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Aarti  usually went for a walk after dropping Medha at the bus stop. It was at the return when she met Mrs. Panicker. ‘How are you Mrs. Panicker?’,

Mrs. Panicker gave a lame smile and said, ‘Fine’ and carried on.

‘Someone not well Mrs. Panicker, why these medicines’, asked Aarti.

Mrs. Panicker sighed and said, ‘Sahana is not well Mrs. Mittal. She has severe viral infection. You know how it is. Her fever is not coming down. And she has been missing school for the past week. And summatives are up next week. I am worried’.

‘Don’t worry Mrs. Panicker, everything will be alright. And don’t worry about summatives, she will be fine by then. Also you can copy Medha’s notes, I will send it in the evening…..’, said Aarti.

‘NO, no Mrs. Mittal, we will manage, no need of Medha’s notes’, said Mrs. Panicker and hurried away.

Aarti kept on looking her way. From a past few days she had observed that Medha was left alone. Very few of  the colony children would talk to her. Most would keep a distance. What could be the reason?

In the evening Aarti went to Mrs. Panickers place laden with fruits and Medha’s class notes.

Mrs. Panicker opened the door but obviously she was astonished. ‘I brought some fruits and notes for Sahana’, said Aarti and stepped in. She saw a very weak Sahana sitting on the couch. And said, “hey Sahana….how are you darling, see I have brought you Medha’s notes, you don’t have to worry about studies now…’

‘Medha’s notes??, I don’t want Medha’s notes’, Sahana said and with teary eyes looked at her mother and said, ‘why did you ask?’

‘I didn’t’, said Mrs. Panicker but by then Sahana had rushed to her room.

There was a heavy silence in the room. And then Mrs. Panicker said, ‘Thank you Mrs. Mittal but we won’t be needing  Medha’s notes.’

Mrs. Panicker, will you explain to me why Sahana does not want Medha’ss notes’, Asked Aarti.

‘No, nothing like that, you know children when they are weak behave in weird ways’, said Mrs. Panicker.

‘I don’t believe that Mrs. Panicker. I have observed that from some days none of the colony children want to play with Medha. So there must be something. Please tell me Mrs. Panicker. I want to correct my daughter if she is wrong. Please I insist.’

Mrs. Panicker looked embarrassed but then began to speak, ‘Medha is of course, brilliant, sharp. Obviously her IQ is high but then…’

‘Please tell Mrs. Panicker, please don’t hesitate’, insisted Aarti

‘Medha thinks very highly of herself Mrs. Mittal and makes fun of others. You know my Sahana doesn’t speak very good English, so she teases Sahana about her accent. My Sahana is a sensitive child Mrs. Mittal and it affects her. Medha shows of her superiority in everything and that is why none of the kids like to play with her any more.’

Aarti was shocked. She mumbled a thanks and left.

Over the past few days Aarti just observed Sahana. And found out that what Mrs. Panicker had said was true. At every given opportunity Medha would boast or show her superiority and Aarti knew that, that habit of hers had to be set right.

Medha was excited. The next day was the open day at school. She wanted her parents to meet her teachers, especially she wanted them to meet Teacher Angela. Angela teacher liked her a lot and she knew that she would praise her in front of her parents.

She told her parents what to wear and instructed them to speak good english as Angela teacher spoke very good english.

It was then that Aarti had a brain wave.

The next day Medha proudly took her parents to Angela teacher. After the formalities were over. Aarti asked some questions in faltering English.

Medha was devastated and she looked around checking that no one was listening. Then she signalled to her mother but her mother ignored her completely.

The rest of the meeting went on like that and then they stood up to leave, when Aarti spoke, ‘Sorry my english is not so good’

‘Oh that is ok Mrs. Mittal. A famous person has said, Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language‘, she said with a smile and added, ‘one can’t judge anyone on their language, can you. It is the character that matters’.

Medha was thoughtful on their return home.

Aarti looked at her from the corner of her eyes. She hoped that she had learnt a lesson today. In the coming days she would learn some more.

 

Mourning

My son asked me yesterday, ‘Amma what did you want to be when you were young’ (By his standards I am ancient). I thought for a while. I had never achieved my ambition. Or rather the goals I had set for myself were not for me. So some goals I ditched and some others ditched me. But there was one goal which I had always wanted and I became- that of being a mother.

‘To be your mother’, I said.

It is a different matter that he didn’t accept my goal because according to him, ‘Everyone becomes a papa or a mamma’. But then what do I tell him.

So we switch on the Television and see that the news channels are full of Peshawar attack and though I do not want him to see such news but I can’t stop myself from following what has happened.

‘What has happened Amma’, he asks

I explain.

He contemplates and then says, ‘Amma you always take care of all the children even if there is some child on the road. And you say that they are someones children and everyones responsibility. Then why did this uncles kill. Aren’t these children there children too.

What do I say?

That we have become demons

That we lack sensitivity.

That nothing matters except achievement of our aims.

That revenge is the end all.

I don’t say anything.

I just hug him

Who knows if I get to hug him tomorrow or not………….

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A silent prayer for all the parents who lost their children

The bunk beds

I have been in love with bunk beds since the time I saw one on ‘Diff’rent Strokes‘. Somehow it looked very adventurous and full of fun. But no I never had one. My bed was no less adventurous. It was small and it fit beneath my elder siblings beds when not in use. But still bunks seemed to be more fun.

I joined a hostel in the hope that I would get a bunk bed there at least. But no, didn’t have that much luck.

And so when my twins were born I looked forward to the day when we would have bunk beds and have lots of fun.

The day they turned four, the bunk beds came in. But were they happy….well….kind of. But not like me. I was bouncing on the mattress, running up the steps, while the boys kept on staring at me. Maybe they thought mommy had gone mad.

As soon as they left for school I would start arranging everything on them and around them. And then I would polish the bed frames till they glistened. Ahh such pride I felt at my possession.

ikea bunk beds design ideas

But then boys will be boys. The fights started. ‘I want to sleep up’ said twin 1, ‘no, I want to sleep up’, said twin 2 and so on….

Finally we decided that each will sleep on the upper bed every alternative day. But was their peace, sigh…no.

You slept yesterday’, screams one.

‘No, I slept the day before, you forgot’, says the other.

The man screams, ‘you and your childhood fantasies. Now resolve the quarrel’, and stomps off. I stomp off too and climb the upper bunk leaving the two to gape at me. Let them both manage on the lower bunk.

The maid refuses to tidy the kids room. In addition to the mess in the room, she says she cannot climb the tiny steps to tidy the upper bed. And if I ask the boys to tidy themselves, well that will never happen.

It seems no one loves the bunk bed except me and so I make a resolve….

‘Listen guys, I have put an ad in Quikr’, I declare.

‘What are  you selling’, the man asks.

‘The bunk, of course’, I said.

There is silence for sometime and then the man says, ‘What about your childhood fantasies?’.

‘Haven’t I grown up now’, I smile nonchalantly while it aches  inside.

‘What about the additional cost of buying new beds’, he asks.

‘It will be partly financed by the sale proceedings of this sale’, I say.

‘What about the box of treasures which I had kept under the lower bunk’, twin one says.

It will find a place underneath the new beds’, I say

There is silence once again.

Then the man speaks.

‘It is not a very big room, two individual cots will make the room look even more small’.

‘But it is better than messy beds and daily fights’, I argue.

Silence.

I will miss climbing up the steps and throwing the pillows down’, says twin two.

I will miss swinging from the upper bunk’, says twin one.

‘I will definitely miss the additional money spent on the new cots’, says the man.

Mummy stays mum.

‘Mom, is it ok if we promise to tidy up the room and the beds’, says twin one.

‘And we will not fight for the upper bunk, promise’, says twin two.

The man is beaming by now.

‘What about the ad that I placed on Quikr’, says me.

‘Cancel it….cancel it’, there is a chorus of voices the man’s voice the loudest.

There has been peace for the last three days, let us see how long it lasts.

Image courtesy IKEA

‘Paradise lost’

Sheela parked her car and came inside. The door was locked from inside. ‘Again Amu has left the key at the door itself’, she thought to herself. As she banged the door again and again but there was no response and Sheela could sense that something was amiss.

She summoned up her neighbours and together they banged open the door. There was an eerie silence. Sheela ran to Amu’s bedroom and the sight she saw left her breathless.

Amu was hanging from the ceiling fan.

—————————————–

Amu had left a suicide note. The contents of which made Sheela and Akash die a million deaths. Amu was having an affair with a boy for the last three years. Which was a shocker no doubt vbecause Amu as just 15. An affair which had crossed all limits. They would meet when her parents were away in office, in their home on their bed. But then recently she had understood that what she had been doing wasn’t apt and she should focus on her studies and so she had bid the boy adieu. But the boy was not ready to break their relationship and instead had started blackmailing her. He had said that he would release her pictures on the web. Afraid of the consequences, she had hanged herself.

—————————————

I am nobody to judge. You may say sex education is necessary. You may say that is what happens when both parents are busy in their careers. You may say that is the effect of TV and cinema and so on.

A number of things which have bothered me and made me morose for the past couple of days.

Is 12 years the time to start affairs. Where has innocence been lost?

Secondly,why didn’t the girl have faith in her parents. Why couldn’t she confide? Wasn’t there nobody she could turn to?

____________________________

Yes it has shaken me up. Are we so busy providing comforts to children that we forget to be friends.

When I deal with my students, I try not only to teach but also be a motivator and from now on I will try to be a friend too. Teenage is such a precarious stage, when they need some guide, I hope I will be there for them.

—————————————

I try to be same with my child too. Yes I am strict, yes sometimes I raise my hand, but then he knows that whatever happens I am there for him, I am there with him.

Take care people, take care of your precious children. Provide for them, protect them, nurture them but also make them strong physically and mentally and no matter what happens let them know; that you are there for them ALWAYS.
*based on a real incident. Names changed to protect privacy

Hudhud and later

A number of catastrophes seem to be happening one after the other. The floods in Jammu and Kashmir, the floods in North-east and now Hudhud in Andhra and Odisha. Yes last one has affected me the most.

Why? Because it is in Vizag that my parents live. It is in Vizag that my brother and his family lives. It is Vizag that has been my ‘land’ for the last 20 years or so.

To tell you the truth I came to know about the impending cyclone only on Saturday Morning. And I called up my mother. ‘Are you all set for the storm’, I asked.

‘Yes’, she said, ‘Children have been given a holiday, we have stocked up on essentials’.

‘Get some extra milk packets, store some water, charge up your mobiles’, I said. ‘And in all probability the cyclone will just pass away with a whimper because every one is so prepared’, I joked.

Vizag is used to thunderstorms. It does not have any ‘rainy season’ as such and there is rain usually when there is a depression in the Bay of Bengal. The intensity of the situation did not hit either me or her.

And then till Monday evening, there was no news absolutely. Scared, anxious, I sat online surfing through news, afraid to read the obvious.

Until I got a whatsapp from my sister they are safe.

I started breathing again. The glass doors had been unhinged. There was no power (still there isn’t). Water they have because they arranged diesel somehow and operate the generator now and then to pump the water up. Their two wheelers are damaged. Milk is scarce. But the important thing is they are safe and together.

But the city is devastated. The steel township which has been our lifeline has become a skeleton. The thick vegetation which surrounded it is no more. The Steel plant itself has suffered badly and if it does not start operations soon, will be a burden on the economy.

What is heartening to see is that so many voluntary organisations working on the scene. And so many others too. Residents who for once have stopped cribbing and started lending a hand, people have come out of their cocoons to strategize on finding out ways to come out of the situation.

Yes there are black marketeers, there are people who want to make a fast buck but today at least the people doing good far outweigh those who are selfish.

But then the thought comes to my mind who has to be blamed for such catastrophes, man, God who.

It is said that there are three-fold miseries of our lives adhi daivik (divine-problems caused by external forces) , adhyatmik (problems caused by self on the mental platform) and adhi bhautik (problems caused on the material plane, physical). And I am confused as to whether this is adhi daivik or adhi bhautik?

Why??

Isn’t it we who have destroyed our forest covers

Isn’t it we who have digged into earth incessantly?

Isn’t it we who are building so many structures? Often competing with each other in terms of how high my building is or how many buildings/ flats do I own.

In Bahrain we have witnesses so many landfilling exercises. So many areas have sprung up where there was previously the Sea. I am sure if we compare the picture of Bahrain 30  years back and the present, there will be no similarity at all. Doesn’t all this constitute an ecological imbalance.

So is this an adhidaivik vipada or an adhibhautik? Is this a misery caused by some external force or man made…..who knows? And does anyone care?

Moving on

As I checked my messages, I saw one from Diksha. It read please come in the evening.

I sat like that for long just staring at the message.

Diksha and me share a special relationship. We are sisters and yet not. My mother used to work as a clerk in the estates of the Mistry’s. Diksha was an only child and a lonely one too. So her parents encouraged my mother to drop me at their place.

And that is how we became sisters. We went to the same school and played with the same toys. The only difference being that I had to work harder at my studies and then for professional entrance exams, while she had everything easy. She was encouraged to study and learn the tricks of their business but she was least interested in all that.  She preferred going to a finishing school in Switzerland.

And so while she skated in the Alps I struggled through engineering. No studies were not a problem with me. Tuition fees was. Yes the Mistry’s would have funded me but I preferred to win a scholarship and did the odd jobs for some additional money. Odd jobs meaning giving tuitions to kids whose parents were too busy to teach them.

Meanwhile the Mistry’s were worried as to whom to pass on their legacy. Their daughter seemed to have no interest in running their various businesses.

Nikhil Awasthi was my classmate. We often confided in each other. No we were not in love but were in similar circumstances. He too was in constant need of money being the son of an ordinary ‘kiranawallah’. Their shop was rented and whats more they were heavily in debt. Nikhil used to dream of making it big, closing down the shop and of giving a good life to his siblings.

Once when we were discussing Thermodynamics, it so happened that Mrs. Mistry dropped in and took a liking to the young chap. But then Nikhil was handsome and quite brilliant intellectually too.

And it so happened that exactly a year after that the very next week that we graduated, Nikhil and Diksha got married.

Yes, Nikhil’s father retired and became the PA of the Director. The Director of course being his son Nikhil. His three siblings were sent to posh private schools while Nikhil himself immersed himself in learning the tricks of the trade.

While I struggled through jobs and juggled with a home. Yes, I too got married to a guy chosen by my parents. And eventually we had a son.

Diksha and Nikhil had three kids. Diksha wanted some more as she didn’t want her kids to be as lonely as she had been but nature saw to it that she didn’t.

TRING the mobile rang. I bent my head to see a message from Nikhil. Can you meet me at 3 p.m.,it read.

I sighed.

Nikhil decided to leave Diksha after 27 years of marriage.  The reason he cited was incompatibility. I mean after 27 years and three kids… don’t you just get used to each other??

I knew my day was ruined. I just called up my Secretary and told her that I was taking it easy that day.

As I  lay with a cold compress on my forehead, my son walked in. ‘what’s the matter ma, all’s well?’, he asked.

I just uttered, ‘Diksha’

He said, ‘oh’ and walked off after drawing the curtains.

Diksha has been on a self-pity trip since Nikhil deserted her. She has been moaning so much that her own kids have taken refuge in posh Hotels. And for that she pities some more. Every day for the past twenty-one days, I have been called to be with her and listen to her monologues.

But it was the first time Nikhil had called me.

And so we met at one of the cafes in the other side of town.

‘What is it Nikhil, please be quick and brief. I have to go and visit Diksha too’, I said

Oh, so she has caught hold of you now, is it?’, he said

‘You discovered that you were incompatible after 27 years Nikhil? Isn’t it a bit too much?’, I asked.

He took a long deep breath.

‘You know Anu when we got married, How the situation was? I needed money and I got ample of it. True Mr. Mistry taught me everything. And Dikha taught me everything else, like how to dress in formals, how to speak effectively, hell she taught me how to hold a knife and fork. But is that the only thing required in a marriage. What about love, companionship, understanding. For Diksha I was always a puppet which she wanted to mould and possess. She never took me as an individual’.

‘IS there any other woman in your life Nikhil’, I asked point-blank.

‘After Diksha, Mrs. Mistry and my daughter, I don’t need any other women in my life Anu’, he said.

‘So is there any man in your life’, I asked. I mean you never knew nowadays.

‘Shut up Anu, it is not about THAT. It is about understanding and companionship and……

‘I know, I know’, I said and walked off.

Diksha sat in a dark room with her hair all strewn and eyes swollen. Somehow she reminded me of Kaikayi in her ‘kop bhavan’. Only that there was no Dasaratha to listen to her demands

I was sick of both of them.

‘Till when you have decided to be like this Dikshu, ‘ I asked.

‘Come on Anu’, she said, ‘How can you be so heartless. my husband of 27 years has left me. The person whom my father groomed, the one whom I taught to hold a knife and fork has left me’.

‘So you are mourning the graduation of your student?’, I said, ‘He has moved on, you move on too’.

‘Anu’, she screamed.

‘For God sake, Diksha, there is a business to be taken care of. Three children who are yet to be settled. And here you are rolling in self-pity. Maybe you smothered Nikhil so much that he didn’t have any breathing space. Maybe you never were fit for each other…wahtever it be. Stop moaning and start living’, I said.

‘Everyone is ungrateful. You forget that it is my father who had paid your school fees, it was my house that you grew up in and….’, she said

‘Yes it was your father that paid my school fees but it was my hard work which brought me where I am now. Yes, I grew up in your house because you were lonely’, I said and then picked my bag and moved out.

I knew Diksha had some more fodder to moan about. I do not know who was right but I knew it was time for me to move on.

An inspiration

Today at Write tribe’s Festival of Words we have to tell an inspiring story or write about someone who has inspired us.writetribe_festival_words_3

Though there have been many who have inspired me, in recent times there is one whose devotion amidst numerous hardships has inspired me. She is one who prays to Krishna that,’ Please keep on giving me more troubles in life so that I can always remember you’. Sounds strange isn’t it? I am a person whose faith shakes at the mere mention of a problem. There have been times where I have even blamed God  to give me birth and give problem after problem. But not with Kuntidevi, the mother of Pandavas. She asks for more problems so that she can always remember HIM.

She was originally called as Pritha and was the daughter of Shurasena. (Kunti was the sister of Vasudev) But then she was adopted by Kuntibhoja and from then on she was known as Kunti. Sage Durvasa happy with her servitude had given her a secret mantra by which she could beget children. She begot Karna from Suryadev in her immature curiosity before marriage but then had to cast him away.

Later she was married to King Pandu. But then he was cursed by a Rishi that if ever he tried to attempt union with a woman, he would die. And so Kunti had to beget children with the help of her mantra. She had Yudhisthira by invoking Yamaraj, Bhima by invoking Vayu and Arjuna by invoking Indra. She even helped Madri, the other wife of Pandu to beget sons by invoking the Ashwini Kumaras and so Nakula and Sahadeva were born.

But soon Pandu succumbs to Madri’s beauty and dies. Madri commits sati while Kunti stays to look after the young kids.

And from then on her trial begins.

Her sons are not given respectability by the Kauravas. Though Bhisma sees to it that they get a good education, in all other matters they are sidelined. They are not given their rightful kingdom. From then on the Lakshagruh episode, the time in hiding, the disrobing of her daughter-in law, the thirteen year of banishment of the Pandavas, the war of Kurukshetra, the killing of Abhimanyu and killing of the five sons of Drauadi, Kunti has to see it all.

And yet after the war when the coronation of Yudhisthira is over and Krishna gets ready to go back to Dwaraka, Kuntidevi says, ‘give me more and more troubles’. Why?

Because every time there is a problem, the Lord or his emissary has been there to protect them. When the incident of Lakshagruh took place, Vidura, a sincere devotee of the Lord had already informed that something may happen. When Draupadi was disrobed. Krishna saw that she was never without any robes. And after the war when Ashwattame sends the Brahmastra to kill the last scion of Pandava dynasty in Uttara’s womb; Krishna assumes a form smaller than the thumb of the hand to protect the child in the womb. And for such help, she thanks the Lord and asks him for more troubles so that he will always keep them in his protection and always come to meet them.

Isn’t she a great lady??

Yes, she did make mistakes. Like if she had told either Karna or Yudhisthira that they were brothers the war might not have taken place. But the important point is, in all her trials and tribulations she never lost her faith in the Lord.

For me her faith is exceptional and exemplary.