Deal Of A Lifetime

Life gives us another day on this planet to be useful.

From here:

” Somewhere in Slovakia a storm drain was chirping. Rescue workers showed up to investigate, found a female mallard pacing around it, put two-and-two together, and commenced retrieving the ducklings while their concerned mother paced up and down the sidewalk. The family was then released into a nearby river…a much more duck-friendly habitat than the highway.

A short clip very different from the thousands on animals, almost spiritual on purpose of life:

 

End

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The Journey (A Drabble of 100+ Words)

This morning…

Someone tapped on the shoulders startling me out of my snooze. A voice asked where was I going. A profound question from some inquiring soul aspiring to be clued into life’s philosophy – my life’s, a journey of three score years plus till date. An admirable pursuit of vicarious learning, I thought. I collected my wits in a trice, not to keep a thirsty knowledge-seeker waiting. Looking up, I discerned the form coming into clearer focus.

Well, an acolyte he wasn’t.

‘Colaba,’ I muttered, hurriedly fishing in my pockets for change.

The journey-ticket was thrust into my hand as he moved on.

End

Autumn

(English translation of these beautiful lines follows)

एक वृद्धाश्रम के गेटपर लिखा हुआ एक अप्रतिम सुविचार :

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एक वृद्धाश्रम के गेटपर लिखा हुआ एक अप्रतिम सुविचार :

“नीचे गिरे सूखे पत्तों पर

अदब से चलना ज़रा …

कभी कड़ी धूप में तुमने

इनसे ही पनाह माँगी थी. ”

 

A ‘near’ translation of a sign outside a senior citizens’ home:

“Walk gently over the fallen leaves,

for you had sought their shade once up on a hot summer.”

End

 

 

Source: via Gopalaswamy, image from pixabay.com

A Tale Of Two Airports

Part 1

We are all set for the journey back home. Our bags are neatly wrapped up not exceeding the permissible 15 Kilograms per head. Of course it means we leave a few clothes and books behind. The e-tickets are printed out to gain admission at the airport as we are not yet confident of retrieving the same on our smart-phone. I double check the tickets for baggage rules. That’s when a wisp of a cloud appears in the blue sky: 15 Kgs per head alright, but how many pieces? I scour their website high and low. On one of those pages it mentions at one place one piece per head. FAQ has no queries at all on baggage. Obviously mine is a unique problem. I try calling the support numbers. I give up on not finding an option for queries on their voice activated telephony organized into nested levels deeper than those Matryoshka dolls. In parallel my energetic young nephew sets aside his academics for a while, pulls all strings, spends over an hour, stops just short of reaching the Prime Minister’s Office and at the end of it confirms it’s one piece per head. Panic ensues. More stuff gets off-loaded. Finally somehow four bags full get crunched into two bags hoping the seams and zippers don’t give up the fight.

The lady at the airport check-in counter clarifies on domestic travel there’s no limit of number of pieces subject to the limit of 15 Kgs per head. It’s all stated very clearly on their websitem if only we looked at it. Our mistake we didn’t find it. Also she tells me to sign at some place to release them of any responsibility for a handle that’s already broken on one of the bags. Sounds fair – I do so without reading the 8-point print.

Nothing much to report until we arrive at Mumbai ten minutes ahead of schedule. The flight is like cutting thru breeze, absolutely smooth without a bump. While landing I could have had coffee without spilling a drop. During the flight there is even a simple dhal-chawal meal served! Disregard the sniggers – it is quite comestible and good for immediate sustenance. Though the oft-quoted anecdote does come to my mind about some airlines saving by the sack full over time by cutting back on a few olives they customarily served. The coffee is the standard-issue tasting like run-off rain water, an amazing hard-to-beat consistency achieved by airlines across the world.

Part 2

My good friend, TRS, insisting on meeting us at the airport despite his busy schedule – he manages a large medical diagnostics chain – calls me.

‘R, have you folks landed in Mumbai?’

‘Yes, TRS, just now. We’re exiting the aircraft and proceeding to collect our baggage.’

‘How many pieces?’

‘Two checked in and two in the hand.’

‘Ok, I’m nearby. As soon as you’re out, call me.’

‘I’ll.’

My wife and I trudge along what seems to be an interminable stretch of travelators, so many of them laid out end to end, carrying hand bags making us puff and pant. I don’t recall doing this before nor seeing those huge art canvases filling up the wall on one side of the walkway.  But then it is quite some time since I travelled by air last. Perhaps this is all part of sprucing up that one often hears about? It all looks good.

Even as I struggle with the effort, I recall the gag:

‘Why do they make you walk so long at these airports?’

‘So your baggage may reach ahead of you for collection.’

Presently my wife does not have it in her to smile or frown at the jest.

My friend calls: ‘R. where are you?’

‘We’re waiting for our baggage to be disgorged.’

‘After you collect your baggage come straight out to where private cars come into the terminal for pick-up.’

‘Okay.’

I stand resignedly as for me this baggage business has always been first-in-last-out as also last-in-last-out. Fortunately this time the wait isn’t too long. I snatch the suitcases off the belt, pile them on to a trolley that stood there forlornly not catching anyone’s eyes and we make for the exit. We don’t. The trolley has other ideas – it simply turns on its wheels to the left in a circle.  Now I know why it was readily available on hand while everyone fetched his from a distance. I go and get another one and subject it to tests along all degrees of freedom. Finding its performance acceptable, I transfer the baggage and we finally exit without further hitches. Not before leaving the deviant specimen in a far corner not anymore in a position to lure the unwary.

The board outside the exit helpfully points us to the auto-stand/bus-stop.  But where do the private cars come in? Without further help from the official signage’s, I check and double check with a few visitors milling around. In one voice they tell us to head for the auto-stand/bus-stop. So when TRS calls me next to find out our whereabouts, I tell him to come in on the auto/bus lane to find us and not take the lane for private cars because there isn‘t one. TRS doesn’t sound too happy about it. What does one do but grin and bear things far beyond one’s control! If the blessed airport doesn’t want private cars whooshing in, well, that’s it. Who am I to bitch about it? I do not let these thoughts distract/disturb me from the main task on hand – connect up with TRS and as quickly as possible get away from this sticky heat into the comfortably air-conditioned insides of his car.

Shortly after TRS calls: ‘Have you come out?’

‘Yes, we’re at the pick-up point on the auto/bus lane. Incidentally I do see a car lane too, just beyond and running parallel to the auto lane. So it’s okay to take whichever lane.’ Here I correct myself for unfairly attributing to the authorities earlier a certain dislike for private cars – surely nothing more than a trifling omission of the signage on part of their contractor. Of course I keep the thought to myself for, I suspect, TRS would not be favorably disposed presently to hear about my sense of fairness.

A little later, ‘Look, why don’t you come to the end of the auto lane? That’s where I’m. These guys won’t let me stop anywhere in that lane.’

They won’t let him stop for picking up passengers? Surely they don’t expect senior citizens to jump right into a moving car? Sounds weird. May be they shooed him away as he intruded into the auto lane? The end of the lane he refers to is at least 100-150 yards away on the way out under the hot sun.  I leave my wife behind with the trolley and plod my way to the end of the lane. No sign of him.

He calls: ‘Where are you now?’

‘At the end of the auto lane just under the huge Samsung bill-board.’

‘I see Samsung, Samsung is not you.’

‘Well…’

‘Can you see those gorgeous traveler’s palm trees, two of them?  If you find them you’ve found me.’

A travellers palm (Ravenala Madagascariensis-Botanical name) tyy

‘Traveler if anyone is me. Palm trees? Yes, not your kind.’

‘Ok, let me go around and make another pass.’

‘Wait. Rather, let me go over to the point where you enter the lane. I’ll stand out on the road. You can’t miss me.’

We agree. I go over to the beginning of the lane 100-150 yards on the other side of the pick-up point.

I stand there on the road deftly evading the occasional vehicle coming in and considering if I should wave both hands to help my friend locate me. What would people think? Well, I’m at an age when I freely scratch my arms in public or let out a loud belch without a thought.

TRS calls: ‘Where are you now?’

‘I’m at the point of entry to the auto and car lanes, standing on the road. This is near and away from the toll to the right running along the front of the terminal.’

‘I’m here in front of the toll with a dozen guys honking away behind me and I don’t see you. Tell me you look your usual massive self as I’ve known or you’re masquerading to evade your pursuers?’

‘Come on…listen, don’t enter the toll. You’ll end up in the multi-level parking lot with a hefty toll to boot.’

‘What are you talking? There’s no multi-level parking lot in this airport.’

Now I begin to see: one of us is surely not seeing things right.

And, here, it is – I mean the parking lot – right before my eyes. I’ve even used them years ago.

I pinch myself just to be sure. Oh, my, it hurts!

That’s when the penny longtime coming finally drops.

I’m absolutely mortified at my rank goofiness. How could I?

‘Oh, TRS, we’re at Sahar. I didn’t realize…don’t know why we’re not at Santa Cruz…I’m so sorry.’

‘What? Oh, sh.., I’m here at Santa Cruz…No wonder…I should have checked…’

For those not familiar, domestic flights land in Mumbai at Santa Cruz airport while the international flights at Sahar with some exceptions. Looks like our flight was exceptional, confirmed by a subsequent examination of our tickets.

‘I’m so sorry, TRS…Please don’t trouble yourself anymore…we’ll take a cab…’

My good friend would not hear of it. He drives down kilometers from Santa Cruz to Sahar and takes us home. This time there is no trouble in spotting us – my directions, flawless as always, airport specified.

On the way home and thereafter, not a word or gesture from him betraying irritation or impatience. And we know him to be a man who doesn’t gladly suffer goofiness at all.

Guys, you too have friends like I’ve?

End

PS:  Well, the story doesn’t end here. Later at home on unpacking I find I’ve left a trail of things behind me, notably: my pouch containing debit card and other cards of commerce and memberships at the house where we stayed, my new laptop at the security station at Chennai airport, a few usb storage devices god knows where…

My nephew, deep into academics, swings into action right away and locates the concerned official at IAAI, Chennai. I speak to him. He confirms his office receiving an unclaimed laptop. He tells me about the documents I must produce to claim the laptop. Fearing my goofy spell may not have ended yet, TRS troubles himself to arrange for all the documents to be sent to my nephew. Following day, the young man goes to the airport, meets the officer and presents the documents. When they call me for verification, I tell them what and where they’ll find in my laptop. The officer hands over the laptop.  My nephew carefully packs it along with my pouch of cards retrieved from the house we stayed and couriers it. Mercifully normalcy largely returns on the third day after the string of goofs.

Do they still make nephews like mine?

Really, the end

Your Dog Or You?

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End

If You Care To Look

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End

Life: A River Of Many Currents

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.

End