February 14, 2017 Leave a comment
Just another WordPress.com weblog
November 5, 2016 18 Comments
Ever since we landed in the same suburb, I have met B off and on in the vegetable market place outside the railway station.
A week ago, out of the blue, a cryptic mail from his daughter M carried the news of her mother’s unfortunate demise. When I had met B last, he did tell me his wife was unwell and M left her job months ago to take care of her mother. And I had then questioned the need and wisdom of M leaving her job that she had finally snagged after a lot of bench time, not thinking much of the poor lady’s sickness. The family, living on B’s pension, sorely needed the money the young lady was bringing in, I thought.
M did not reply to email-request for house address to call on them.
A bit of a background about B at this point:
B was a topper in the class, well mannered, darling of teachers, easily a good looker, a singer with a mellifluent voice, liked by all…
But life is a bitch. I’ve no idea till date when, where and how things went awry for him. We had gone on separate ways after the college.
I do know he retired as a staff in a nationalized bank not very far from where he started out eons ago. An anticlimax I had never imagined for an eagle of the blue skies that he was. He dabbled in dramatics, didn’t go far. When I met him years later – I moved into the same suburb where he lived – he was a very different man. Unkempt beard over sunken cheeks, hard of hearing, he sported strings of beads (rudraaksha) around his neck and many rakshai’s (lucky charms) tied on his wrist. He spoke of visions and favorable portents in his life with a religious fervor. On another track, he sounded excited about his ‘research’ on neem juice, experiments, results – he thought it to be a panacea for many ills. He expected Tata’s and the Ambani’s to line up anytime soon outside his residence for rights to his work. On the whole, he didn’t seem to be the garden variety we had matured into.
He was shunned by many as an incurable and a delusional bore. I did not, I’m glad, by thought or action. When we met I usually heard him out, managing now and then to get a word in on his parental duty to set and support his girl firmly on a course of education-employment-marriage just the way it is for other kids of her age; and gently easing myself off only if I had to.
Today I decided to visit the nearby bank – B had once told me he went there regularly to collect his monthly pension – hoping to get his address from them citing the unusual circumstances. I knew this was not impossible as our systems and staff continue, despite the scorn heaped on them, to be sensitive to genuine problems. When I went in, unstopped by absent security, I saw a man appearing to be a senior staff, generally moving about and a few ladies lazing before their terminals – the bank had closed its operations for the day. I went up to tell him the purpose of my visit: To know whereabouts of B. Showing no surprise at a stranger popping up suddenly before him after working hours , without further ado, he asked me to follow him to the end of a short hallway. And there I find who else!
After the initial surprise and happiness at this coincidence, I expressed my condolences over his loss and my anguish at not being around to stand by him.
What followed from B:
‘Her time had come, what could we do? It all started with a minor accident four months ago. She even recovered very well. But then…’
‘Don’t worry about me, take care of yourself. Don’t you forget your health issues…’
‘I’m quite ok financially. I get my pension which would get revised up very soon…M’s earnings till date are safely set aside for her marriage. In two to three years I’ll get her married off…My brother would help if needed. He is doing well…’
‘I came here to check on my loan application for a small amount. They told me it’s approved…’
‘M and I took her to the hospital at night by a three-wheeler. An ambulance, I was told, would cost Rs 9000…’
‘Don’t feel bad. I wasn’t alone. Lots of relatives and neighbors turned up for the funeral. On purpose I told my daughter to inform you only after it was all over. Given your health…’
‘Don’t trouble yourself coming home. These days both of us (B and M) are out almost all day. M’s running around to complete insurance formalities…’
‘Her people came in very late…’
What left me in dismay:
‘No priest would come to conduct the rites at the funeral. They wanted a full contract all the way for the following ten days of rituals at nothing less than Rs 80,000. Finally I cremated her without a priest, without the rites…’
‘My brother paid for the ambulance…’
‘It’s ok, I can feel her atma (soul) is with me all the time…In fact she told me at the end not to spend unduly over the ceremonies…My daughter and I gave away food to some poor…’
If you perceive contradictions in his observations above, it’s the truth trying to peek through despite his naïve attempt to paper over or reconcile certain unpleasant realities in his own mind.
In the fifteen minutes or so we were together, he was moved to tears for a moment just once as we hugged, as much bemoaning his loss, as over an old mates’s solicitiousness
When I left him, he. was not a broken man. He lives in peace and reconciliation in his own world very real in parts. I thought it is too cruel to ‘help’ him out of it. Nor I consider myself equal to the task.
Try as I might I’m unable to put down a vague sense of unfairness of it all continuing to nag me out of my peace.
But I know I’ll move on.
October 29, 2016 5 Comments
One morning a trader obtained asubstantial order for coconuts from a temple in a nearby village. They had to be delivered well in time for the pooja on the following morning. It was a snappy call to action. There was no time to look for help. He climbed up the trees at the back and knocked off the coconuts onto the ground below. These were collected and loaded onto his donkey with some effort and more ropes. Once done, he was happy with himself for managing it all with just one beast – two of them would have made it easier to pack but trickier to manage on the road single-handedly.
Not losing time he made inquiries about the route and headed for the village with his donkey to deliver the coconuts personally – the business was too important to leave it with hired hands.
Though the sun was not high up yet, a couple of hours on the road had tired him out and his animal. He took a break under the shade of a banyan tree.
Just then a shepherd passed by driving his flock ahead of him.
The trader hailed him: ‘Hey, here, how long does it to take to reach the temple?’
When he looked at him from close he regretted ever asking the shepherd who was plain-as-nose dim-witted.
The shepherd gazed at the trader and his donkey now ready to resume the journey, his gaze going back and forth a couple of times over the duo.
His eyes crinkled at the effort of producing a response: ‘Babuji, at a swift pace you’ll reach the temple from here by sun-set.’
The shepherd moved on to keep up with his flock, not before offering his counsel: ‘On the other hand, go slow and you’ll be there in a couple of hours, I guess – well before noon.’
The fellow quite patently didn’t have his marbles in place – the trader cursed himself for his own stupidity.
Refreshed from the break, he set out at a brisk pace.
To cut the long story short, they finished their journey together – the trader and the donkey on the road and the sun above.
A much relieved priest collected his consignment of coconuts from the trader still stricken with severe back-pain – an unfortunate outcome, not entirely unexpected, from bending down so often to pick up the scattered coconuts that fell off the donkey’s back every time it was goaded to speed – a mishap never later than ten minutes in recurrence.
Source: Inspired by a tale from Philippines found at pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts2.html and image from animalsclipart.com
September 17, 2016 5 Comments
As the sun dipped out of sight below the horizon, the feathered folks were finding their way back home..
The Wise One saw a forlorn Kaga and knew at once not everything was right with the latter.
‘Kaga, you don’t look your usual self.’
‘Yes, my friend, you guessed right. These days when I go out, I’m not sure if I would be back in the evening with hair and hide in place.’
‘Well, you know I love those berries on the lone tall tree behind the mirasdar’s house.’
‘Yes, I’ve seen you stuffing yourself nonstop with those little things I don’t particularly care for. Am not surprised you’ve problems taking off after your fill.’
‘You with your evil eyes – it isn’t going to happen anymore.’
‘Why? Has the tree stopped producing berries? Has some one hacked it down?’
‘All this time, no one paid any attention to those trees in and around – they were on no-man’s land. Suddenly the mirasdar is now claiming the trees are his.’
‘Still there’s no way he can fence them off to keep you away from the berries high up on the tree. Can he?’
‘An evil mind is devil’s workshop. He has a dog and a man to keep watch. Whenever I alight on the tree and take the first bite – mind you, I do it absolutely noiselessly that would not awaken an insomniac – the blessed dog somehow catches sight of me and starts howling his head off. This gets the man to the spot from wherever he is and whatever he is doing to launch a fusillade of stones and pebbles with his slingshot. He’s quite good with it – he almost brought me down earlier today… frightened the blazing daylights out of me. So, my friend, my favorite feeding ground is now out of bounds for me. Don’t know where the next meal is coming from.’
The Wise One commiserated: ‘So sorry to hear. It’s cruel to snatch the food off someone’s mouth.’
There was silence with either having little to say.
‘I’ve a suggestion to make, if you care to listen and do as I say,’ spoke the Mango Tree so far passively listening in on Kaga’s sad story.
‘Anything for those juicy berries, dear sir, as long as I live to see the sun set.’
‘Tomorrow, when you alight on the tree, don’t be sneaky. Make a show.’
‘Yes, no cawing – that’s not what I meant. As soon the dog begins to announce your arrival, tell him you’re not amused, display your temper by vigorously shaking the (tree) limb you’re perched…jump up and down on it like you were on a hot brick, push with your beak like you’re fighting off a vulture…whatever to show your annoyance. Keep at it for a minute and you’ll have a peaceful meal. After a while your friend on the ground may open his loud mouth once again. At which instant you repeat your act. If it ever gets hot at anytime like today with pebbles and stones beginning to fly around you, make an immediate exit without losing a moment. Go back if you must not before allowing an hour or two for matters to cool down.’
‘Well, sounds quite doable…no harm in trying it out. Anyway things can’t get any worse from here.’
Once Kaga moved away for the night, the Wise One threw a quizzical glance at the Tree saying ‘Man, have you gone senile?‘ and received a signal in response to wait and watch.
The following day was like any other day – the birds lodged in the leafy Mango Tree headed out early in the morning seeking food and adventure, and returned in the evening flapping their tired wings looking to a night of repose.
And there was Kaga gliding in gracefully. The glow on his face said it all. He thanked the Tree profusely: ’You know, after a few rounds, strangely the dog appeared to be amused by my act more than anything else. I almost got a feeling he opened his mouth now on purpose to get me going and entertain himself. In the afternoon he even went so far as to wag his tail a few times! Thanks very much, sir, for restoring my lifeline.’
‘Just as I expected. Keep the show on and note all that jumping and pushing helps your digestion too.’
After Kagha took leave on this happy note the Wise One turned to the Mango Tree:
‘Just as you expected? All this song and dance – mind telling me what’s all this hooey?’
‘Nothing out of the ordinary…it always good to share…’
‘Soon Kaga will figure out for himself why it works for him. They are a team now – the dog is hooked on the berries that Kaga shakes down!’
August 14, 2016 2 Comments
While IOT (Internet Of Things) has garnered recently a lot of attention, to our peril we’re largely blind to the Conspiracy Of Things (COT) already holding our Good Earth to ransom.
Carl D’Agastino shines light on COT:
More at his ‘I know I made you smile’ here.