds Panditjee waiting for them.

”Where is the Girl, ” asked the Pandit.

‘’Oh she must be on her way, you know this traffic.”

 It was 7.50 now, and Sanjay was getting impatient. He calls her on her mobile.

‘‘The mobile you are trying to call is ‘‘switched off” said that annoying telecom voice.

‘’This silly lady, Maya, doesn’t have the habit of even charging her mobile on time.”

Time was moving speedier than light. It was 8.30.

‘’I will wait till ten or else leave. I have other engagements also,” said Panditjee

”Alright… “

Sanjay did not comprehend what to do. Presently it appeared his swing to control his tears. He tried calling Maya’s best friend, but her mobile too was switched off. Sanjay was now sitting on the stairs of the temple with his head down. It was almost ten, and Panditjee was leaving, feeling sorry for him. Tears from Sanjay’s eyes were already out. The sky was cloudy and slightly dim since morning. It began drizzling. Sanjay continued sitting on the stairs, completely drenched and devastated. Then he gathers little courage to lift himself. His mobile heated up with frantic calls to Maya. Later, Sanjay heads for Maya’s friend’s place where she stayed after the split. He knocks at the door only to discover some other person.

‘’What is it.” asks the stranger from inside the house.

‘’Oh, two ladies were staying here.”

‘’They were on rent and had vacated the place last week.”

Sanjay could not realize what to do. He was meandering capriciously. All he could do was to visit the same bar he went to a week ago. But this time with pain. He couldn’t even call Vinay to get some information about her.

Two days passed after this incident, and there was no hint of Maya. Sanjay was expecting a call from her. However, there were none aside from those business related. He visits Maya’s Bank and meets her colleagues. What Sanjay came to know was a noteworthy shock to him. Maya had resigned on a three months’ notice and had already served her last working day, which was a day before she was supposed to meet Sanjay in the temple. He inquired about her whereabouts, but no one knew anything.

‘’Sunday we were supposed to meet, and Saturday was her last day, why didn’t she tell Me.” thought Sanjay.

From that day Sanjay went on to hunt several spots. He even rang Vinay and casually enquired about Maya, but Vinay was already in bad shape and had now submitted his resignation to the bank.

‘’Hope she is even alive”. Sanjay thought…”goodness yes, social media, let me check her Facebook account.”

Sanjay checks the Facebook and finds Maya’s account non-operational. Sanjay was presently feeling miserable. His mind didn’t seem to work. Neither was he able to concentrate? He, at last, considered taking a couple of days off.

Next morning, Sanjay meets Sonia.

”I need leave for a week, ‘said Sanjay.

‘‘Is everything all right? ‘’Sonia asks thoughtfully.

‘’Oh Yes, it’s my mom, she has a kidney problem, I have to attend to her at Meerut.‘’ said a lost Sanjay as no better excuse came to his mind.

‘Try not to stress, take as much time as is needed, ”said Sonia keeping her hand over Sanjay’s hand.

‘’And Sanjay, hope you know the Bank’s policy, you and your family are insured up to 4 lac from the bank against any medical crisis. If you incur any expense on your mom’s hospitalization then get those hospital invoices and prescriptions and I would raise a service request for the claims.”

”O.K., much obliged,” said Sanjay, maintaining a strategic distance from eye contact with Sonia.

That night Sanjay sought all his old school notes. He had jotted Maya’s Lucknow telephone number at some place. Her mom used to stay there. After a frantic search, he, at last, discovers the number and calls her mom.

‘’Who is calling at this hour.‘’ said an irritated old voice.

‘’Sorry to disturb you, Aunty, I am Sanjay here, Maya’s friend from her Bank. Her mobile was out of range, so I thought maybe she is available here.”

‘’Don’t you know she left a long time back.She doesn’t come here often. Neither has she called. After all adopted children are not always the right choice to take care.” screeched the old lady.

”Adopted!! Now, this is news to me. Even Vinay would not have been aware of this.” thought Sanjay.

‘’Aunty, did she call you, ‘Sanjay heard the phone slam from the other side.

Sanjay couldn’t rest the whole night. He was strained. Dark circles were unmistakably appearing under his eyes. Consistently time was hard to pass. Sanjay even pondered over the likelihood of Maya getting killed by Vinay. He thought, maybe Maya shared everything with Vinay.He even considered informing the police. His whole week of leave was squandered sitting at home thinking or moving on the streets like drifters. By this time Sanjay also seemed to have lost some weight.

A month passed. Sonia could feel Sanjay’s predicament. Maybe she thought Sanjay was excessively strained for his mom’s wellbeing.

”Why not take a whole month’s leave; I can talk to the HR department on this. The bank is quite liberal on such personal issues,” said Sonia with full empathy.

‘’Thanks, Sonia, its employees like you who run the Bank. I am grateful to you.”

‘’Anytime Dear Sanjay, Anytime,”

Sanjay now had full one month’s time to explore. He madly visited every possible place where he could get a trace of her. Her bank, the shopping center she went by, her limited friends. But there was no sign of her. Sanjay had by now grown a large beard. He finally thought of quitting. So he visited his usual beer bar to have a drink. It took him less than five minutes to swallow two jugs. He felt at ease. He could now talk to himself. As he was about to order a third one, he saw a familiar face on the other table. It was Samya, Maya’s best friend with whom she had stayed for a while.

Sanjay gets up, trying to control his senses and approaches her table.

‘’Hi Samya…how are you.”

‘’Oh…Uh…fine. Thanks.”

‘‘What are you doing at the bar?”Sanjay asked.

‘’Obviously, enjoying my drink.”

‘’Good, now please for god sake tell me where Maya is, I haven’t seen her for months now.”

‘’I don’t know.”

‘’BLOODY WELL, YOU know!!!” Sanjay barked. The whole bar was now gazing at them.

‘’See if you don’t tell me then God can only save both of us from the scene I would create here.”

‘’Please sit down.” said Samya, ‘’please don’t shout.”

‘’Good, ‘said Sanjay with a soft voice.”  ‘’Tell me.”

‘’See Sanjay, Maya is in Dubai, Maya called me from there a few days back.”

‘’Dubai!! And what the heck is she doing in Dubai!”

‘’I don’t know, but you can take her current address.”Samya shares Maya’s Dubai address with Sanjay.

‘’Thanks, dear,” cried Sanjay,”Maaayyaa…I AM COMING!”

Next day Sanjay prematurely withdraws his fixed deposit and contacts a travel agent for ticket and visa to Dubai. This was his first visit to Dubai. Sanjay was now full of energy.He could not be happier.

‘’I am sure that poor young lady must be scared and wanted to run away from all this. After all, she was under so much pressure. She would be extremely happy to see me.”

A week later Sanjay leaves for DUBAI from DELHI. He reaches around seven in the evening, and after clearing visa, walks out of the airport to board a taxi.

‘’Where to Sahib,” said the driver.

‘‘Please take me to Ali Hassan Building, Sheikh Zayed road,”

‘’Right Sir, very posh location it is.”

‘‘POSH” there was a pause, Sanjay had expected her to stay in some downtown, suburb area.

All through the way, the tall buildings, ample of luxury cars running at high speed on extra wide roads, thrilled Sanjay.

In about 30 minutes they reached the building. It was like a seven-star apartment. Fully guarded.

Sanjay didn’t know what to do. He steps outside the taxi and reluctantly walks towards the guard.

‘’Ah….is there anybody with the name of Maya in this building, from India,”

‘’Who are you? The Guard asked.

‘’I am known to her…ah…I am from India.”

‘’Yes, Mam stays here and is about to move out right now. We will inform her, oh, here comes Mam.”

Sanjay was the gladdest man now. He notices Maya coming out of an elevator. Sanjay had seen Maya mostly in Salwar Kameez in India. But there she was wearing a gorgeous wine red colored knee length dress with a sparkling diamond necklace. As he tries to approach her, he had to take a step backward as there was a luxury car to pick her up. The car seemed like a Bentley. She sits in the chauffeur driven car and leaves.

‘’Maya, Maya”…Sanjay shouts from behind as he runs after the car. But the car was too fast for him.

Sanjay runs back towards the gatekeeper. ‘How come this lady is staying here.”

‘’Staying” the guard said surprisingly.’ ‘She is the wife of Nazeer Sir, a pretty rich man.”

‘’What?  Sanjay could not believe this. He runs towards the taxi.

‘’Fast, just follow that big black car.”

Sanjay follows Maya in the cab, and after some time her car stops outside the famous Kasbar Disc and nightclub.  Maya enters the club.

‘’Wait for me’.’ said Sanjay to the taxi driver and runs inside the club.

The club boasted of an authentic Arabic style Decor followed with an overcrowded dance floor. Sanjay was looking out for Maya. He finally finds her next to the bar. He could not believe what he saw. Maya was enjoying her neat shot of some imported scotch. Without wasting time, Sanjay walks towards Maya.

”Can I also have a drink.”?

Maya was frightened as hell as she saw Sanjay. Her face turned white and cold. But then, she smiled.

‘’Oh, so you managed to reach here also.”

‘’Yes, Don’t say anything, just tell me why didn’t you come to the temple that morning for the marriage.”

‘’MARRIAGE? HA HA!! Do you think I would ever marry a scoundrel like you.”

‘’Can you elaborate, Mam?”

‘’This was just an old revenge, which was due, nothing could be better than the way I did to you, and you deserved this.”

‘‘Can you explain,” said Sanjay softly amidst the loud noise of the DJ.

‘’You remember that college incident…fresher’s Party…you remember Baby…..you fool, you remember.‘’

Sanjay’s mind pounced back to the early college days in Delhi.An incident Sanjay wanted to forget.It was fresher’s party. Everybody was enjoying, and many of them were trying to play pranks. Sanjay too played a prank with Maya. He remembered tying a thin nylon wire on the loop of Maya’s skirt at the back. At the end of the wire, there was a paper attached that read, ‘My Tail.’ Everybody was laughing. But Sanjay could not predict its consequences. The nylon rope accidently got stuck in a latch of a door, and her skirt tore in full view of others. Maya realized the prank and tried to gather her torn Skirt and ran inside the room crying. It took a long time for Sanjay to console Maya over the incident.

‘’So that was the day I thought of taking the revenge from you, thank God I got It.” said Maya.

‘’I thought Vinay was good and would understand my feelings, but after that stupid marriage, I realized he was a totally Mamma’s boy, always talking about Mom. Mom would do this; Mom cooks like that, Yak Yak Yak.”

‘’Sanjay , I knew you very well, you always fell for me so easily. There couldn’t be a better way of using you against Vinay and then take my revenge with you as well,” said Maya with crooked eyes.

‘’May I know who this Husband of yours, Mr. Nazeer or what so ever.” asked Sanjay.

‘’I met Nazeer in Delhi during my wealth management days with the bank. He was an NRI and wanted to invest. Naturally, he also fell for my poisonous-stunning beauty and me. That was the time I made up my mind to get rid of Vinay and also take my revenge against you.”

Sanjay was out of patience now. ‘‘You Fugly female,” Sanjay shouted hoarsely and lost his temper.

‘’Oh somebody please help me, please help,” Maya screamed.

Before Sanjay could react, two bouncers had already lifted him, ever ready and glad to throw out such people from the club. Sanjay was dragged out of the Kasbar Night Club by the bouncers and thrown to the ground. As he lay there, he could feel the pain in his back.

‘’Why the hell did I ever come to Dubai?” Sanjay bawled at the bouncers.

He picks up his mobile phone from the ground and gets up. He staggers but tries to recover himself. He limps towards the taxi and leaves for his hotel.

But Sanjay had different plans. Next day he calls up Maya at her Dubai number.

‘’Hello.” said somewhat sleepy voice, ‘’who is it.”

‘’Its me, Sanjay.”

‘’WHAT DO YOU WANT!! Wasn’t yesterday enough for you or you want me to call the police.”

‘‘Maya, do you have a pen with you right now.” Sanjay said firmly.

‘’Pen, yes, but why?”

‘’Please note down a number, I promise I will leave after this.”

‘‘O.K. ‘said a surprised Maya. She picks a pen ready to jot down.

‘’0173……….4203,”

‘’What is this, it seems like an account number.” said Maya.

‘’Yes, you are right, this is my account number, please transfer forty lac in next ten minutes,”

‘’Forty lac, are you crazy or mad.”

‘’Listen Maya; let me remind you if you have recently suffered a memory loss. That dormant NRI account in your bank, which wasn’t operated for many years due to the death of that NRI in U.K. Even his family members didn’t know about the account. Fifty lac was withdrawn over a period of four months without anyone knowing about this. And you were the only one in the bank who had rights to that account. The bank somewhere has an idea about your doings but couldn’t do much due to fear of loss of its reputation. But if you don’t wire the money to my account then, definitely I will ensure that this news is officially everywhere. With your bank, police, media and of course with that Nazeer Sahib. After all, he should also know with whom he is married. And ten lac is the grace given to you. After all, a lady like you must have already spent that much money by now to impress that husband of yours.”

‘’Oh please, Sanjay you will not do any such thing, you will not!! I am already well settled here.”

‘’Ten minutes only, you have ten minutes, and I will bloody well not wait for the eleventh minute. And I don’t need to remind you my bank’s name and IFSC code required for transfer.” Sanjay slams the phone down.

Sanjay keeps his mobile on the table and sits on the sofa. He knew something like this coming. Getting married to Maya was an excuse to get that fifty lac. But what goes in female’s mind is something even gods cannot tell.

There was another call from Maya on Sanjay’s number. Sanjay picks up.

‘’Please Sanjay, I will do it but not so early.”

‘’Six minutes.”Sanjay disconnected.

Just a minute before the deadline, there was a beep on Sanjay’s mobile.

Sanjay picks up the mobile. There were two messages on it. Two account transfers of Twenty Lac each.

‘’Thanks.” Sanjay sends one last SMS to Maya. ‘You won’t ever see me again.”

Sanjay gets up to gather all his stuff from the hotel.

‘‘Get up darling, we have to check out.”

‘’Oh, please Sanjay, it was wonderful sleeping here…”

That was Sonia, his boss and now his girlfriend. They were soon to get engaged.

‘’It was so tough to get leave from the bank on month end closings. The flight was also delayed today. I am so tired. By the way, how was your meeting with the consultant you said you had last evening? Is he offering you anything in Dubai?” ‘’And how is your Mom’s health now.”

‘’Moms Fine, let’s move now… I think we are better off in India only. Let’s check out and move to Burj Al Arab Hotel. This hotel seems to be little stinky.”

‘’Burj Al Arab!! Are you Nuts!! That’s a seven-star hotel,”

”Anything for you my love, anything, at least for a night,”

‘‘Fine.‘’ said a pleased Sonia.

There was another beep on Sanjay’s mobile. Sanjay pushes his fingers on the touchscreen to read the SMS. It said ‘’your account is credited by Rs Four lac as medical reimbursement, your total balance is…”

‘’Great’ ‘Sanjay mumbled. ‘’After all, it was never tough to get those hospital invoices and prescriptions from my college dropout friend’s Hospital at Meerut.”

Sonia and Sanjay embraced each another firmly and get themselves prepared to move out of the Hotel.

DJ vs. Class XII

Everything went on well with my son Ishaan till the time he was in class eleventh. Like any other regular student, he was trying hard to involve himself in studies. At times he seemed stressed, but my wife and I knew that students of his age face the pressure of studies and we always tried to ease him out. He seemed much happier in the company of his younger sister who was in class fourth. I worked with a private firm, and my wife taught in school. Slight complications started when Ishaan reached class twelfth.

‘ Ishaan…you have board exams this year, and final marks would decide your career.’ said my wife.

‘I know…. So?’ said Ishaan not showing any surprise on his face.

‘Please join coaching that can help you in all three subjects physics, chemistry, math and also prepares you for IIT exams.’ I said.

‘ OK ‘’ said my son reluctantly.

We contacted the best tutorials in the city. To our surprise, none of them were charging less than one lac for an entire course of coaching.

‘ One Lac.’ I thought. ‘Just for tuitions! What role will school play in the entire year?

I soon found in my social circle that most of my friend’s children appearing for class twelfth joined some sought of coaching. But it seemed to me more for the heck of being a crucial year than anything else.

Nevertheless, Ishaan joined an academy, and I paid about one lac twenty-five thousand in advance for the full course.

My wife and I could feel some sought of Ishaan’s disinterest in studies. It seemed he was not showing much interest in school as well as tuitions. Also attending school in the morning and then going for tuitions again from afternoon till evening didn’t seem to gel well with him. He was spending all his spare time in front of TV watching English music channels. He would enjoy watching and listening to mostly all international DJs on his cell phone and TV. You name the singer; he knew his history.

One day Ishaan came to me and said that he wanted to learn Guitar. My wife was initially reluctant in agreeing with him since it would waste his time for studies. But he insisted, and we let him join a guitar class closest to our house. From that day, we could hear guitar sounds in the night from his room.

Time passed. Ishaan failed in most of the monthly tests. We both got worried. My wife would often lose her temper and pressed him for studies. I also tried to play a parental role by advising him to study hard. Somehow somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I knew all our advice was falling on his deaf years. Finally, Ishaan broke his silence one day and opened up. He categorically told us that he is interested in becoming a DJ and if at all we want to see him happy, we should start thinking of sending him to Canada, since for a career in DJ, he only has a chance in countries like Canada and America and not in India. Probably he discussed with his friends in his class whose relatives were staying in Canada. By now he was very clear that he doesn’t want to waste any time pursuing graduation after schooling.

My wife busted ‘ Do you understand the fate of a person who is not a graduate in India; nobody will employ you even as a Chowkidar.”

‘That is why I want to go out of India…. David Guetta, Afrojack, Avicii are all world’s famous DJs, and none of them are from India. And they are all billionaires.’ said Ishaan avoiding eye contact. I had never heard these names in my lifetime. All I knew was Michael Jackson, George Michael, and Madonna. I failed to understand the emergence of these new names.

Now I was getting worried about my son even passing his class twelfth, not to talk of graduation. What if he doesn’t clear his school?

After he had flunked in his half-yearly exams, I got a call from his class teacher. She asked me to get more involved in his studies as a parent.

‘Involved! What the hell should I do? Should I start solving physics theories? I had taken commerce.’ I thought.

But somewhere in my heart I always wanted that the children should do what they want to. It was also in vogue everywhere. Movie ‘3 Idiots’ described it in best possible manner. And it was everywhere in social media. Do whatever you want to do. Follow your passion and so on. What’s App, Facebook, and Twitter was full of such great advice. Now if it is practically coming on my son then why I should back off? A few days ago I was attending a family marriage. I found Ishaan missing. My daughter told me that he is with the DJ Wala. I saw my son sitting with the DJ trying to understand the keynotes. He was looking delighted and face glowing with happiness. I had not seen him so much at ease for past many months. I felt satisfied, but then, my mature mind thought. ‘Does that mean he should not even complete his schooling.’

Soon I contacted a reputed educational consultant who specialized in sending students abroad. I took Ishaan along with me and met the consultancy firm for a course on Music abroad.

‘ Look, sir, there are many colleges in Canada offering Diploma Courses on Music.” said the attractive female executive.

‘What is the total fee and eligibility.”

‘ Sir it will cost around 13 Lac. And your son has to score minimum sixty percent in his boards to be eligible for this two-year Diploma in Music Studies. Also, students are allowed to work after some time. In this way, they have no problem in managing their monthly expenses and fees. But Sir you have to deposit about 3 Lac in advance to secure your seat. If you say no later then this amount is non-refundable.”

I came back and consulted my wife. 13 lac a year was a hell of an amount. Ishaan seemed very excited as if he had already become a famous DJ in Canada. After much discussion and my son’s insistence, I deposited 3 lac to secure the seat.

‘Now please score minimum sixty percent in your boards so that you can go to Canada.” I said to Ishaan.

‘Why do you think so small about my marks. I will try to score more than eighty-five percent. You never know I might compete for IIT.” said Ishaan. His statement gave a fabricated smile on my face. My wife and I did not know what to do in such situation. Who was right? Should the parents force their children to do something? Should the children choose their path? Is the child of today much more mature than the previous generation and wants liberty at a very earlier age?

All such adverse thoughts jittered our souls and worried us, hoping he passes his twelfth class. He had already scored low in his pre-boards.

Finally, the time came for results. My wife and I insisted on visiting the school for collecting the results. I was never scared even for my promotion in my company than for my son’s results.

Next morning we reached his school well on time and waited patiently for the outcome. We were nervous. My wife pointed out twice at me biting my nails.

The class teacher called us and said ‘Congratulations. Ishaan has passed. He has scored sixty-one percent in the boards.’

I was so excited for the result. Two percent less and he wouldn’t have qualified for Canada. Ishaan was trying to show some tearful eyes emotions for the low marks. But we congratulated him. I was also happy with not losing those non-refundable 3 Lac. My wife seemed unhappy as she was never for sending Ishaan abroad.

The time now started flying. It will be only in about one month’s time, Ishaan leaves for Canada. His tickets and the visa were ready. Nothing seemed very grand for my wife and daughter. They would cry almost every day for missing Ishaan once he is gone. Ishaan knew this, but his determination to become a DJ was unstoppable. Meanwhile, he even visited Mumbai for few days and stayed at my Uncle’s house. During his visit, he met many DJs in the clubs in Mumbai to understand the trade.

And then the day came when Ishaan said he wanted to discuss something important with us. And somewhere my wife and I foresaw his mind. My wife predicted that Ishaan has made up his mind to stay back in India. I tried to forget the non-refundable 3-lac advance that I had paid for his admission to Canada. His stay back in India was giving us much more fulfillment than his moving to an unknown land where we knew no one. Anyway, we wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth. It was evening. My wife bought tea as I came back from the office. My daughter was sitting beside us keen to hear his dear brother say those magical words.

‘What is it Ishaan. What do you want to talk.’ asked my wife with her sweetest voice ever.

‘Mom, I want to tell you something. I don’t want to go to Canada.”

My wife, my daughter, and I tried to hide our emotions in this extreme happiness. I always knew that our high moral values and culture had played its part well. I also knew that how much soever an Indian child becomes Western, Indian parents always had a high impact. After all, ours was the land of world’s oldest and greatest epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata. We congratulated him on his decision and assured him that we would try to get him admitted to best of the BBA or engineering college in India. We even tried to encourage him to prepare for IIT.

‘No No…you are not taking me right.” said Ishaan with a blank face.

‘Why?’

‘Because I have consulted a lot of people. To become a DJ, Canada is not the right country. It is America. So please do something as to how I can go to America? And I want to go to the USA by all means. Though the college fee is high their Dad, but please do something …’

How Blue is my Sapphire

The excitement was missing this time. Mom kept on asking me about my awful state of mind. I felt like crying. The train was to leave at 4 p.m., but the waiting seemed to be intolerable. Naani (maternal grandmother) knew that I am usually in an irritable state whenever time nears to leave her place. It was only during my next summer holidays I could see all of them again. The anxiety was eating me from inside. I did not know how to pass next couple of hours as the time to board the train neared. Kaali, the lovely dog, and our dear pet knew precisely about my emotions and was sitting quietly next to me.

For past many years, I have been coming to my Naani’s house at old Delhi during my summer holidays. It was an anxious wait for a boy like me, and so was the case with most of my classmates. Another good reason to visit Naani’s place was those exciting train trips. I adored train journeys and loved to gaze for hours out of the window looking at the passing fields and electric poles. The vibrancy at Naani’s house was unexplainable. I along with my Mom, Naani, Maternal Uncle and Kaali, turned the house into nothing less than a marriage celebration.  And, how do I describe my Naani? She was built of sweetness. I loved to touch her withered hands.Her glowing rosy cheeks were more like early morning sunshine. She was happy to spend most of her time in the kitchen making all those traditional delicacies. She was sweet and adored me.I could impart everything to her.  She was the one I always missed the most. All the discipline and food restrictions back home were completely overlooked, or I would say hardly missed at her place. Further I loved about this house was sleeping on the terrace experiencing cool night breeze and gazing at the beautiful stars in the sky. Despite those heavy electricity cuts, the ladies preferred to sleep inside the house whereas males were allowed to sleep on the terrace. Uncle used to take me out to the city for sightseeing and movies.

And my favorite one-Kaali, the dog I adored and cherished. According to Naani, Kaali guarded her house very well after she gave away some food to her one day. Since then this lovely creature had become a part of our house. She used to bark on every auto rickshaw that passed by on the day we were supposed to arrive.

I shared a perfect synergy with my uncle. The previous evening he bought my most loved chicken curry from a well-known shop close-by, and we as a whole savored it.  Mom and Naani had their standard veggie course, but I and my uncle thoroughly delighted in it. Kaali was at seventh paradise enjoying the flavorful chicken bones. My Uncle ran a small goldsmith shop in the local market after learning the craftsmanship from one of the relatives, and I frequently visited his shop to see the beautiful gems.

Then why was this transpiring? I continued gazing at the ring on my little finger containing my birthstone. Mom got it made at uncle’s shop recently. Uncle tried various sizes and pattern on my finger before getting me a perfect fit. I was bit excited in the beginning, but after a while I realized the atmosphere in his shop was choking me as I saw a boy of my age, working in his shop, polishing pieces of jewelry with his little hands. His eyes were sad and painful. I could not stand this and ran home. At Naani’s house, as I was sitting in the front open verandah, the sunbeams reflecting from my birthstone were penetrating my heart. I didn’t know the response to this. Everything was going on so well. Ours was a perfect family, till the unexpected happened.

I was sad, or rather say DEVASTATED.I don’t think I would ever visit this place again. At this point, all the good things were blurred images. It was only an hour left to leave Naani’s house and, I needed to revolt. It was just coming on my lips but retreating. The huge suitcase was packed lying on the ground, covered with a roughish khaki cloth. The auto rickshaw had already arrived to take us to the railway station. I could not control myself and by now, began crying. They say dogs’ sense everything. So did Kaali. She quietly walked away from me and went straight under the charpoy lying in the verandah. Mom was insisting on hurrying up. Uncle tried kissing on my forehead wishing me good luck for my next class, but I withdrew. They thought I was emotional. I was…but not anymore. Naani’s good services made me strong from inside. It was in this morning only Naani had invited children from an orphanage for offering food and clothes. My little mind knew that orphans were the one without parents. But I kept calm and did not show any sign of painfulness on my face. Mom and Uncle served food to them as they all sat cross-legged on the wooden mattress, enjoying every bit of homemade food, with a shine of bliss on their little faces. Naani invited them every year at home for breakfast. She felt that such a noble act would convey peace to my maternal uncle’s soul. But my little personality was still restless. In what manner can these offspring of my age spend their existence without parents?  How could they be fulfilling their wishes? How do they curb their desires for good clothes, shoes or sweets? Naani told me that many of these children were deserted by their folks on an old antique wooden swing kept outside the orphanage. The swing was attached to a rope and the rope to an old crude iron bell. Whenever somebody left a baby on the swing, the bell made a Dong noise alerting everyone of a new arrival.

Mom understood the very sensitive nature of mine and took me lovingly into her arms. Till the time I was not mixed up with these youngsters, my brain was troubled. But after a while I was light and comfortable, sitting with them and chatting. Uncle even recommended strongly to the orphanage manager that one of the older orphans could work in his shop and start earning his livelihood, but was politely refused by the manager considering his immature age. By now, I was feeling strong. If these children can live in such adverse circumstances then why not me? I was changed, and no one could stop me now.

I someway or other knew how to leave this spot in the way I needed to. And I ended the silence. A silence that made kingdoms fall and leave generations disturbed. Naani nearly suffered an attack, and it was now Mom’s turn to cry. Kaali looked at another side towards the door avoiding eye contact. And my Uncle! He was standing like a statue not to know what to say. It seemed that last night the stars had turned their eye. I hated now to sleep under dark skies. Sounds of running children in the street could be heard clearly. Mom always told me. ‘At your age don’t think too much. Just enjoy and speak up whatever you have in mind. It will always lighten you.’ And I could not think of anything else. Anger clearly showed on Mom’s face. She screamed…. screamed so hard at Uncle that I could feel people from other houses peeping out of their windows. This summer vacation was a journey to hell. I held Mom’s hand as if I was feeling sorry for her. Mom was holding my hand so hard that I could feel the hardness on my palms. Now I knew that during my visit to Uncle’s shop, why was the young boy working for him was sad and scared. He was one of those boys who ran away from the orphanage refusing to stay there and uncle hired him as a worker. Now I knew why the manager of the orphanage refuse the offer when uncle insisted on hiring another one. Naani took me to a nearby temple every day for worship, but it seemed my faith in God was quickly fading. If this could happen to a perfect family like ours then what would be the fate of thousands of innocent children on streets? Are there sufferings similar to mine? My childish mind wanted to punish him. Let God make no one weak hearted! I had no idea how Naani and uncle are going to spend rest of the time or days in the house. I also did n’t know if my Mom would ever want to come here again. But I knew somewhere something I had done was right.

So I think I spoke my heart for good. All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think this is who I am…  I shrugged the past by speaking up. Else my past would have killed me entirely. Mom silently hugged Naani with her eyes down, and we both left. Looking out of the auto rickshaw I took out the ring from my finger and gave it to my mom. Probably my birthstone was not quite right for me. But now I felt liberated for good. As the auto rickshaw moved towards the station, I took my head out and felt the cool breeze right on my face as the sky clouded, giving away an indication of probable rain. My mind was wandering somewhere in the universe, and only thoughts that came to my mind were …

How green was my valley….

How blue is my sapphire…

How dark was the sky…

How ignorant were the stars…

As my past goes by….

My life now goes far, far and far…

The End

This man will tell you why you shouldn’t leave India

Finally, the day of absolute celebration had arrived. I got a mail from the Canadian Embassy stating that all the formalities were finally cleared and we as a family had gained permanent residency to Canada.  Out of sheer excitement, we started making all kinds of permutations as to what date should we choose to fly, how soon should I resign from my current job, what to carry with us and so on. Dad and Mom were equally excited but seemed to hide their emotions. I began calling my close friends to break the good news, happily gathering joyful wishes from them. My wife, though initially reluctant on moving abroad, was excited too. She immediately called up her sisters and parents to convey the good news.

 ‘’Congratulations Jiju’ said my sister in law happily on the telephone.

‘’Thanks”. I stated with a big smile.

‘’So when are you taking us with you”.

‘’Don’t worry it will be as soon as I am settled”. I said gladly.

I belong to a middle-class family with the usual dreams and aspirations and live in Delhi in my parents’ house with our four-year-old son. Dad had retired from postal services. Both, Dad and Mom in Delhi, kept themselves busy in their sweet little social circle. They also took tuitions, which besides, serving, as an additional source of income, was a healthy pastime.

‘’You should carry all warm clothes; I heard it is very cold out there. ”My Mom said. ‘’ Let’s visit Sarojini Nagar. We will find good and reasonable stuff”.

 ‘Just wait Mom.’ I said. ‘’ Let’s not hurry up. We will go on Sunday”.

It had been almost ten years of slogging in Delhi. We always longed for a quality life and wished the same for my family. I was working in a finance company, and my wife taught in a reputed public school. Four years back we had visited Calgary City in Canada and stayed with our cousin who later helped with the sponsorship. The feeling of visiting a foreign land was fabulous. Clean Roads as we see in movies, low population, clean, fresh air, crystal blue skies and glistening snow clad mountains in the far distance. It was like a dream come true. The grocery and food were of the highest quality due to strictest controls. My cousin told us that the Social Security system and health services for citizens in Canada was worth mentioning. Few of the old age homes were almost like a five-star hotel, and many located in the heart of the city. It surely seemed that the government takes good care of old people, which is somehow missing in India. The children’s education till high school is free of cost. And I was fascinated by a large number of luxury cars in the city. At that very moment, I made up my mind to move to this place.

‘’What a paradise!” was my instant reaction. In India, I was shelling out more than ten grand per month for my son’s primary education. And what to talk about medical services? Forget about it. I remembered a day when I saw a man who met with an accident and was lying on the road unattended. He perished since the ambulance was late by more than an hour.

The list of all positives of a foreign land kept on multiplying in my mind, convincing me further for settling down abroad. Further, those earning in dollars was something to cheer off. Even if I sent one thousand dollars every month to my parents in Delhi, it was little more than sixty thousand rupees in conversion. This amount in addition to my Dad’s pension was enough for them to lead a comfortable life in their old age. So no more tuition for them. It was a win-win situation.

Meanwhile, our neighbors had already started showing us lot of respect, as if I was taking every single of them along with me to Canada. My next-door neighbor Bedi Uncle came to meet dad and me.

‘’Son, you won’t find the same taste of chicken curry and fish tikka in Canada. And all the household cleaning has to be done yourself.” He said jokingly.

‘’No problem Uncle, after all, you have to sacrifice at some point in your life” I said with a lost smile.

It was the month of March and I, and my wife finally decided to leave for Canada in May as the weather would be little warm and suitable for my son as well.

But as the time to travel to Canada was approaching, a strange feeling engulfed me. Every passing day was like a lost stranger. Bedi Uncle was right in saying that the services of housemaid in India were a big relief. There was enough comfort available to mother and my wife as the Kaamwalis handled the entire household work. In Canada, only the filthy rich could afford such a luxury. Even the local Presswala in India did all the tiresome ironing that too on such negligible rates. My cousins also told me that winters in Calgary were long and bitter with temperature even touching minus 15 degrees centigrade. At times frustration sets in to see snow everywhere for at least six months at a stretch.

My mind now gradually started pondering in reverse order.

‘’So what was wrong here in India?” I introspected.

India is perhaps one of those fortunate countries that experience varied geographical and climatic conditions. One can visit Rajasthan to see the vast desert. You wish to experience sea, visit Goa or those unlimited coastal locations down South. To enjoy the snowy winters, we have Kashmir valley or enchanting Himachal. The entire Himalayan ranges stood there to be further explored by trekkers. Not to forget bright sunshine throughout the year which was limited to only typical English summers outside. Which country would offer such a vast variety of seasons, fascinating cultures and festivals dating back to the time of oldest epics of the world ‘’Ramayana and Mahabharata”? India just seemed like a complete package.

So is it a big house or a big car that’s pulling me.

 ‘’No!” I thought.

With the modernization of India in last ten years, a luxury house or a big car are only an EMI away. Gone the days when people used to flock to foreign countries for imported goods. Even the people we were befriending in a Phoran land were mostly Indians. Every year we would take some time to visit India to meet near and dear ones who were otherwise only hours away if we were here. And with the Indian economy growing at such a rapid pace, there are ample of job prospects within the country rather than starting afresh with all kind of odd jobs in an unknown land. As we grow older, the desire to be close to our kith and kin would only increase with passing time. Besides, the thought of leaving my old parents alone and somewhat helpless haunted me.

Finally, my wife and I made a decision and dropped the idea to settle abroad. We silently conveyed this to my parents. They were a bit surprised at our decision since most of our relatives and friends were already informed of us going abroad.

Next morning the day started as usual. As I was getting ready for office, Mom asked.

‘’What would you have for dinner tonight, should I make your favorite chicken curry”?

Mom usually asked me such questions only when in a happy mood. I could feel the cheerfulness in her voice. From the other room, I heard my Father calling me out.

‘’Do come back on time, we will enjoy a couple of drinks together”. I could feel a childlike happiness in his voice.

It was time for some serious soul-searching. After a long time, I saw my parents so delightful and happy. In my race for ambition and competitiveness, I was missing out pleasures in simple things of life. Nevertheless, I was happy. Maybe, the thought of me not moving out of the country was the result of strong Indian values imbibed in me. And I was proud of it.

The Perfect India

The Perfect India

 

The news was everywhere. The Winston Churchill’s government had moved their entire fleet of ships with loads of food stock to British Troops fighting in ‘’Battle of Atlantic’’ during ongoing World War 2. The supply of rice from Burma stopped to Bengal after its Japanese invasion. All appeals for food supply to famine hit areas of Bengal were ignored by British. It seemed worst ever famine in the globe. The “Great Bengal Famine” of 1943 as we call it. Over one Million people had already died of starvation and malnutrition. History screamed of many British colonial crimes including” Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy” of 1919.The current situation portrayed even worse impression of British atrocity. Locals and the villagers from the surrounding areas had hit the streets of Calcutta searching for rice and grain. And all this was taking place right in front of me.

Let me first introduce myself. I am Abhijeet and I was in my final year of graduation in Hindu College in Delhi. I belonged to Calcutta and my father had proudly named me Abhijeet. The name meant ‘the one who conquers’.

‘But what have I conquered’?  My mind thought for a while.

The newspaper screamed of bleeding Bengal all over the place. I was reading the newspaper like a respectable aristocrat, or perhaps I was pretending to. We were a lower middle class family of Calcutta and I was trembling to imagine the fate of my only dear brother Tapas and our mother. Dad passed away when I was just five as he was mercilessly beaten by a British police officer during one of the agitations against the regime.  Tapas had only studied till class five and had always been a rebel. He joined father’s revolutionary party and led many protests against the British. He was a firm supporter of Quit India Movement.  Though he wanted me to be a part of the movement but mother insisted on keeping me away from this. It was her desire that I should fight the system through good education. God knows how my brother managed my college fee. The news about famine and riots in Bengal was making me restless and I wanted to dash off to Calcutta to help my family.

‘’Hope they are safe’ ’I thought.

‘I guess I was sure they must be. I received the money order of my college fee from Tapas a month back.’

‘’But that was almost a month back.’ The negativity again weakened my mind.

I was getting impatient now. Suddenly there was a knock at the front door.

‘’Who can it be at this hour ’’ I thought as I stared at my  watch, gifted by an old British man as a token of thanks for helping him to shift his house a week back. He served in Indian Railways for past 35 years and was leaving for his home country England.  It was around seven in the evening. I opened the door and there stood my college Chowkidaar.

‘’Yes, what is it?” I asked.

‘’Sahib there is a telegram for you from Calcutta. It arrived at roughly 4 o’clock in the evening in college but forgot to give you.’’ watchman said.

’What…?’ U silly man I said as I grabbed it from him.

With heavy hands and thousands of thoughts in my mind I opened the telegram. It was sent by my old school mate Swapnil from Calcutta who lately joined British Police.

The Telegram read.” COME  SOON,  TAPAS TO BE HANGED BY BRITISH ON 20TH NOV’.

A flash of lightning fell upon me. All I could hear was my heart pounding. I shut the door and started crying. My heart dropped and my mind went completely blank .It was 17th Nov and only three days left. Later on an hour of pause mode, I got up from my bed, collected all my strength and set out to meet my college friends who stayed in the neighborhood.

Zahoor Zaidi and Lakhwinder or Lakkhi in short, were my college mates. It was never hard for me to share anything with them. On hearing me, they were equally concerned about my grief.

‘’I have to rush to Calcutta by the earliest train. ’I said.

’Mother would be all alone .I need to take care of her’.

‘’Don’t worry. Zaidi and I will also come along with you’’. Lakkhi said with outright authority and friendly emotions.

I left a written request with the watchman to inform the college authorities about our absence for the next 10 days quoting illness of my mother as the cause and my two friend accompanying me. I dreaded to give away the real reason of leave.

Next day we bought three tickets of general compartment of the Lal Quila Express. It was 38 hours journey as the jam-packed train stopped at nearly 100 places. The presence of my two friends gave me strength throughout the journey. My usual train trips used to be an exciting affair, but this one was horrendous .Nightmares of my brother being hanged and plight of my wailing mother haunted me. I kept looking outside the window .My eyes turned blood red due to little pieces of coal which came flying from the roaring steam engine. Entirely through the journey the co-passengers talked about outbreak of an epidemic in Bengal as result of aftermath of famine and death of millions.

The train arrived at Howrah Railway Station at 5’clock in the morning .There was no space to move. The railway station was crammed with people as a goods train had just reached with supply of fresh grain and rice. I could see children running after the bogie and poking wire in the grain bags to take in some of it.  It took lot of time to decide for the authorities to supply food to Bengal via rail link. Though the sea route in Bengal was established hundreds of years ago for trading purpose but recently all ships with fresh food stock were diverted to feed the British troops fighting in the war. Railways were the only mode but was used by careless authorities only after millions perished. We came out of the railway station only to be persuaded by a group of Rickshaw Pullers. I hurriedly hired a man pulled rickshaw and rushed straight to Swapnil’s house.

As I passed over the streets of Calcutta I saw many starved families waiting outside the government grain shop to open. Women and children were lined up for food from a recently arrived army convoy of grain across Howrah Bridge. The relief truck was taking many of the dead to Calcutta’s burning Ghats. I noticed the rickshaw puller’s bones had almost sunk inside his skin as he was racing as fast he could.

I reached Swapnil’s house and I found him standing outside the house as if he knew our exact time of arrival. I told the rickshaw puller to wait.

I hugged   Swapnil and asked ‘’what happened?

‘’The police has arrested all the rebels protesting against the deficiency of food supply. Your Brother was the leader of these revolutionaries and police have accused him for all local protests and loss of lives and public property. He would be hanged today. ’Said Swapnil

‘’Are you alone’’ Swapnil asked.

I stated yes to save time as I had already sent my friends to gather more information.

I was there with Swapnil for a while and then rushed towards the Alipore Central jail at Judges Court Road to meet Tapas for the last time where he was supposed to be hanged at 10 am. Alipore jail housed one of the notable inmates in the past, including Subhash Chandra Bose and Sri Aurobindo who was jailed after the Alipore Bomb case in 1908. Every passing moment was torture. The rickshaw puller sensed the disturbance and ran as fast as he could on his bare feet.

‘’Sir, today there is news of another man is to be hanged in jail, are you his relative’’ the rickshaw puller queried.

‘’Yes’’ I said. “I am his brother’’.

The rickshaw puller did not utter a word after that. I got to the jail at 7 am and asked for the fare. The rickshaw puller had tears in his eyes and went away without taking anything. With a heavy heart I walked inside the jail and met the Jail Authorities introducing myself as younger brother of Tapas. They led me to a room and told me to wait. There was a door in the room that opened to a big ground where Tapas was to be hanged. I waited for close to two hours. Then I heard footsteps outside the doorway. The thundering noise of my heart grew faster as the door opened. There stood my brother handcuffed with two police man. His eyes glowed and his starved roughish looks just vanished. We hugged each other like never before.

“Please take care of Mother “said Tapas with his voice not hoarse but tougher than before.

‘’Don’t worry about me, more like me will sacrifice until these English leave’’ he said with confidence.

I requested policemen to isolate us for two minutes to spend some final moments with him.

‘’It is already 9’clock and he will be hanged at sharp 10 am. And you are not permitted to go outside this door to the ground’’ So hurry up,” said the policemen in a grumbling voice.

I spent some quiet moments with my brother and wished him goodbye for the final time. I watched 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…..

I wanted to count slowly. Slower than a watch’s second needle could ever move. That was the moment I understood the feeling of losing someone close to your heart, that too when a person is still alive.  I just had to do something about it. Time was quickly running out.

My mind blasted ‘’what was the purpose of all my education if it isn’t helping anyone, whether it is my brother or my country. ‘’

“Six, five, four, three… as Tapas reached the door, I mustered all  the courage and now like a fearless mutineer, pounced on the policeman holding my brother and seized the gun from his hard leather holster wrapped around his waist. The policemen stood still.

The other policeman holding my brother instantly went for his pistol.

“Save yourself Abhijeet” Tapas screamed.’ he will shoot you.

‘’No, don’t worry ‘’ that is for you’’ the other policeman said.

‘’What!’ Said Shaken Tapas.

The other officer had taken out his handgun by now and said. ‘Take this Dada and leave quickly’’. Tapas could not believe this. Yes the other policeman was Swapnil.

‘’You are not the only person who wants to die for free India, we are also part of it’ said Swapnil

We heard gunshots outside and myself and Tapas ran out and found two British officers lying on the floor. Standing right in front of us were Zaidi and Lakkhi holding rifles.

 “The jail has been surrounded by revolutionaries.’’ Lakkhi said. And we all ran out only to discover hundreds of revolutionaries who had rounded the jail premises. Tapas insisted on freeing all other revolutionaries from the jail.

Don’t worry Dada ‘’I said leave that to my two friends, they will take care of it, we must move to the warehouse to release the food stock stored by British as well as local hoarders.

We ran to the Rickshaw waiting outside accompanied by a dozen of people in bicycles and rickshaws.   We headed straight for Strand Warehouse located on Hooghly riverfront. It was a Victorian styled   three storied brick building built in 1902 and stocked rice more than plenty to feed thousands of people dying of starvation and malnutrition. It had a huge door on the front with a heavy iron lock on it. Tapas went near the lock and attached a crude bomb around it and waited it to blast. The sound of the bomb was deafening as the iron lock melted into two pieces. Tapas along with ten other people pulled the huge iron gate of the warehouse. The sense of pride and satisfaction spread across the faces of everybody as the thought of feeding so many mouths pleased our minds.

But as they say happiness is not forever.

The huge iron doors opened only to find at least twenty of policemen standing inside fully armed. It was a huge shock to us since as per our information the warehouse had only four guards. It was a trap.

 The police opened fired mercilessly and five people perished on the spot. It was suddenly dark everywhere. I could see Tapas lying on the ground with two shots of bullets on his shoulder. Behind the group of policemen I saw someone familiar. He was Swapnil. His shadow slowly coming near to Tapas

‘’Why did you do this’’ I shouted.

‘’Your brother Tapas was one of the biggest rebels and his hanging was not enough’’. ‘’We had to get all his associates who had conspired against the British. After all, I work for them and cannot betray them. And of course I will be promoted after such a feat.’’

’Fine’’ I said.’

 Stop this bloodshed and I promise all his allies would surrender, even those who are not present here. But don’t kill Tapas. And arrest me as well as I already killed policemen on Jail premises.

‘’O.K. ‘’we will see’’ said Swapnil as two of Tapas’s friends carried him out of the warehouse.

I got near to Swapnil with my hands drawn straight waiting to be handcuffed. As Swapnil came near I hugged him.

’What is it’’ asked a surprised Swapnil.

‘’Nothing Much, just a token of love from your old friend.’

’ I am sorry Swapnil’’ I said softly.

‘’For what?’’ asked Swapnil’

‘Even Gandhijee lied once when he was young .You know sometimes it is good to lie for a Right cause. ’

Saying this my hand drew towards the trigger to the explosives tied under my body.

There was a heavy explosion.  Large enough to blow Swapnil and at least fifteen policemen across me. I was prepared for this one! My two good friends had gathered enough information in the morning from Swapnil’s neighborhood of him being a police informer and his past few days’ activities.

Now the message was loud and clear to the British Regime. Blood against blood. And a typical Indian would take no non sense any more. There was enough food inside the Strand warehouse to feed at least few thousand people for some more time. Even Zaidi and Lakkhi managed to free many freedom fighters from the jail later. Zaidi was killed by the police while Lakkhi managed to escape to Delhi. And my dear brother Tapas! He lived long enough to experience a free and fresh India in 1947.

Tapas whose name meant Saint. I always wondered if we both were ever named right. Most of such incidents were wiped off from history records and went unknown.

But that day Tapas was devastated to see me dying and kept on calling my name.

‘’Abhijeet, my brother. Please don’t leave me, Abhijeet, Abhijeet …..

The sound of my name echoed all over .It echoed and resounded.

I wakened up with a jerk only to find my Dad standing next to my bed.

“Wake up, Abhijeet ‘’ Dad said.  You were mumbling in your dream.’

Is that so? ‘’May be, I said sleepily’.

I have been reading about ‘Unsung Heroes of Freedom Struggle’ till 3 am last night. I think I just related to a namesake from the book.

I sighed heavily and opened my eyes. It had seemed like the longest night ever. My eyes hit straight at the calendar hanging right in front of me. It was 20th Nov 2014.

Before my dad could say anything further I said, I know, ‘’only a soul like me can get rid of this dirt of corruption and unscrupulous politics from present India’’.

‘‘GREAT, and what do you plan to do? Asked Dad laughing.’’  Thinking of turning into a rebel?

‘’Of course not!’’  Dad.  There are simpler, yet more powerful ways to it.

‘’ And what’s that ‘’ .Dad asked curiously.

I shall ‘WRITE’, I said.

‘’WRITE!!  Dad cried out impatiently.

YES …….

Saying this I got up from the bed and opened my laptop to close an unfinished article I was writing for my college newsletter. The prestigious Hindu college in Delhi University.

‘’What about your Australian Dream.’’ Dad Asked.

That can wait till my generation leads India to perfection …

Aahana

It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.

I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend’s wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batch mates. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.

I was almost sure it was her. Same height! Long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell.

I immediately tried to hide behind the man right in front of me but then hesitantly showed up. I was nervous. It seemed as if I met her almost every day. Not a day had passed when I did not think of her. In seconds my mind flashbacked to the days of our college four years back.

I am Amit. I met Aahana for the first time in Hindu College during our graduation days. The roll numbers in the first year of college were allotted as per the grades in class twelve, and her roll number was two whereas mine was way beyond the thirties. I always pondered as for how could a beautiful girl be intelligent at the same time. My experience from my school days was that all those attractive, beautiful girls usually were the last ones in scores. But Aahana was different. Every boy in the college was trying to impress her. I was not one of them as I was scared that she might know my weaknesses in the subjects especially accountancy. In the class, my eyes were mostly trying to locate her all the time.

One day the college organized a blood donation camp, and most of the students participated including me. My eyes were searching for Aahana as she was missing. I spotted one of her good friends Maanvi and approached her.

‘Not all are present today.’ I said casually expecting her to say something.

‘‘Yes”. Said Maanvi. ‘Even my best friend Aahana has not come.”

‘Oh.’ You know most people are scared to donate blood, she must be one of them.”

‘No’ ‘She is not one of that kind. She isn’t well.”

‘Ha…what an excuse. ‘I said sarcastically and left.

Next morning I saw Aahana missing from the class. I could not concentrate on my subjects.

‘Why hasn’t she recovered yet?’ I thought.”

Aahana came after three days. I was excited and relieved to see her. That day, as I was daydreaming of chatting with her, the lecturer broke the silence by yelling out marks of the accounts subject for one of the class tests.

‘Roll no thirty-six,’ shrieked the teacher Mr. Gopal Sharma Panditji.All the students used to call him Panditji, since he had one small ring of hair over his head and his big fat belly, pulled down towards the ground through massive gravitational force.

‘Yes, Sir.’ I said and stood.

‘You have scored forty out of hundred and lowest in the class. ‘Congratulations.’

‘Sir if you have any other secrets of mine, please tell them also loudly so that others will know.’ I said. The whole class laughed.

I was feeling embarrassed now that what Aahana must be thinking. Fully disgusted as I was about to leave the class, I heard a sweet voice from behind.

‘What happened? Your scores were good in the last test.’

I turned and was about to tumble. There stood Aahana. Classic, simple, beautiful.

‘Oh, Hi…Ah.That’s right…I don’t know what happened, but yes, you are right.’

‘Never Mind, you look like a studious student, but I am sure there must be something that’s taking you away from your studies. You can take help from me if you want.’

 ‘Ya sure.’ I wanted to agree with everything she said.

‘Can I discuss the topic with you right now if you have time.’ I said without wasting precious moments.

‘‘I am Amit,” I said.

She smiled and said ‘I know…. And I am Aahana.”

‘Oh, Thanks, Aahana. Lovely name.’ I said awkwardly.

That day I spent some time with her. It was an awesome feeling, and my heart was full of music and tunes that played in Bollywood movies, once hero falls in love with the heroine. My dull days of college were over now. From that day I frequently met her on one pretext or other. Our favorite joint was Café Coffee Day just outside the college. All my doubts on accountancy seem cleared. I took her phone number and started sending her, so called useless inspirational quotes on WhatsApp, which later turned to regular chats. I felt a bit of closeness towards her. But I was a bit scared if I had not become a member of FOSLA club. A slang used in college for Frustrated One Sided Lovers Association.

During our farewell party in the third year, I mustered some courage and asked her the usual hard, scary question, which every man would like to ask a woman. ‘Do you love me?’

She just smiled and said ‘‘OMG, at last, you managed to say it.”

I immediately decided that I cannot choose any other life partner other than Aahana and told her wholeheartedly.

But life has its twist and turns. I forgot that theirs always a villain in every love story. And that villain was my own Dad. Everything was good until I broke this news to my parents. The very first question he asked me was about her family of which I had no clue. Second question shot was about her address. I knew she stayed somewhere in Trans Yamuna in Delhi but did not know anything about her exact address. My father had a big house in posh Greater Kailash Colony and owned successful petrochemical business. He was in the habit of measuring everyone on the scale of money. Anyways I knew that these things could convince my Dad, but not me. But still I called Aahana next day, and in the casual chat, I asked her silly questions. It was a bad feeling to know that she lost her father long time back. Her mother taught in a school. She also had a younger brother who studied in seventh grade. I knew my dad would never agree to this family. So I fairly told Aahana about this and assured her that these things least bother me. She did not say anything. I could feel sadness on her face.

We graduated in 2012. I got a job in a multinational and had to shift to Mumbai from Delhi. I was constantly in touch with her on the phone when suddenly she slowed down on my call and messages. I could not assess. I tried contacting her. She would hardly pick up my calls and seemed down.

I was feeling heart broken. So one night I called her and spoke to her unswervingly. To my surprise, she responded in a very unenthusiastic manner. She told me to maintain a distance, and the most shocking news was about her engagement. It was like a lightening hitting me straight on my face. I didn’t know how to respond to this. I tried asking her the reason of engagement without my consent. But she was stern and requested me not to call her ever again.

My parents were already against this and now Aahana. Perhaps females mature faster. Maybe she was of a marriageable age while I had few years to settle down to support a family unless I took over my Dad’s business. Maybe my father was right. I headed straight for the nearest bar and ordered Patiala peg of some cheap whiskey. My tension slowed, and I downed almost five large that day. It bowled me, as I was habitual of taking beer occasionally.

Next day instead of a hangover I woke up fresh. It appeared a new life to me. Maybe it was a life without the thoughts of Aahana. The busy life of Mumbai involved me in my work, and I tried forgetting everything.

Few years passed. I got busy in my job. One day I received a call from one of my old college mates Rajat. He was a good friend from the college group and had cleared his IAS exam. It was a wedding invitation from him and also a college reunion at Bengaluru. I accepted it to have some change in my life. But somewhere my mind was fluctuating. I was probably scared to meet Aahana at the reunion. I thought might be she wasn’t invited. Anyway I was excited about it and took a week off from my office to meet my parents in Delhi before leaving for Bengaluru. I decided to reach Bengaluru four days prior and explore the city. As I was boarding from Delhi Airport, I saw Aahana right in the queue in front of the airline counter. She had seen me by now. I was confused but then went straight to her two places forward in the queue. As usual people in the queue were badly staring at me for breaking the line but I wasn’t bothered.

‘Hi, …she said’ There was silence for few seconds. ‘Are you going to Bengaluru?’

‘Yes… and you?’ I asked.

‘Yes, …she laughed deliberately. But why are you going so early.’

‘Ah…I had some official work in Bengaluru …and what about you? You are also going so early.”

She didn’t say anything.

‘So where have you been for such a long time. No news.’ She asked with her eyes unable to contact mine.

‘No just got busy. You said you were getting engaged, so I didn’t bother you.”

‘Oh…I told you, but I did not.” her smile faded.

‘What!” I could not believe this.

‘We still have one hour to go. Can we have coffee?’ I said.

We both sat in Café coffee day at the Airport. The smell of freshly brewed coffee freshened up our memory of college days. She had the same old gorgeousness. I had to start a conversation. As we were sitting across each other silently, something went in my mind, and I quietly touched her hand. She was shaken for a second but did not move. Tears were out of her eyes. I could feel something happening in last few years.

‘Tell me everything. Everything. I am here to listen to you. Don’t mind even if the flight leaves.’ I said.

‘Ok…I lied to you that I was getting engaged.”

‘And why did you do that.’ I asked somewhat sternly.

‘I hid something from you. You know.’ By this time her eyes were full of tears.

‘I was detected of Colon cancer during that period. I wanted to stay alone and not be a burden on anyone. I knew you loved me. I thought that if I die, you would not be able to bear it. So I decided to move away from your life as early as possible.’

She started crying. I held her hand more firmly and felt hurt from inside. I wanted to absorb all her problems through some miraculous shift via telepathy through her hands.

‘Then what happened?’

‘I was treated at AIIMS hospital. You know my mother was the only working person in the family. Without fathers support, it was difficult for us. We did not know what to do. But one of our old friends helped us at such time. He supported us in and out even financially. Finally, after two years of battling with cancer, I came out of it completely, and doctors gave me a clean chit. I am presently working in a bank in Delhi.’ She said it all and hid her face to control all her cries falling like Niagara Falls. I was shattered to listen to all this. I was feeling cursed by gods of not sharing her distressed time with me. I assured her that no one in this world could ever take her away from me. I was ready to marry her there and then. But she refused.

‘Do you have Rajat’s wedding card with you.’ She asked.

‘‘Yes of course and I put my hand in my handbag and took the card out.”

‘‘Please read it carefully.”

I opened it with a torn face, and there I read it again. It said ‘Rajat weds Aahana.”

I felt like falling from the sofa. Destiny had again played a prank with me. Now it was my turn to cry.

‘Rajat was the one who supported us throughout, and it was due to his help I was able to fight Cancer.’ She said with tight lips.

‘My family has already left for Bengaluru; I was late due to some official work here but going there now. There are four more days to go for the wedding.”

‘Congrats…you go ahead. I don’t have such big heart to attend this wedding or…reunion.’ I said.

But Aahana was bent upon me to attend the wedding. She swore to me that if I didn’t accompany her, she would call off everything. I had to agree and we reached Bengaluru. I bid her goodbye on the airport and told her that I would be there on the wedding day and she can continue with her ceremonies.

My four days in Bengaluru passed like hell. All those visits to swanky malls and city sightseeing seemed dead. Somehow I passed the time like a lost lover.

Finally, the D–Day arrived. I reached at the venue little early in the evening and met Rajat. It was a real warm welcome from him. I enquired about Aahana, but probably she was getting ready for the wedding somewhere. Most of my college mates were already present. As we all grouped on one side, I saw Rajat’s father and few of his family members coming towards us. To my surprise, his father came straight to me and asked me to go with him on one side.

‘You see Amit; we are in a typical situation here. Aahana is a very sweet girl. She was honest enough to discuss everything with Rajat before marriage. Rajat and I could read her mind.’ said Rajat’s Father.

As I did not know what to say, a hand touched my shoulder.

I turned, and it was Rajat.

‘Yes dear…Aahana still loves you.’ said Rajat. ‘And you are the right person for her marriage, not me.”

I was very nervous by now. I didn’t know why I always had dark clouds in my mind. As I stood there dumbfound, there appeared Aahana in front of me. Dressed in her wedding Lehenga, she was crying like a child and looking as beautiful as ever. I moved forward. My batch mates cheered me. It was the happiest moment of my life. I was still in thinking mode that who was the real hero here. Definitely, Not me.

An Unforgettable experience in the mountains!

Title-   An Unforgettable experience in the mountains!

Since time immemorial, mountains have always intrigued man. As an old saying goes ‘THE MOUNTAINS BECKON YOU.’ The more you are away from these peaks; greater is the urge to visit them. These beautiful mountains secretly whisper their innermost feelings into your ears. It appears as if Gods carve these enchanting heights for soul searching, only to settle us in nature’s lap forever harmoniously.

As a diehard lover of mountains, similar were the feelings in my mind too. I had laid my foot, in almost all hill stations of India. Be it Shimla, Srinagar, Nainital, Darjeeling and much more. Now was the time to drive into some wilderness. Hence, I thought of choosing a remote place far away from the usual tourist attraction. A “place” where my soul and I could have a mystical conversation. And much afterthought I chose a beautiful place called Dharchula in Kumaon district of Uttarakhand.

Dharchula is a sleepy little town situated in Pithoragarh District in Kumaun and borders Nepal and Tibet. It is approximately 280 km from Nainital. This place is also a stopover for tourists traveling to Kailash Mansarovar. A bit excited, I stepped into my walking shoes, stuffed my travel bag with the usual necessities including foldable camp chair and flask. To avoid sweltering day heat of the summers, I boarded an early morning bus from Delhi to Tanakpur Town, situated at the foothills of Himalayas. After passing a night in Tanakpur in one of the budget hotels, I left for Dharchula on the morning bus. As I passed through Champawat and Pithoragarh, the scenic view of the snow clad mountains took my breath away. I reached Dharchula in the afternoon. Though it was a hectic bus trip, the fresh air around was inspiring enough to rejuvenate my mind. I got down from the bus and started walking along the ravaging “River Kali”. Green mountains and Pine trees surrounded the valley. The weather was cool and unlike plains, I felt like putting on a jacket. It was a relaxing experience as I was unable to move my eyes away from the crystal clear blue sky.

In the evening I reached Kumaon Vikas Mandal Rest house and enjoyed a hot and relaxing cup of tea. Exhausted from last two days trip, I went to sleep early. The gurgling of the river flowing next to the rest house was music to my ears all through the night. Somehow it also mystified the environment.

Next morning, while on my tour around the town, I heard about Narayan Ashram through the locals. The Ashram was set up in 1936 by Sri Narayan Swami and located approximately 90 km from Dharchula next to Tibet Border. It experienced heavy snowfall in winters and closed September onwards.  I rented a jeep and left for the Narayan Ashram via Chirkala town, which was 30 km from Dharchula. The fast moving River Kali ran alongside the road throughout the journey. The road was narrow and rough and at times curved dangerously.  I could see many people traveling towards Mount Kailash.

Upon reaching Chirkala, I found the roads shut down due to a landslide caused by rain in that area. The locals informed that the army was on its way to clear up the landslide. So I bid the jeep driver goodbye and began my journey to “Narayan Ashram” on foot crossing every small path and village connecting the mountains.

 The path was full of Oak and Deodar trees as I walked joyously. After a hectic climbing and walking of nearly four hours between the mountains, I finally arrived at the Ashram. The delight of reaching the ashram felt like conquering the Himalayas. I spent nearly an hour in the ashram thoroughly enthralled by the peaceful and serene atmosphere.  Later I started my trek back to Chirkala. This time I came down by a different route and reached the famous Chirkala Dam located on Dhauliganga River. I was told that this hydroelectric dam was constructed in collaboration with Samsung and Daewoo Company. It was late evening, and now I began walking fast towards a local stand to catch transport to Dharchula. It was a bit dark, and I could see millions of stars in the sky along the Milky Way shining like diamonds. The moon was so bright and clear as if I could just mount on it through the hills. It seemed like a dream indeed. With a heavy heart, I took a local jeep back to the Resthouse. I even spotted a musk deer behind trees during my ride.

I got up early next day and visited the twin village in Nepal region named Darchula, which was only 5 minutes’ walk. This village was located very near to rest house and connected by a small suspension bridge of only about 50 meters over River Kali. It was a bit scary to walk on this bridge, as the river current was furious enough to send shivers down my spine. Though there was a small custom checkpoint but meant only for people carrying heavy goods. People of both the towns have freedom to move freely without any strict formalities.   I enjoyed a cup of masala tea in Nepal and collected some souvenirs from the local market. Finally, I packed my luggage and bid adieu to this beautiful town only to visit again sometime.

It was indeed one of the most unforgettable experiences in the mountains and would advise the adventurous ones to visit Dharchula at least once in their lifetime.