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A dream to remember

Is this your brother’s home’, Bappamma (Paternal grandmother) asked.

‘Yes Bappamma’, I said.

‘Take me around’, she said

My brother had recently shifted to his apartment given by the steel plant. The previous year he had got employed in Vizag steel plant. In some months my parents too had shifted along with him. But he had got his own apartment that year. I was studying in Mysore and was having my summer vacation. My sister too had come and we were having a nice reunion.

Mom with my sister and her son would sleep in one room. Another room was for my brother. Me and Papa would enjoy watching TV in the hall and would sleep there only.

‘So is this the hall’,Bappamma asked.

‘Yes’, I said and then showed her the rooms, kitchen and the balcony.’The balcony is quite big’, she said, ‘good for drying papads and pickles. Your amma must be happy’.

I nodded.

‘Okay time for me to go’, she said

‘No Bappamma, you can’t go. Stay with us’, I pleaded.

‘No, my dear I can’t stay. My home is elsewhere now’, she said

‘NO……….NO’, I screamed

‘Reema, Reema, get up’…..it was my sister.

‘What happened’. I asked.

‘I saw Bappamma in my dream, you were showing her around the home and then she left’, my sister said.

Saying that I was shocked is an understatement. At the same time both of us had seen the same dream. Was it a coincidence, some extra sensory perception I have never understood. Maybe she came to see if we were fine or maybe we needed a closure.

Over a period of years I have been visited by a number of people who have left the world. My aunt, uncle both have visited me and conveyed some message. But the visit by my Bappamma was the most bizarre one. And it was indeed a dream to remember.

But once I started my spiritual journey these visits gradually stopped. I read somewhere that some lucky people are indeed guided by the Lord in this way . So maybe I am the lucky one. Because these dreams gradually made me yearn to know about the soul and its position in this world.


 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Ruminations of the motherly types

As we stand waiting for the car to pick the son up for school; there is a bunch of boys. Some 15 of them, all school going. Their school is about 300 metres away. I can hear the assembly in progress but these boys…..they are yet to reach school. Before that they have more important chores to finish.

Like pulling each others legs. Like pulling stuff from the dustbin and throwing it on the road and most important, getting the first smoke of the day. Young boys some as young as 11 or 12 look at me and draw a puff in. And I become desperate. They pass a cigarette to a boy who is maybe 9 or ten and I can hear my blood boil.The  mom and teacher in me wants to go right ahead and give them a tight slap. One which will keep ringing in their ears for days together. But today is not the place. I have two young children with me. I have to look after their safety first.

My anger shifts to the cold store fellow. ‘How dare he sells cigarettes to juveniles?’. But then I understand him. He is an Indian. what can he do against the locals. He must be worried about the safety of his staff and his shop. So he has put this sign on the front’ no sale of cigarettes to juveniles’and has done his bit.

I think of going to the school and talking with the administration but I don’t think they will be able to do much. I remember once the school timings were extended because the portions could not be completed as they had had too many holidays during the academic year. Some boys had created havoc. Security forces had to be brought in but to no avail. The boys just climbed the high fence and ran away. From the next day extended hours were for those who were ready to attend.

Yes, it is a government school. For these reasons only parents now opt for private schools. But not all can opt for private schools. Private schools may or may not have local boards. Which means the kids will have to go for British boards which means they will need extra tuition which means additional expenses.

And it is not that the government schools are not equipped. They are. They have the best infrastructure possible. Also the best facilitator. But what lacks is the environment and the lack of dedicated students. One rotten egg spoils the rest. Or in this case some spoilt brats spoiling others who in turn spoil some more and so on.

Both as a mother and a teacher I keep an eye on ‘my children’ constantly seeing that they don’t fall into bad association. But it is so tough particularly in this age with our dependence on gadgets.

In my class mobiles are banned except to attend calls from the parents who knowing me generally give a  miss call to inform that they have come to pick them up.I am strict but I stay with them for just about 2 hours and what after that.

When I see young kids spoiling their life, I get a dull ache in my heart, how do I make them understand, how can we nourish their lives.

I wonder…………

 

To group or not to group…..

Jini moved in bed and then a hand popped out searching for her mobile. Pavan had already opened the curtains and the sunrays peeped in. ‘Good morning world’, she typed, ‘good to see the sun after the evil dust storm’. Pavan looked and sighed. Nowadays he was afraid to even speak to her lest it found its way in her whatsapp messages.

Sometime later he sat working on the report which he had to send immediately to Oman. As he switched on the wi-fi on his mobile, it started beeping. He let out a sigh. What was the need for so many messages. Often repeated on multiple groups. ‘Does anyone read them’, he murmured.

Jini  came in, ‘Hi, good morning’, she said, ‘somebody is grumpy….what happened?’

‘Does anyone read these junk messages which keep on forwarding from one group to another’, he said

‘But then some are useful’, she said.

‘Like if you drink two litres of water, your digestion improves and…..’,

‘Like you didn’t know already? And why do we have to have so many groups? There is my school alumni group, college alumni group, …….’, he said

But don’t you feel good to be back in touch with your friends?’, she asked.

‘Yes, it does but what is the need for my office colleagues group, don’t we meet everyday’

And then there is Nikita’s school parent group….what is the purpose of the group. I would rather exit that group’, he said.

‘oh no, don’t do that. That way we know whats going on in school’, she said

‘But all I see is silly messages and jokes’, he countered

And what about this building group. what is the need for that. I can just go and knock someones door if I want to ask something,’ he said

‘The owner created that group so that he can communicate to everyone in one go’, she said.

‘And what about this family group’, he began

‘Oh let it be, we all can be in touch through that group’, Jini said

The phone beeped again. Pavan switched off the wi-fi. Jini meanwhile was punching in a new status, ‘ To group or not to group is the question in the better half’s mind’

Pavan thought a little and then switched on the wi-fi, for the first time he punched in his status, ‘ I am a social animal who thrives in isolation, please don’t add me in groups’. Please…..please……_/\_

 

Be the change

The doorbell rang. I literally ran to open the door. My maid or rather my lifesaver was late by about quarter of an hour and I was hoping it was her. Instead I found a boy err a young man standing outside.

‘Yes’, I asked.

‘Soniya madam sent this’, he said.

Soniya is my far off cousin. I took the parcel which he offered.

I went inside and opened it, ‘Dear Raji, Here is the invite to Kavish’s(her son) wedding ceremonies. Yes, he is getting married. It all happened in a hurry and the wedding is next week. I am sorry because I could not come personally to invite you But DO come for all the ceremonies, Love Soniya’

The invite was in a box with some mithai and different invitations for all the ceremonies. It was obvious that it was going to be a lavish affair. I didn’t understand the need of all this grandeur when it was just two people coming together and deciding to spend their life together. Why waste essential resources or is it the economist in me thinking like that?

The bell rang. It was Mangala my maid.

‘Ah here you come, why so late’, I asked

She just mumbled something.

‘Mangala, what do you think about these lavish weddings. Look at the invite of Kavish’s wedding? Don’t you think all this is a waste’, I said.

She just stood.

‘What is your opinion’, I asked.

‘They have and so they spend, Bibiji’, she said, ‘People like us are just happy if our daughters get married’.

She sounded bitter.

What happened Mangala….are you planning to get Shobha married off’, I asked.

She looked at me sharply and then I noticed her red eyes.

‘She is 23 now Bibiji, isn’t it the right age’, she asked.

‘Don’t worry Mangala, we will find out a good match for her…’, said me.

‘And what if she has found a match for herself’,she said.

‘Oh then, it is fine. we will just go and meet the guy and his parents’, I said

‘And what if the parents belong to the upper class, will they accept her, Bibiji’, she said.

I was thoughtful. Meanwhile she went inside to do her chores.

Shobha had been a bright girl. And so I had sponsored her education. She was now an Engineer working for a reputed company.And though Mangala could sit at home now and do nothing, yet she used to come and work at my place. Was it because she loved me or because she felt indebted to me, I do not know.

I meanwhile got ready. Mangala after finishing her chores came and stood before me. ‘Yes, Mangala, do you need something’, I asked

‘Bibiji, from tomorrow I will not come for work. I will send someone else, don’t worry’, she said and left.

‘Mangala atleast take your wages’, I said

‘Its alright I will come another day,’she said.

I was disturbed. Mangala had become a family member. Especially after the demise of my husband, she had been my anchor.

I played with my food during dinner.

‘Mom, whats the matter?’ Sudhir, my son, asked.

‘Mangala will not be coming from tomorrow’, I said.

He kept his spoon down and asked, ‘Why?’

‘She didn’t give any specific reason but I suspect it is Shobha’, and I told him what Mangala had told me. ‘I think Mangala is disturbed because her daughter loves someone from the higher strata’.

‘She is bound to be. It is natural’, he said.

‘Come on Sudhir, we are not in the dark ages. Caste, economic differences, does it matter’, I asked.

‘Alright mom, if I want to marry Shobha, will you allow’, he asked.

I was stumped. ‘Would I?’ What will my friends think, what will my relatives think, what if…..

The next morning I went to Mangala’s house. It struck me that though Mangal had worked for me for the last 15 years or so, I had never been to her place.

The door was open. The house was modest but very neat. Mangala sat in a corner reading.

‘Mangala’,  I said.

She saw me and rushed to receive me. She made me sit, gave me water and rushed to make my favorite masala tea.

‘Why Bibiji, why you came, you could have summoned me…..the new maid, isn’t she good,’ she asked.

‘She is good….but I can’t live without you….Come Mangala, come with me…..we are beyond employer and employee, isn’t it? We are like soul sisters, aren’t we?’, I said.

She sat with her head down.

‘Is it Shobha who asked you not to work. Are you afraid that her in-laws would not like it if they come to know that you work as a maid….’, I asked.

She shook her head. and then said, It is better if I don’t come, bibiji’, she said.

‘Why Mangala? I will come to speak to the boy’s parents. I will tell them that what a fine lady you are. How you have raised your daughter alone. How you threw your husband out because he wanted to kill your daughter…..’

‘The boy’s mother already knows all this bibiji’, she said with tears in her eyes.

‘So then what is the problem…. Okay, so she is not ready because Shobha is a maid’s daughter’, I asked.

‘Will you agree Bibiji, if you were in her place’, she said.

‘Why not? Shobha is so talented. She has a heart of gold….why will I not agree’, I said.

With tears in her eyes, she said. ‘Bibiji, Shobha and Sudhir love each other. I came to know that only yesterday. Now tell me, are you ready for this match’.

I was stunned. I just picked my purse and ran.

When Sudhir came home in the evening, I was waiting.

‘You found no other girl’, I said.

‘What do you mean’, he asked

‘Don’t pretend. I know everything. You found no one except our Maid’s daughter to fall in love with.’

‘Ma, you are such a hypocrite. You talk about equality, elimination of caste, about wasting precious resources etc etc and yet you don’t follow what you preach’, he said sarcastically.

‘Don’t worry. I have spoken for a transfer. Both me and Shobha will go to a new place and get married. You will be spared the shame. I knew you will never agree’, he said.

 

It is surprising how the people near you understand you more than you do yourself. Both Mangala and Sudhir knew that I would not agree. I had a sleepless night. Morning when I got up I noticed that Sudhir had already left for his work.

The house looked empty and devoid of color. Was I to spend the rest of my life like this.

Half an hour later I was outside Mangala’s door. she responded to my knock and invited me in. I noticed Sudhir and Shobha. I just stood in front of Mangala and said, ‘ i have come as a beggar today… will you give me your daughter’, I said,

After the initial shock, everyone was hugging everyone. ‘Ma, I had never envisaged that you will agree’, said Sudhir.

‘I thought it is better to be an outcast than being lonely’, I said and we hugged some more.

*fiction

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Somethings never change

As Shruthi tidied up the bed, her glance went to the flickering screen of Manish’s smartphone. She looked around and then picked it gingerly so as to not make any sound.

The recent message was from Manish’s college group. She read a few messages and then threw it back where it belonged. ‘men’ she muttered, ‘ it doesn’t matter if they are in their middle age….they have to share such x-rated jokes…ugh’.

As she banged and thrashed in the kitchen, Manish sighed in the other room. Something was bothering Shruthi…that much he could make out. He got dressed up and came out. As he served himself some juice, he asked Shruthi if she wanted some.

‘I have two hands, I can take some if I want’, she yelled

‘What happened now’, he asked

‘What is your age’, was her question.

‘You don’t know?’, he asked but when he saw the fury in her eyes replied ’45’.

‘Haan that is what I am saying, in some  years you will be touching  50 and here you are sharing jokes on women and what not on whatsapp’, she said

‘Have you heard this word..Shruti’, he said

‘Which one’, she asked

‘Privacy’, he said

‘I have…. it was just that I was making the bed and I chanced upon your messages’, she said.

‘Hmmm, its anyways better than bitching about others’, he said while biting on his toast.

She narrowed her eyes, he averted her looks and then she threw a plate at him, ‘What’, he screamed

‘You read my messages, didn’t you’, she said and this time threw a cup at him.

————

Mrs. Vaidya living below heaved a sigh. Yes, the Khanna’s living above were very noisy, yes very often she got a headache on weekends because of their romping and their shouting. But she had never complained to the society.

Why… because they reminded her of herself and her husband in their hey days. When they would have a fight over who should switch off the lamp at night or which movie to see. For she liked Rajesh Khanna and he liked Saira Banu.

Oh, they were fun days. Days of fighting and making up. He would bring her some flowers, she would knit him a sweater.

 

Now all those were memories. All that was left were pain the joints and a photo on the wall with a garland.