Tag Archive | life

The worried and the worries

The Indian community here is always in a frenzy. The middle class is worried about tomorrow, or to be more precise, whether they will have their jobs tomorrow while the upper class is worries about which vacations to take. of course to spend the moolah they earn.

Of course there is another worry too. As the residency permit laws are strict and no one can get citizenship, parents have a different set of worries. Whether the children will be able to adjust in India? Understandably children raised in the confined and protected areas of Bahrain have problems to acclimatize back in India, both weather wise and otherwise.

The parents of girls have some more worries, how to protect their daughters. I understand their worries. If I had a daughter I would myself become a bodyguard for her. I keep a hawk’s eye on my girl-students, I have to, aren’t they my responsibility in the premises of the Institute.

It sometimes amazes me how we change. Just a decade and a half ago I was carefree, daring and well……. free. And now I fret even if a single boy is extra cordial to a single girl. Have I changed that much or have the times changed.

I remember the boys in my class thinking of me as proud because I was independent and kept my stand and of course kept them at arm’s length. I remember slitting a mans wrist slightly because he was acting smart in a movie theatre, I remember kicking a man on his shin because he was trying to touch me in the train…there are numerous other examples but today I am scared. Why?

I remember once I was homesick. I was working in Mumbai and my parents were coming to Mangalore to attend my grandmothers first death anniversary. I just decided to visit them. Of course I would not get train reservation. So I took a bus. The bus was su;posed to be delayed because of the monsoon but it reached right on time at 4.30 in the morning. Everyone got down, me too. The conductor asked me if anyone was coming to pick me. I looked around, there was nobody, so I said no. He hailed a rickshaw, noted its number and made me sit with my bag. Ten minutes later I reached home. I became a star of the moment for having dared to take a rickshaw in the dark of the night/morning. But then I explained about how the conductor had helped me. My parents were proud. Proud that finally their daughter could manage alone.

Times for girls I feel have remained the same. They always had to take care of their safety. But then earlier trust was easy and today it is not. As we move ahead technologically the basic qualities of trust, faith, integrity are all dwindling. Sad isn’t it.

But then I had been tough. Today when I see my girl students they seem to be in a world of imagination, obsessed with their lifestyles and their mobiles. And I worry, because life isn’t that easy or that straight.

So I will keep on looking out for all the females around me, you can do that too.

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Guiding Light

ID-100249237I moved about the alumni meet, a nod here a hello there. It feels good that your students have done well. Yes, that day I was proud. Proud that in some way I had been able to help these young men and women.

A young woman just came a nd hugged me, ‘Meghana’. I said. How did you know it is me’, she said, moving back and looking at my face.

‘Because you were the only one who were not afraid of the strict Mrs. Koshy.’ I said with a smile. Also if I remember correctly the whole of fifth grade you were in tears and would hug me every other minute.’

‘And that was because I was shifted to a new school in the middle of the school year….Otherwise crying and me……nah’, she said with a twinkle in her eye.

‘Tell me what are you doing now’, I asked

‘Oh me, I am a mom, a wife, a daughter …..’, she went on saying

‘Career?’, I asked.

‘I used to work in IT but then quit. The stress was just not worth it’, she said with a smile.

I patted her affectionately. Meghana had always been like that. Confident and clear. I always knew that she would follow her heart.

Have you met the others of my batch Arindam, Dilip. Swasti….’, she asked

I saw them but haven’t spoken yet’, I replied.

‘Come then’, she said, held my hand and took me where the others stood.

‘Teacher’, said Swasti

‘How are you Swasti’, I asked.

‘You remember ME’, she said in joy.

‘How can I not’, I said, ‘And moreover, I see you everyday in all the channels.

‘Huh’, grimaced Dilip

She beamed in joy. ‘You must be surprised to see me successful today isn’t it. Considering I was so hopeless in studies’.

I remembered all those years. Of Swasti failing in Maths, losing her books, not completing her homework.

‘Not really, I always knew you would be successful in your calling’, I said with a smile

‘Really’, she beamed.

‘How can you say that. I mean a ‘failure’ can be successful. And here are people like me who have to struggle throughout our life’, it was Dilip.

‘I said I knew she would be good in her calling and her calling was politics’, I said.

Dilip grunted, Meghana was uncomfortable, Swasti beamed, Arindam looked serene.

And you Arindam’, I asked.

‘Oh I am FCMA ie a Fellow of….’

‘CIMA’ I completed.

“Tell me teacher did you ever envisage that I would be an Accountant’, he asked.

‘I had thought that you would be…..spiritual’, I asked and stopped as I saw his jaw drop. ‘What happened’, I asked.

‘Accounting is something which i do to feed me and my family. The rest of my time I spend researching and lecturing on scriptures,’ he said, ‘but how did you know then’.

‘I knew’, I smiled. ‘You had this inherent quest. You were never satisfied with superficial knowledge. And look at you now the peace that I see in your face, I don’t see in anyones face’.

Arindam just bowed graciously.

‘That is the quality of a good teacher, she KNOWS her students’, chipped in Meghana.

Dilip just grunted.

And so Meghana took me to one and all. The last one was Dilip. When I came to meet him, Meghana left me saying that she did not like to be in the company of negative people.

Dilip just gave a wry smile.

‘So Dilip, what do you do for a living’, I asked.

‘I am a teacher’, he said

‘Oh so you are one of my kind’, I said

He just stood.

‘Why so much bitterness, Dilip?’, I asked.

‘I was good in studies Teacher. I had worked so hard throughout my life but what happened? I am a teacher today because my parents could not afford to put me for engineering or medical or any business school. And while that dimwit, cheater, manipulative Swasti is an MP today I am a teacher with a measly salary who has to take tuitions of rich kids to make ends meet’, he said emotionally.

He was right Swasti had been a cheater, manipulative. She was someone who had to be taught a lesson at least five times to understand.

‘Aren’t you happy to be a teacher. Isn’t it wonderful to touch so many young and fresh kids and help shape their future’, i said.

Dilip after his outburst had calmed down a lot. ‘It does Teacher but when you have to do a tightrope walk balancing the finances….’, he said.

‘You know Dilip, ultimately one becomes what he is good for and what he wants to do. Meghana was always a family person, Arindam always had this quest for perfection, Swasthi was manipulative and you, you were always good in teaching. I remember you used to help out everyone with Maths after school hours and all had got good marks.’ I said.

Dilip had visibly calmed down by now.

I continued., ‘Money, power can’t buy you peace or happiness Dilip but doing your job well, brings happiness in others’ life does’.

He nodded with a smile.

The felicitations started and we all moved towards the stage.

Many were felicitated that day and in the end my name was called. Dilip came on stage and it was announced that Dilip would do the honours, ‘from one teacher to another’

‘To a teacher who has been our guiding light’, he said while giving me the memento. ‘I hope I can be a guiding light to others, as you have been to us all’, he added in private with a smile that came from his heart.

As we all posed for a photograph, I felt at peace.

Picture courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblace to any person living or dead is inintentional.

‘Maid’ to order

I brought this, Kamla said pointing to her bag. I peered inside. It held a cucumber, two tomatoes and a beetroot. ‘Is it okay?’, She asked. Though I was fuming inside, I said, ‘Perfect……for a salad’.

I am a journalist. And while reviewing a rehabilitation center I  met Kamla. She was a victim of domestic violence. She had been beaten so wildly by her husband that she has lost one eye and her mental balance. The police had rescued her on a complaint of a neighbour on one of her husband’s beating sprees and she had been sent to the center. Now physically she was fine and the center did not know what to do with her.

I was in need of a maid. One who would cook, clean and provide companionship. I opted to take her on. Her husband was still in jail and there was no threat of him to come anytime and demand her presence. Her parents were in Jharkhand and neither were they interested to take her in their care. The center incharge was more than happy to hand Kamala over to me. it was fixed that I would pay Kamala a sum of Rs 1500 every month for her services. My meagre earnings did  not allow  me to give her more. I assured the incharge that I would open a Recurring deposit in her name and the amount would be paid into it.  And then took her home.

The past two weeks has not been easy for me or her. Though I keep assuring her that she is safe here with me. She is perpetually in fear. The whistle of the pressure cooker, the doorbell, the ringtone of my mobile, anything can arouse fear in her and now I am so irritated with her fears that I want to go and beat the hell out of the man who is the reason of these fears. and yes she fears men too…any man. She is afraid of the watchman, the courier boy, the delivery man et all. Now how on earth can I substitute all these men with women.

I am lost in my thoughts when the mobile rings. I pick it up to hear the editor, ‘ Raksha are you my assistant’.

‘Yes’,  I said wondering where the conversation is heading.

‘I sent a package to you, why didn’t you or your help open the door’, he says.

‘Boss, I just returned from the _____ assignment. …..’, I say.

‘What about your househelp’, he says and continues, ‘ Raksha don’t give me lame excuses. I had sent  you a draft which needs urgent editing, now be here in another 30 minutes and pick it up personally’ and slams the phone.

‘Kamla’, I call out trying to be as calm as possible.

She comes and stands before me.

‘When I was not at home, did the doorbell ring?’ I ask.

She nods a yes.

‘Why didn’t you open the door’, I ask

‘Didi, I saw through the peep-hole, it was a big bald man with big moustache and so I did not open the door’, she says.

Kamla, it is Jagdish, he is the peon from my office and he has been here so many times, then why didn’t you open the door’, I scream losing my patience.

She looks at me with tears in her eyes . I leave the matter then and there and rush to go to the office.

‘Maid problems?’ a voice calls when I shut the main door. I move around to see my neighbour Latika.

‘Yes Latika, but I will speak to you later. Right now I have to rush to my office’, I say and run.

Later I call her from office and explain my woes.

‘Listen, she says, ‘I am free in the afternoons, how about me coaching her.’

‘Coaching on what?’, I say.

‘Hmm…life skills, respecting others, recognising good and bad etc…’, she said.

Will you do that Latika….’ I say.

‘For you … I will’, she says.

And from then on the afternoon sessions start.

In some days, I see subtle changes. she is less afraid of using the pressure cooker, she picks the mobile, yes she is still afraid of  opening the door to strangers but I am confident that Latika’s coaching will cure her of this fear too.

‘Thanks a ton Latika, I see visible changes in Kamla now, I tell Latika when I meet her.

‘Oh, she is a lovely lady Raksha, she just needed some patience’, she says.

 

          ***************

Kamla is now a better person, a much confident woman too.  I can concentrate on my job and need not fear about leaving her alone at home. In addition I feel good that there is someone back at home. Yes, she is my family now.

I am relaxing in my balcony when Kamla comes and stands beside me. By her demeanor I can understand that she wants to tell something.

‘What is it, Kamla?’, I ask.

‘I will be quitting this place at the end of this month’, she says

‘Huh’, is all that I can say.

‘I am getting 500 more at the other place’, obviously she knows I can’t pay her more.

‘And yes give my RD passbook when I leave’, she adds.

And goes away.

‘Kamla’, I say finding my voice.

Yes’, she says.

‘Where are you joining’, I say in a  faltering voice.

‘At Latika madams’ she says smilingly and  walks away.

 

In search of Nimai

I saw Shreya looking at me from the doorway. I looked at her and smiled, she smiled too. She made a sign of ”aarti” and I mumbled a yes.

‘Alright children, time for aarti…so lets wind up the class’, I said. The children happily scampered away.

Only Little Nimai sat in his place repeating what had been taught to him. I sat down near him. ‘Nimai’, I said

He looked at me smiled and went on repeating.

‘Nimai’, I repeated, ‘Don’t you want to go for Narsimha Aarti’.

He raised his head and said, ‘Aarti?’.

I nodded.

He ran at the speed of lightning.

Thursdays are special days here in Bahrain and especially at the temple. Thursday evening there is a Bhagvatham class for adults. At the same time some volunteers take classes for children. They are told stories, taught some life skills, some activity and so on.

Nimai is a special needs child. He sits in the class if he is in the mood. But when he does so, he does with full attention. And though I try to remain neutral to all the children, over the weeks I have become very attached to Nimai. Maybe it is his transparency or his dedication, I do not know what but the fact is whenever I come to temple, I search for Nimai.

By the time I reach the main hall in the temple, the aarti is at the last stage. And then a voice raises, ‘Nitai Gaur Premanande’ and everyone join in with a ‘Hari Haribol’ and I smile a broad smile. Nimai may be always in his own world, but he never forgets to add in at the end.

*******

It has been two weeks and I haven’t seen Nimai. And I am upset. ‘Ananya’, Shreya says, ‘Why are you so upset? So many people come and go.’

‘Shreya, Nimai and his parents are very dedicated. They will not stop coming to the temple just like that’, I said teary eyed.

Although married for ten years we haven’t had a baby and it has now been proved that we will never have one. I love children and I try to maintain an emotional distance from them. Often mothers get disturbed when they see a childless woman getting attached to her  child. But Nimai? I did not understand why I was so fond of him. Was it because he knew to love without barriers or the fact that both of us will never be complete?

********

It was almost two months now since Nimai was not to be seen and I felt helpless. It was weekend and I just took my car and went. A couple of times I had dropped Nimai and his mother to their area because it had been late. So I took my car to that place and decided to search around. I just knew the area. Didn’t know which building or flat they lived in.

The best bet was the cold store. Usually the workers in cold store know who lives where. And so I went in. ‘Oh that boy’, the man at the counter said on my description of Nimai, ‘they left this place. Their employer shifted them to Askar as some construction is going on there’

‘Askar?’ I thought. Askar is a place quite far off and that meant that I would have to resume my search the next day.

I slept heartily that night. I awoke with hope, yes today was going to be a bright day.

I left in the evening at three. I would reach there by four thirty. That meant I had enough time till dusk to search for him. I knew where Nimai’s parents worked and had inquired where the people of that company were housed.

But it was not so easy. Askar was a desert literally. There were some hundred houses. Not a cold store or a tree in sight. Where would I search. And then I saw a large place. People were going in  and many were coming out. I asked one woman what was going on. ‘Oh that’, she said, ‘it is our prayer hall, go inside you will like it’, she said.

I removed my footwear, washed my feet and went in. It was a prayer hall alright. You could see all faiths there. On one side was Maa Durga, A Shivlinga stood in one corner. Sai Baba smiled at me while on one side A sardarji was quietly fanning the Guru Granth Sahib. I felt happy. I knew Nimai and his parents would surely come here.

It was 7 p.m. and I was dejected. Night was about to fall and I had to reach home before it became very dark.

I rose and came out, ‘Where could I search for Nimai now.

‘Mataji’, a voice boomed.

I raised my head. Nimai ran from the other end came to me and hugged me tight. I got down on my knees and we both hugged again and wept.

‘where had you disappeared Nimai’, I said, ‘I have missed you so much’

‘Sorry mataji’, his mother said, Our employer asked us to relocate overnight, I didn’t have your phone number to inform you. Nimai misses you so much’.

‘Do you Nimai’, I asked. He nodded shyly.

‘You know mataji, this is the first time he is showing attachment to someone other than us and we are so happy about that. It has been because of the love you have given him and your patience’, she said.

‘Nimai will you like to come for classes again’, I said.

He shook his head wildly in the affirmative.

‘But Mataji’, his mother said, ‘we live so far off and we don’t own a car, so how…….’

‘Don’t worry about all that’, I said, ‘If you have the will, everything can be arranged’.

I went back home with a spring in my steps, my search was over, Nimai would be back in school.

* fiction

 

Sweet Angel III

Part I here, Part II here

Fifteen days had passed since Akhila’s mother had died. You could have money, you could have the best of medical attention and yet when death comes calling, nobody can do anything.

The bubbly Akhila had become quiet. Mechanically she went about her work with a vacant look in her eyes. My heart bled. Anand noticed her silence and one night after she had slept, summoned all of us to talk.

‘So what are your plans?’, he asked his brother.

His brother still grieving for his wife asked, ‘Which plans?’

‘Will you be staying here to be near your in-laws, will you be back to our place, what?’

‘Let me see’, he said still not ready to make a decision.

‘Anna, you have to decide soon. Akhila needs a family. Just see how lost she is….’, his voice cracked up.

His brother was lost in his own grief.

‘We are old but we will take care of Akhila’, her grandmother said, ‘How will Arun manage a job and taking care of her. Once he remarries then maybe he can take her back’.

‘But will she like it here’, I said. Her grandmother was a disciplinarian. Would the chirpy bubbly girl, like here in the iron rule of her grandmother.

‘Is there any other option?, said she.

‘We can take care of her’, said Anand hesitatingly, looking nervously at me.

In other circumstances I would have screamed at him asking how dare he take such a big decision without consulting with me first. But today I was calm. Today ‘me’ didn’t matter. It was Akhila’s happiness which mattered the most.

‘Your wife?’, said the old woman with a toothy grin, ‘She hasn’t been ready to mother your child, will she be ready to mother someone else’s?’

______________________

I am packing. Today we are leaving to get Akhila admitted to the Medical College at Manipal. I can hear peals of laughter from the adjoining room while my eyes well up with tears every passing moment.

And suddenly she comes and hugs me from behind.

‘I suppose we can take bath in your tears today’, she jokes.

I shrug her off.

‘Chikkamma, I will be coming home almost every weekend so why are you mourning’, she says.

‘You will understand only when you become a mother’, I say.

‘Really… so when did you become a mother, the day I came to stay here or the day Adesh was born’, she says.

I give her a slap on her back.

I don’t really know when I became a mother. Was it the day when she came to stay with us or was it the day when she refused to stay with her grandmother and held me tight or was it the day I gave birth to Adesh. But I know that Akhila made me see a new side of me, a side I had refused to acknowledge, that of being a mother, that of being Me.

As we dropped her to the college hostel to take her steps to be a Gynecologist, I thanked the one above for having sent this angel in my Life.

 

Sweet angel-I

‘Still on the computer, go prepare lunch or else it will be late again’.

I looked up at my niece in irritation.

Why are you looking like that? Then when Chikappa(Father’s younger brother) comes and shouts at you because lunch is not ready, don’t complain to me’, she said.

I got up with a sigh. With such a niece, you can never miss not having a mother-in-law.

By 1 p.m  the house was sparkling clean and the food was ready on the table.

‘See how happy Chikappa will be when he comes home and sees this’, Akhila said.

I was irritated. I mean, yes sometimes I do get delayed but I don’t really like it if someone bosses around me. especially kids who don’t behave their age.

Akhila was my brother-in-law’s daughter. She is studying in 2nd standard. they stay quite nearby. Someday’s back my co-sister had some complications in her second pregnancy and thought it better if she went to her parents place and stayed in their care. But Akhila had yet to finish her exam. We volunteered to look after her till she finished her exam.

The husband came and yes he was happy to see a clean home and a ready lunch. Akhila gave me a ‘I told you so smile’. And I got irritated further.

I returned to my work. I work online and had some pending assignments.

I heard some noise. I rushed out to see that Akhila had cleared the table.

‘I would have done it Akhila, why you had to do’, I said.

‘The maid will be coming now, so she will not have to wait’, she said.

‘Don’t try to teach me how to do things Akhila’, I screamed.

She looked at me in amazement. ‘But I was just trying to help you’, she said.

I wanted to say some more, but her innocent expression stopped me and I went to my room and slammed the door.

The maid came and she did her job in the supervision of the kid. I didn’t bother to go out.

I do not know when I fell asleep. I had a slight headache since morning but by mid noon it was raging. I just wanted to lie down for some time but then ….

‘Chikamma, why are you still sleeping’, I heard her come in’, and then I felt her hand on my forehead.

And then she said’ oh my you are burning…     you have a fever’, and then silence.

After some time I heard her come back.

‘Chikamma have some bread’, she said.

I mumbled a no.

‘Chikamma have some bread and then take a crocin. Amma says you should not take medicine on an empty stomach’, and she nagged on till I got up.

Tears flowed from my eyes when she fed me. Yes she was irritating but she was an angel too.

Three lives

I hummed a tune as I tidied my room. The phone rang. I felt it was not good news and my feet refused to move. Naina came in from the other room and looked at me quizzically and then proceeded to pick the call.

I listened. She kept on looking at me every now and then and I knew it was not good news.

Every now and then I get these premonitions and usually when something is wrong. I remember when my mother took her last breath, I had come to know about it even though she was 1000s of kms away. Today too the same had happened, although in the same city. My sister’s husband had an accident. He died then and there.

As I became busy with the formalities my sister remained in silence. Her son came from the US but he left soon. She remained solemn, silent. I shuttled between her house and mine. Trying to gather bits and pieces.

I looked at the insurance, paid the electricity bill, took her out for walks. But she remained solemn.

 

Sakhi had been a bubbly girl. Very creative and outgoing. She was the darling of everyone and so she got her own way in everything she wanted. Was that a mistake I do not know.

I looked at her, how had she become like this. A caricature of her past. A slave of routine. A small change and she was helpless. Do we get all we want, do we always have her way, and does death wait for anyone.

She did not know about their investments, she didn’t know where all they had bank accounts; she did not know where the electricity bill had to be paid. How did this happen, how did she become so dependent.

Naina admonished me. Why are you taking so much interest, she says. How can I not; Sakhi is my sister. Does she care for you, she asked. She is selfish, she said, you will only get hurt. Maybe, I said, but I cannot shirk my responsibility. I will help her as long as she allows me.

 

 

It is almost 10 months that her husband departed. There is still no change. I watch her speak to her son on the phone, ‘Com home soon, I do not know what to do or else take me with you’, she pleads.

At home I see Naina in a solemn mood, what happened, I ask. My mother had come today, she says. She wants me to send some more money every month as that no good brother of mine needs it. I know for what. He must be needing it for his clothes and parties. I refused.

What was her reaction, I asked.

Oh, she blamed for everything. How my father had wasted money on educating me, how I was not taking responsibility and so on.

We both sat in silence for some time. I remembered Naina coming in first day to my place looking for a paying guest accommodation. and what a transition she had made. From a gawky teenager to this self confident woman. Our relationship today was more of a mother daugher one rather than a owner-tenant.

So what do you plan now’, I asked. I will continue with what I am doing now and plus I will register myself in one of the matrimonial site and if I get the right guy, get married and have my own family. It is time I thought of myself now, isn’t it, she asked. I smiled at her. I loved her confidence and positivity.

But tell me why are you so silent today, she asked. Because of Sakhi, I said. She refuses to come out of her grief.

She is plain selfish, Naina said.

What, I said.

Yes, don’t you see, she is used to making people work for her. Her husband did so all these years and it is you now. Her son is smart, he ran away. Mark my words, he will never return here nor will he take her there.

I knew in my heart that what Naina said was true.

 

 

Sakhi, come we will go for a walk, I said.

I don’t want to, she whined.

Sakhi, I said, enough of this mourning. Take charge of your life. Go out meet people, discover new interests.

‘What do you know of my pain’, she screamed, ‘Do you know how it feels to be left alone, you have a career, you are independent, how will you know?’

My mind flashed back 20 years back. My husband had left me because I could not bear any child. I had just done matriculation, what could I do. But didn’t I survive. From educating myself, working odd jobs, finally getting a government job. I bought my own house and started keeping paying guests so that I could have some additional money. I worked as a volunteer too in so many social organizations.

I got up and took my bag and left her home. We all have to take charge of our lives. Some people refuse to do that and need some shock. Sakhi would have to battle her own battles from now on. And I hoped she would be victorious.

Sometimes in life you had to be very selfish for your own good. I was being one now, I just wished she would be too and stand up on her own feet.