October 21, 2014 3 Comments
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October 21, 2014 3 Comments
October 17, 2014 5 Comments
‘Ria and Diya, listen, stay in Subha’s house till I come back. I should be back by 4. Open your bags and do your homework quietly. And don’t make a nuisance of yourselves. Is that okay?’
Both of them looked up at me apprehensively and more warmly at Subha, nodding their heads like a flag in dying wind.
I said: ‘Behenji, not to worry. You finish all your work peacefully and return. Until then Subha and I will keep them engaged.’
‘Yes, Bhai Saheb, I know and thanks very much.’
‘Please don’t mention it. Gives us a chance to be with the kids for a while.’
This was true for in Mumbai it is not often neighbors spend any time in each other’s house. And this was the first both for the kids and us.
Our neighbor pinched the girls’ cheeks gently leaving them squealing in mock pain and with a final wave of hand as they gingerly stepped into our house.
Didn’t take more than a few minutes for them to unwind and be their natural bubbly self. What home-work? The girls besieged Subha for stories. Seeing no chance of persuading them to do their mother’s bidding, Subha gave in to their pleas and unspooled the Panchatantra stories embellished with appropriate sounds and animation.
Several stories later, when they showed signs of tiring out on foxes, crows, owls and what-have-you in forests, she deftly switched to Anthakshari – one says a word for the other to continue with a word beginning with the last letter of the first word. With their constrained vocabulary, Anthakshari quickly thinned out yielding to Find-The-Object (FiTO).
FiTO is always a sure hit with kids. And our hall is an ideal setting for FiTO. Hanging from every wall were pictures of gods, figurative paintings from professional artists and family snaps, all in no particular order, provided a canvas of inexhaustible detail. And sitting mutely on shelves and unappreciated by my wife and daughters, those figurines in clay, brass, china, wood and paper collected over the years from all parts of India. Besides being a feast for the eyes, food for the soul, bookmarks to the past and a canvas of inexhaustible detail for playing FiTO, they serve another useful utilitarian purpose – they hide incipient cracks in the walls and unseemly and premature peeling of the paint. It is common knowledge cracks and peels do not arrange themselves on the walls in any particular theme, hence it’s the same with the paintings and figurines in the hall.
All Subha does is to announce an object from this treasure-house of detail for the kids to find it. It is not as easy as it might appear. To illustrate the point, it might be a slice of a mango held by a parrot looking down from a mango tree in a brightly colored painting of a lotus pond, sure to be missed by any casual observer. Or a long-tailed paper kite flying in the sky inadvertently intruding into a family snap.
Subha has this special talent for livening it up for the kids. They just love it when she would reverse the roles letting them enjoy doing it to her.
So it was fun for an hour filled with shrieking guesses, crying foul and gloating successes.
While they were deeply engaged in spotting a coin – that was not a difficult one at all if one knew where to look for – I came in to ask what they would like to drink.
Riya: ‘Hot chocolate.’
Diya: ‘I’ll have something cold?’
‘Certainly, why not?’I said returning to the kitchen.
Unfortunately there was no Coke or Pepsi in the fridge. Not wanting to disappoint the kids, I called out Subha and told her to quickly get some from the shop at the end of our street. Not entirely pleased with going out dressed as she was like she got up from the bed only minutes ago, nevertheless she dragged herself out on the errand.
Neither the kids were pleased at this interruption. But I made it up for the kids serving them riddles, easy ones interspersed with not-so-easy.
So it went:
‘What is yours that others use more than you do?’…
‘Three brothers go around chasing each other, but never catching up?’…
‘What plays when it works and works while it plays?’…
Subha was back at the door when I was on:
‘What is it that you throw out to use it and bring it back when done?’
Ria jumped up: ‘I know, I know…It’s Subha.’
This girl is a budding genius, I thought.
A displeased Subha was more displeased:
‘Appa, you’re mean.You can’t do this.’
I had to clear this up. But first things first. I got the drinks made and offered to the children.
‘Ria, have you seen a ship?’
Wiping off the foam around her mouth, Ria shook her head: ‘Yes Uncle, we went on a ship on Navy Day.’
‘Good. You know a ship cannot stand still in the waters unless it throws out its…’
Diya was quick: ‘Anchors.’
‘There you are. And these anchors are drawn back when the ship wants to move on again.’
Subha was somewhat mollified. Normalcy returned. Though Ria still had the look she was right.
Before I could pose the next riddle, the bell rang.
It was my neighbor back from her outing.
‘Oh, you finished all the work? Didn’t realize two hours have passed.’
‘All done, thanks very much. I hope they didn’t trouble you.’
‘No bother at all. Very sweet they were. We had interesting time. Why don’t you ask them?’
Ria: ‘Amma, can we be with Subha Didi (sister) for some more time? We had lots of fun. Stories, Anthakshari…’
Diya: ‘We spotted an elephant, a mouse, a gold coin…in those pictures.’
Ria: ‘Amma, I beat Didi, she couldn’t find the spider until I showed it to her in the end. Was looking for it all the time in the paintings. It is a real spider in its web, you see in that corner near the vase… You should see how fast it scampered up in a blink when I got close.’
There wasn’t much I could do or say other than looking sheepish.
Diya was not the one to be left behind: ’I also won when Didi couldn’t spot the lizard. It is hiding behind that painting, the one with the moon and the stars. Amma, why don’t we have one in our house?’
Before they could give a complete account of all the species they discovered in our living hall, my neighbor bustled them out to their house saving me from more blushes.
FiTO continues to be played in our house to engage kids visiting us. Only the rules are tightened to include a few exclusions. No living objects. Just to play it safe, no ex-living objects either.
Credits: Pictures from the Net.
October 15, 2014 3 Comments
One fine morning Murphy drops some buttered toast on the kitchen floor and it lands butter-side-up.
He looks down in astonishment, for he knows that it’s a law of nature of the universe that buttered toast always falls butter-side-down, so he rushes round to the presbytery to fetch Father Flanagan. He tells the priest that a miracle has occurred in his kitchen, but he won’t say what it is, so he asks Fr. Flanagan to come and see it with his own eyes. He leads Fr. Flanagan into the kitchen and asks him what he sees on the floor.
No, Father, I dropped it and it landed like that!” exclaimed Murphy.
“Oh my Lord,” says Fr. Flanagan, “dropped toast never falls with the butter side up. It’s a miracle… No… Wait… It’s not for me to say it’s a miracle. I’ll have to report this matter to the Bishop and he’ll have to deal with it. He’ll send some people round; to interview you, take photographs, and so on…”
A thorough investigation is conducted, not only by the archdiocese but by scientists sent over from the Curia in Rome. No expense is spared. There is great excitement in the town as everyone knows that a miracle will bring in much need tourism revenue.
Then, after 8 long weeks and with great fanfare, the Bishop announces the final ruling.
“It is certain that some kind of an extraordinary event took place in Murphy’s kitchen, quite outside the natural laws of the universe. Something has definitely happened which cannot be explained by Earthly means. Yet the Holy See must be very cautious before ruling a miracle and all other explanations must be ruled out. And so, unfortunately for that very reason, in this case, it has been declared ‘No Miracle’ because they think that Murphy may have simply buttered the toast on the wrong side!”
October 10, 2014 1 Comment
It is not unusual things happen all at the same time. So it was today. We had a neighbor’s son’s marriage to attend and Raju had a job interview to go, his sixth in the three months after his graduation.
Pushing him to get ready was not the easiest task. He had his time with the morning papers, and an unhurried breakfast. With vagaries of traffic on streets of Mumbai there was no telling – one was always too early for a meeting or too late. Somehow we got him out of the house in my car. And soon we were on our way.
We caught a red at the Amar Mahal Junction going over to Ghatkopar from Chembur (East). Shortly after we had stopped, a young man materialized on my side of the auto (three-wheeler), one hand scratching his unshaven chin and the other hand open and tentatively stuck out at me.
At this junction, a red stopping the traffic is a green for alms-seekers of all hues – physically handicapped, transvestites, children, women with babes in arms and men with an arm or a leg in an outsized cast – to descend from the side-walks on their prospects in vehicles. They spot a likely benefactor, plead and close, all within only a minute or two before a green turns on the traffic. For them women traveling by auto’s – there are no glasses to roll up and shut out – have proved to be a fairly sure bet.
Just on the count of appearing on my side – the wrong side – I marked this guy down as not a professional. He carried no pan or a can to collect, stood there investing all his time with a prospect he couldn’t be sure of and was in no hurry to try his luck with the vehicle ahead of us. No heart-rending words or gestures on his unkind fate to milk our sympathy. He just stood there gazing at me. An abject loser, it seemed.
Instinctively I fished out some coins and thrust them into his hands just in time as the red changed to green and we moved on.
We rode past a few blocks when my wife said: ‘You’re doing a wrong thing.’
‘What did I do now?’
‘A soft touch, you are…discouraging able-bodied men from working for a living…they get used to it. There wasn’t anything wrong with him.’
The nice lady…never stops me in my act. But never fails to let me know what she thinks.
My views were different: ‘Who knows? He might be deaf, mute or even mentally challenged. Arrey, you know, engineers in my office fa*t around not knowing what do in their jobs. And here we’re talking about a guy, assuming for a moment he’s fit though I doubt very much, with no education, no skills and possibly no home or family and expect him to push himself into a job and earn a fair wage?’
‘I still say he ought to find some job rather than be on the road. The market place is just behind us. Must not be too difficult tp find some work even as a casual labor. One must start somewhere.’
I fell silent. These encounters on the roads always drain me until other distractions thankfully take me away.
That was that. We proceeded to attend the marriage followed by a feast as always. On our return ride I did not look for him as we passed the spot – I had forgotten all about it.
In the afternoon we were rudely woken up by Raju leaning on the door-bell.
The young man looked no worse for the wear as he walked in with his shoulders in a usual stoop. Like a batsman returning after a long innings out in the middle.
My wife wouldn’t hold herself back:
‘Raju, what happened? You got the job?’
‘What Mom…yes, I had to get selected. Couldn’t have been otherwise. But I said no. ’
‘Arrey, why did you do that? Was the pay not good?’
‘Not that. In fact they were ready to start me off with a higher pay. These guys sell their equipment all over India. They want me to travel by train and bus to reach the sites for installation. Told them it has to be metro areas, no mofussil. Sorry, Mom, you know I can’t do it.’
‘Not to worry, son. Am sure you’ll get a job of your liking. Only a matter of time. Don’t let it pull you down. Now go and change. Did you have anything to eat or should I stir up something?’
I wasn’t one to say anything to an audience I didn’t have.
October 5, 2014 3 Comments
These are the photos taken by Dallas, Texas photographer Tom Hussey using sets of real people aged 40 to 50 years apart. Here an elderly woman clutches a comb for her white hair while the dark-haired reflection of a young school teacher, a notebook and red apple in her arms, reflects back in her mirror.
October 4, 2014 1 Comment
September 30, 2014 8 Comments
One more of Akbar-Birbal stories never told before!
Emperor Akbar held an open court on certain days of the month when any of his subjects with a grievance could walk in and seek help or justice from the court. On some occasions, the emperor himself would hear the matter and deliver judgment. On other days it was left to a senior minister to stand in for him.
On this day when the brothers Ram and Kishan took their matter to the court, Akbar himself was in the seat. The two brothers inherited a large tract of fertile cultivable land from their deceased father. Unfortunately there was no will, the father’s death being unexpected and sudden. Goaded by their wives the siblings decided to part ways and were at loggerheads over equitable division of the property.
It was a pretty straightforward matter to resolve. Akbar had one of his officials do some measurements and calculations on the map produced by the brothers. Very quickly an area was marked for Ram and another for Kishan.
Kishan felt let down:
‘My Lord, my brother gets 600 fully grown mango trees while there are only 400 for me. If you permit me, doesn’t seem fair to me at all.’
Akbar went into consultation with his official and found it to be true. More measurements and more calculations and the boundary was redrawn.
It was Ram’s turn now to voice his disappointment:
‘My Lord, to Kishan you’ve given away eight water-holes to draw water and there are only three for me. How does one grow crops without water?’
For the first time Akbar’s visage broke into what could be described as a frown. Back to the drawing board. This time they were more careful to propose a solution that took into consideration several considered important by the brothers.
Kishan took one look and cried in dismay:
‘My lord, my brother’s property is directly accessible from the main trunk road while mine is pushed out to the far end on a kaccha road. Is this fair?’
An exasperated Akbar concluded there was just no way of arriving at a mutually acceptable division between the two brothers. This was worse than a cat’s ball of wool. No, he knew exactly what he would do. Now he would propose a solution that is as fair as possible and the brothers would have no choice but to lump it. That was that. No one can fault him for not trying hard enough.
Just then he saw Birbal enter his court. A thought struck in his mind: ‘Why not ask Birbal to solve this one? He always tries to be clever. Let me see how he gets out of this one.’
So Birbal was summoned and briefed about the dispute. The details of Akbar’s unsuccessful attempts in solving the dispute were tactfully held back.
Birbal smiled for he had come in a little earlier and was fully in the know of what had happened.
‘My Lord, you did right by turning this irksome matter over to me. May I request you, Sir, to retire without any misgivings on the outcome. I assure you they will be quite satisfied with what I suggest.’
Beset with curiosity, Akbar let it be known he wasn’t budging and asked Birbal to proceed forthwith.
Birbal bowed in assent and walked up to the brothers:
‘We’re going to toss a coin. Ram you’re going to call. If you call right you get to carve up the land for your brother and yourself. If you fail, Kishan divides up the land.’
No longer had Birbal finished, both the brothers were immediately up in arms. They cried:
‘Are you seriously suggesting we divide up on our luck with the toss of a coin? We came here for a fair judgment that would be satisfactory to both of us.’
Calming them down, Birbal added:
‘Well, I had not finished. While the winner draws the boundary, the loser gets to choose his piece first.’
Silence reigned for a while as the ingenuity of Birbal’s clever scheme slowly sank in.
And when it finally did, Ram and Kishan had to agree this was best for them.
Akbar shook his head in disbelief turning into admiration at the simplicity of Birbal’s solution to what seemed to him only moments ago as an intractable problem.
Credits: folknet.in and shortstories.co.in for images and inspired by raykiwsp.wordpress.com