Tag Archive | festival of words

Those boxes of books

When I stepped into the house, I saw boxes. Cardboard boxes of God knows what. I gingerly went in searching for my employer Mr. Sheri.

I caught him making a cup of coffee.

‘Good morning Sir’, I said.

HE nodded. I remained silent. Mr. Sheri was quite temperamental and it was better not to mess with him before he had his first cuppa.

Mr.Sheri belongs to an erstwhile family of landlords. Now there are only a few acres of farming land left but yes there are other assets. Mr. Sheri though moody is a philanthropic and not quite interested in other work. And there is where my work starts. To see that the money goes to the right place and see that it is utilised well. Well Mr. Sheri does not fancy women much but he believes that women can be trusted more than men. Who am I to judge his beliefs. I enjoy the privileges of my work.

Privileges you may ask. But you see in our town Mr. Sheri is highly respected and so as his Secretary I too manage to get some limelight.

Other than that I see to it that I don’t have much to do with the BOSS.

‘You wanted to ask something?’, it was HE. Lost in my thoughts I had not noticed that he had finished his coffee.

‘AAA…the boxes outside, what are those.’, I asked.

‘My good aunt, my mother’s sister has left her books for me. God knows why. I don’t read much but you know that’.

Of course I knew that; even the morning newspaper I had to read aloud to him. He hated reading that much. There was a rumour that he had not even finished his High school. But then what is the need to study when you have an inheritance waiting for you.

‘What am I supposed to do with the books?’ I asked.

‘Anything you feel like, he said and left.

I opened the boxes, all ten of them. Encyclopedia, atlases, novels, all stared back at me. And soon I was lost in the world of books.

‘Janaki, JANAKI’, screamed Mr Sheri, ‘Can we begin today’s work’.

I jumped and ran.

The successive days were pure nectar. I would grab one or the other book and read whenever I could. and take one home too.

Some days later we had been to the orphanage which Mr. Sheri supported. I met some really bright students who were supposed to take up their Matriculation. I enjoyed talking to them, they confided their dreams and aspirations. They mentioned how they were afraid about their future because they were not so fluent in their English and once they finished their matric and went to the city, they will be ridiculed for their language.

An idea struck me… if only Mr. Sheri agreed.

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It is two years since the idea stuck  the orphanage now boasts of a library. The boxes  of books that Mr. Sheri inherited have now been transferred there. Evenings I teach them spoken English and am glad to see that the love for books have been kindled in them too. And yes there have been periodic additions too made by us. Yes, us. I am now Mrs. Sheri. Somewhere in the setting up of the library and the teaching of kids we discovered that we did love each other. So while I oversee the library and the orphanage,  there is a secretary appointed for everything else. Yes a female middle-aged secretary with a husband  and kids. Though I trust my husband, can I take chances….no, na…

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. The prompt for today being books.

Write Tribe

Bonding over morsels

‘That is enough for you?’, asked my team leader Shravya as I bit into my sandwich.

‘ummm, yes’, I said.

She scrutinized me and said, ‘Really?’

Well, I couldn’t blame her. People usually assume I eat truckloads looking at my figure.

‘Yes’, I said and watched as she took out her dabba. It had two layers. One had roti-sabji and the other had some sort of rice.

The aroma was tantalizing. How could I tell her that no the sandwich was not enough for me. But my budget only allowed me that. I stayed in a Working women’s hostel which fed us nicely morn and night. Afternoons we had to fend for ourselves. I had my educational loan installments to pay and had to support my younger brother with his school fees and also had to send mom some amount for the household expenses. Our father had departed the previous year.

I sucked in my breath. I love Gujarati food and the aroma was too much for me to bear.

Shravya and me shared a very difficult relationship. We had not yet discovered whether we loved each other or hated. She hated that I was a Management graduate while they all were from an Audit one. The Boss had taken me in so that I could give a management angle to their Internal Audit firm. So we had our tiffs.

‘Aditi, you don’t know how to make a simple report’, she would shout.

‘I know but I don’t know how Auditors make reports’, I would retort.

She believed in finding faults, I believed in making the team work. And the Boss had a merry time watching us.

But then she was our team leader I had to obey her.

Being the introvert type I would be stuck in my cabin. Cabin being the place were internal auditors were given space in the client office. As soon as it was 6 p.m I would leave. ‘Stay a bit late, strike up a conversation, get some info’, she said one day.

‘I may miss my train and if I do I may miss dinner at hostel’, I replied

‘Why’, she asked.

‘The refectory opens at 7.30p.m. If girls are real hungry food gets over by 8’, I said. She never asked me to wait after that.

Soon after I started taking rotis from a Gujarati lady for afternoon. 3 chappatis and some sabji. If you know Gujaratis, then you may know that they make tiny chappatis. And so when I put the first bite inside my mouth, Shravya raised one eyebrow and was about to ask, When I replied, ‘enough for me’.

She shrugged. No wonder… since that morning we had had a massive showdown in the … ahem.. loo. In case you get ideas, let me clarify.. since we work in the client’s office we could not argue/fight in front of everyone could we. In front of everyone we were the perfect team mates.

Next day she brought an even larger dabba. I seriously wonder how she managed to be so slim after eating so much.  ‘Here have some undhiyu’, she said.

‘No, no, I have had enough’, I made a feeble protest.

‘Ma has packed a lot for me, I can’t have that much, at least help in finishing this dabba’, she said.

I had memories of my own mother who never found me fat and fed me to her heart’s content.

I took some and had. After all who can resist undhiyu.

It became a regular affair. She would always get something extra. And I would gladly eat.

It was the fest at Mahim Church. I went along with my hostel mates. Shravya was there too with her mother.

She introduced me to her mother. ‘Is she the one who loves my cooking and for whom you take extras’, she said.

Shravya expertly changed the topic.

Next day I asked her, ‘Why?’

‘What’, she replied.

‘Why do you bring food for me?’, I asked.

She let out a sigh and said, ‘I really couldn’t see you starving Aditi and don’t you see after I started bringing food for you, your work has improved!!’

She was right.

I didn’t have words, I just hugged her.

As Amitabh says in the Daawat ad, we Indians really bond over food.

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013 and today’s topic is food.

Write Tribe

The maze of life

I knocked on the door of the room. Mrs. Bhatia looked up from her book and smiled. ‘Do I know you?’, she asked.

‘I am Dr. Shashi. Remember we sit and talk two days a week’, I said.

‘Do we’, she asked

‘Yes’, I replied.

Mrs. Bhatia has Alzheimer’s and she is put up in this medical facility not because her family does not love her but because her condition is fast deteriorating and she needs to be monitored every single moment.

‘So did you have breakfast’, I asked.

She thought for a minute and said, ‘I think so, stomach feels full’.

I switched on the radio. An old song came on.

She smiled and was lost in her thoughts.

‘What happened Mrs. Bhatia’, I asked.

‘We watched this movie in the club’, she said and then shyly added, ‘Raj Kapoor was looking so handsome that Mr. Bhatia felt jealous.’ she giggled. ‘For one full year he did not allow me to watch any movies of Raj Kapoor’.

‘You liked Nargis too?’, I asked.

She had a faraway look, ‘I loved her in Mother India. I used to threaten my children that I could be as strict as Mother India and would punish them if they didn’t study well’.

‘What are the names of your children, Mrs. Bhatia’, I asked.

‘I used to call my son Riku and daughter Cheeni’, she said.

‘Those are nicknames, what are their actual names’, I asked

She tried to remember but couldn’t.

Then she said. ‘Cheeni is a fun-loving child. Always laughing and making everyone laugh’

My heart turned a little, does it mean she is improving.

‘She loves to dance. I switch on the radio and she dances to whatever song is playing. Such a darling she is, I love dressing her up.’

I smiled. It was good that she was going through the memory lane even if for a brief time.

‘She wants to be a Doctor and Riku an engine driver. Riku is forever running around in his make believe world of engines. And Cheeni is always checking my BP and temperature. We have fun days’, she said.

‘Where are they now?’, I asked.

‘Who?’, she asked

‘Riku and Cheeni?’, I said.

‘I don’t know….. Don’t they come to meet me?’, She said.

Just then an intern came to call me, I was needed somewhere else.

‘Okay, Mrs. Bhatia’, I will leave now’, I said and left.

Outside I stood with the support of the walls. Ma never recognized me. Even if I introduced myself as her daughter she refused to believe me. For her, her daughter Cheeni was still about 10 years old.

Life moves through myriad lanes, some get lost in the mazes of life.

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. Today’s prompt is memory. I propose to write a story every day, let us see how things shape off.

Write Tribe