I Had A Bone To Be Picked


We were returning from our vacation in Jordan and Egypt, flying on the last leg: Bahrain – Mumbai.

As always, I had an aisle seat owing to my bulk and the need to go toilet often (a diabetic). And I am also prone to painful cramps in the legs if I don’t stretch them often enough. The poor wife got the middle seat. For the first time, I found her twisting and turning uncomfortably in her seat. I made a mental note to get her also an aisle seat hereon. A young man, perhaps employed in the Gulf and returning home on a break, occupied the window seat on far left, next to my wife.

It was two-hour flight, I think. Weary from a long mid-night wait at Bahrain, we were dozing almost as soon as we flopped into our seats, aided by the aircraft’s turbulence-free lulling cruise.

Sometime later, the lights were switched on. Air-hostesses emerged from the galley, ahead of the food-trolleys, hand-carrying food-trays to those who had ordered special meals.

Not very hungry, we pulled our folding-tables down ready to receive our Asian-Veg meal (acronym’ed AVEG, could be taken for average!), planning to take not more than a bite. When we did get our trays, to our dismay, it was not very diff from what was served earlier in the Cairo – Bahrain sectorpeas-rice-dhalpaneer as the main course, a bowl of semi-cooked chana, a sweet dish and the ubiquitous bun. Led me to think: ‘Bring out a recipe book for AVEG meals, these chef’s, their wits strained, will grab them like hot gulab jamuns.’

I don’t know if you have noticed: We L and XL folks can hold ourselves back very well as long as we don’t sit at the table – believe it or not, we can actually say ‘no’ to food!. Once seated or food is thrust on us, well, we are different people. So, I ended up taking a little more than a bite. Once done, tidied up both our trays and waited for them to be cleared. Very early in my employment, I had learnt our plate, at the end of our meal, should never look like a couple of hungry dogs had fought over it. A South Indian meal plate with its gravy-based dishes is apt to look like just that, given our proclivity to leave food behind under the mistaken notion a clean plate shows us up as a glutton or worse, the host did not feed us enough. .

The trolley finally reached a couple of rows ahead of us. That’s when my wife leaned onto my left and said hush-hush: ‘Now, don’t touch that one.’

Now which one was that?

Just for a moment, her eyes darted to the tray before the young man to her left.

I understood: ‘But why?’

‘You know what he ordered?’

‘Yes, some chicken stuff. I heard him ask for it.’


Ah, now it was getting clearer to me. What I normally do is to take the tray from the traveler in the window seat and give it to the hostess to save her from leaning into and bending over all the way to haul in the tray.  This time she did not want me to even touch the tray and, inadvertently, its contents that had been a chicken once or at least a part of it.

‘Come on, I’m only going to hold it at the edges.’

‘Oh, how can you ever…how can you be so sure?’

There was no time – the trolley had reached our row by now and the hostess was ready to collect – to remind her about the occasions we have unavoidably eaten at restaurants serving food of both kinds. And am sure they did not use separate kitchens, utensils, plates…Why, many of them would have even used the same oil to cook.

So, I handed over the two trays, my wife’s and mine, carefully avoiding any spillage. And withheld my customary assistance in the transport of the third, for preserving domestic bliss.

Just when the hostess was putting away the last, we hit an air-pocket. For a moment she lost her balance. With practiced ease she was quickly back in control but not before depositing a piece from the tray onto my lap. Suddenly I was a freak with 207 bones, one of which from a different species, in an exoskeleton!

She deftly cleared the extra bone restoring my normalcy – one second it was there, it was gone like magic in the next. The hostess made light of it with a short apology said with a big smile and moved away.

Well, the magic was not fast enough, good enough to escape dear dharmapatni’s (wife’s) notice.  She stiffened in her seat, her ire welling up and not finding a target.

Didn’t our man Murphy say something about a buttered toast falling? It was unwise to bring it up presently, I thought.

Just imagine, you feel hopping mad and you cant take it out on anyone or anything! Poor lady, there isn’t much one can do, firmly belted to the seat and boxed in from both sides.

Under the circumstances, never mind it wasn’t your doing, one can never be too careful. ‘Remove yourself without delay to safe distance,’ is the sage advice given by those in the know. Not very practical within the confines of an aircraft flying full. Engaging in activities like watching a movie, reading in-flight mag, solving a Sudoku or talking apps to a fellow-traveler is tempting fate according to the same sources. And never ever look into her eyes – that ‘s fatal, we’re told. Left me with little choice but to get some shut-eye, not figuring in the taboo list. Happy to report perfectly satisfactory outcomes on all fronts.







Source:  Inspired by a recent experience that came quite close. Image from tvm.com.mt


A Pebble Sinks To The Bottom

Monday morning.

All signs were it was working! Door open, fan whirling overhead, he ready on his small stool.


One of those days.

So, I made it to the lift instead of the stairs as was customary, saving me an arduous climb.

A great start for the week.

‘Looks like all the planets are aligned in a line, today.’

My jest was ignored. Quite unusual.

He pulled the door shut and silently pressed ‘3’. I was upwardly mobile with a jerk.

‘What happened? Not well?’

He shook his head.

The lift crawled to a stop on the 3rd floor – too much damping; I never forget my R-L-C circuits.

As he held the door open for me, he mumbled, shaking his head: ‘He had told me two days ago…it was a grave wrong…’

Before I could ask him anything, the bell intruded rudely – someone on the ground floor leaning on the button. He stepped back into the cage, shut the door and descended.

After a week out in the field, the pile-up tied me down at my desk until about 11-00. Got up to stretch my legs and pick up some coffee from the canteen.

That’s when I heard.

On Friday, climbing the stairs, S had collapsed on the 2nd floor landing.

Didn’t help rushing him to the hospital in seven minutes flat.

He was a senior, in his forties. Nice chap, I had heard. Never got closer than exchanging ‘hello’s’ in passing.

Why did it happen? Conjectures were many: Well, his dad also had passed away young. Must be in the genes…No, he had some ailments, but he resorted to alternate medicine instead of going to the good old (allopathic) doctor on the main street…Don’t forget the pressures at work-place…

An indescribable sadness enveloped me. Decided to pack up early.

On the way out, saw the lift ready for use at the base. Door open, fan whirling overhead, the stool however sitting dolefully out on the landing. He wasn’t around to finish what he was saying.

I waited for the bus (public transport) just outside the main gate of our Industrial Park.

Looking around idly, those imposing cloth banners splayed between poles near the gate, up there for some time now, caught my attention, crazily flapping – strong winds were trying to and nearly succeeding in blowing them off their ties.

As I boarded the bus a worrying thought occurred: What if those lengths of cloth were suddenly blown onto and tangled with the traffic on the road? Won’t they cause accidents?  Almost certainly. Quite an ironic start it would then be for the ‘Safety First’ campaign – loudly proclaimed by the banners – planned by the Park and its scheduled inauguration by a VIP. Don’t they know causing accidents through negligence is regarded as a crime by law, besides being morally guilty?

This was quickly pushed aside by the melancholy thought about a life that was wasted.


Days rolled on.

Yes, the stool went right back in to seat a new man.

Incidentally, today is one of those days.






Source: Based on a real-life incident. Image thru JustDial.com

A No Story

Grandad: 87 years old


Grandma: 82 years old


Grandad – the keeper of the family history


Grandad has a drawer full of albums. His albums contain all of his photos in black and white, since he was a child in 1930, until he became a man, joined to the army then got married. Open the albums, enjoy the smell of old papers, see and read notes inside, you will feel clearly a whole life of a man with beautiful and special memories.

Grandma poetry is a diary into her soul


Grandma poetry is a diary into her soul


Grandma deep in her Inner World


Grandad learns to use the computer and internet by himself in order to keep in touch with his old friends and family members


Grandad knows how to use Facebook, basic Photoshop, Movie Maker

DSC02244-5abc40436e3ab__880He said “everyone needs to know as much as possible about the technology to improve their mind and keep in touch with others”. He often makes short clips or photos to mail us, family members, as a gift in some occasions or just because sometimes he wanna share his feeling. He also is grandma’s teacher about technology.

Praying for the happiness of the whole family


Beautiful old skin. How many miles have these old feet walked?


Beautiful old skin. How many miles have these old feet walked?


Bún is her favorite food


“Once upon a time… when we were young”



Where’s the story, you ask.

You just saw one, beautiful if ever!

Our story?




Source: A fwd from

Deepak Punjabi indigoblue2005@yahoo.com [funonthenet]

Impossible Made ‘Possible’ – A Tenali Rama Story Never Told Before (For Children)

Tenali-Rama-and-the-Astrologer storyplanets com

Part 1

On a lazy afternoon, Raya was relaxing, taking in the sight and the smell of blooming roses and jasmine wafting in from the gardens beyond with Rama in attendance at his bidding. There were no pressing matters of state to keep him engaged.

Rama knew there was trouble just round the bend.

Well, he wasn’t wrong.

‘Rama, you know we have had some difficult times and luckily, it’s all behind us now. Things are rather quiet, like a bunch of trees standing still without a wind to stir up things. The ennui is becoming increasingly unbearable…killing. I would love for you to kick up some excitement…’

So, there it was…not long in coming, trouble in an alluring disguise!

‘Surely, my lord, if you could share with me what you have in mind…I can then take it from there.’

Leaving the field so wide open for Raya’s whims was absolutely foolhardy…but then there little else he could come up with in the instant.

‘I was thinking about it…mmm…how about this? I would like to see something unthinkable, impossible- to happen before me in real. No magic or tricks, please. Can you have something like that presented to me?’

Rama stood without a word like a naked pole waiting mournfully for the storm to pass.

‘I want to be reasonable…’

Reasonable, eh?

‘Yes, take a week’s time and come back with something interesting…am sure it’s not beyond you…’

When he said it, was it a fleeting smirk on Raya’s face? Saying ‘Son, it’ll do you a lot of good to take a fall  once in a while.’?

Rama put on a false bravado and withdrew himself with due courtesies.

Part 2

Four days had passed, yet he was no nearer to a solution. The real kicker was ‘no magic, no tricks.’

He looked suddenly aged.

Try he did – racking his much-vaunted grey cells, pulling hair off his pate – no luck.

The food lost its taste, sleep a distant memory.

He locked himself up in the house, turning away visitors…

On the fifth day…

It was the day of the week for the maid to come in and clean up.

She was shocked to see a disheveled man far from the sprightly person she had known her master to be. The house was turned upside down…things strewn all over the place. Whatever happened? She was hard put to guess. And it would be impertinent to ask.

Maybe it was from his search for ideas that had eluded him so far?

She took time dutifully returning things to their place. Finally, when she was ready to leave, she turned to him and cautioned:

‘Master, keep the back-door locked even during the day as far as possible till it gets warmer. These are days snakes sneak in for warmth, especially to the kitchens, where they curl up near the hearth. Two days ago, in one of those houses in the East Car Street, they found a large snake…something like fifteen feet long from head to tail…luckily, they found it before anyone stepped on it.  Had to be killed…it was poisonous.’

Given the state of his mind, Rama threw a look of incredulity mixed in equal parts with disinterest. Nonetheless…such a large snake? He abhorred snakes, small or big.  Under the circumstances, he would have bolted from the house as far and fast as his legs could carry him.

The maid offered further proof: ‘If you don’t believe…you know the book-keeper’s house, fourth on our left, the blue one? The girl working there is my friend…she told me.  You may check with her if you wish.’

Rama assured her he’ll and he’ll not – he’ll lock the door to keep away unwelcome guests and he’ll not be checking with the girl. He thanked her for her concern.

After a frugal lunch, he rested on the string-cot and fell asleep almost immediately from mental exhaustion.

It was a fitful sleep dreaming of frightful snakes of all shapes and sizes, slithering, hissing, dancing…with the hoods raised in full glory.

When he woke up sweating, he was happy to find himself in safer surroundings. Why did he have these nightmarish dreams? He abhorred snakes, small or big. Then he remembered – it was all the maid’s doing injecting them into his hitherto-snake-free thoughts.

That was also when a seed of an idea insinuated itself into his mind, no more than a straw for a drowning man.

Part 3

It was the day of reckoning:

Rama reached the palace early busying himself with off-stage arrangements – it needed some.

Close to the appointed hour, the host and the guests had gathered.

Raya was excited like a child at a fair. The royal court, filled to capacity, too was agog with anticipation – what kind of a ‘rabbit’ Rama was going to pull off the ‘hat’? Only ‘rabbits’ and ‘hats’ were expressly forbidden.

When everyone settled down to a quiet, Raya stood up to briefly address the audience:

‘I had asked our resourceful Rama to arrange for our viewing pleasure something we know as impossible, contrary to the laws of nature and yet it’ll happen right before us. No magic or tricks, I had said. So, not an easy task. And here we’re for Rama to show us.’

And signaled for the show to commence without further ado.

A veteran of many trials, Rama got down to business, looking his usual self. He called for Lakshmi to appear in their midst, introducing her as his maid who keeps his house in order.

Lakshmi was both surprised looking at a restored Rama and also visibly nervous standing before the august assembly.

Not wanting to prolong her agony,

‘Lakshmi, please tell everyone here what you know about the snake – remember the one you mentioned it to me in your last visit?’

After a few seconds seemingly to gain control of herself and recall the conversation alluded to, the words came out slowly:

‘Yes, master, I warned you about snakes. I told you how a huge snake had entered one of the houses and was killed before anyone got hurt.’

‘Where did this happen?’

‘In a house on the East Car Street.’

‘Oh, the short street with three or four houses…and when did this happen?’

‘Last Tuesday.’

‘You said it was huge, Lakshmi, how large…’

‘Master, it was about fifteen feet long, measured before it was buried.’

‘And how did you come to know about it?’

‘From my friend Padmini…she knew…’

‘Thank you, Lakshmi, what you shared with us was helpful. You may leave now.’

The audience shifted in their seats still clueless what was this business about snakes. Where was Rama headed?

Next, he summoned Padmini who waited in the wings not aware of her friend’s deposition before her.

Her story matched Lakshmi’s – the house was the same one on the East Car Street, the day was last Tuesday – in all details except one. The snake was ten feet long.

Savitri, her friend, followed.  It was a five feet long snake.

And finally, by the time Saraswati from the house on the East Car Street, the scene of ‘crime’, ground zero, stood before them, the audience kind of knew where Rama was going with it.

The hapless reptile was no more than two feet, she averred.

While chuckles rippled in the audience, something was still missing – after all, exaggeration in any cascaded communication was a social phenomenon not entirely unknown.  They were not sated.

Until Rama supplied them the perspective of ‘the impossible’:

‘My lord and gentlemen of the court, now we know it’s ‘possible’ even for the dead to grow!!’

And, took a bow.

Dead silence in the court for a short while and then commotion, albeit muted. It was mighty clever of Rama to put it to them in the way he did, they reluctantly conceded.

It would be another day, if ever, for them to see what they had hoped for – Rama flat on the mat.

Raya was filled with rage when he heard a voice telling him Rama had actually trivialized his wish.  Then another voice in his head said, ‘Be reasonable, did you really expect a miracle to happen?  What else save a miracle would make an ‘impossible’ happen before you? Rama did the next best thing. Thank your stars he’s on your side.’

Raya got up from his seat and walked slowly to Rama with arms open.





Source: Inspired by a post from Elango Velur Thiruturaipoondi [facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008754017771]  and image from storyplanets.com

Theory And Practice (A Short Story)


It was early morning on the 16th day of Margazhi (the month). The day’s discourse concluded on the 16th Thiruppavai paasuram (see note on Thiruppavai at the end), peeling away its literal sense to uncover its manifold metaphorical allusions:

*naayaganaay ninRa, nandagOpanuDaiya
kOyil kaappaanE!* koDit tOnRum tOraNa
vaayil kaappaanE!* maNik kadavaM taaL tiRavaay*…   

The audience dispersed, some to the adjoining temple for darshan and some spilling onto the street heading homewards.

The man and the woman, the first to emerge, paused at the gate where footwears were left behind on the outside before entering the temple.

She saw here and there and said: ‘I can’t find my chappals. Had left them right here.’

The man: ‘Look carefully, it must be somewhere here.’

‘I’ve seen all around…it’s not here. It is a new one.’

‘Whoever told you to wear a new pair to the temple?’

Losing one’s footwear, especially new, at public places like temples is not uncommon.

The man turned to the meek looking Nepali in a crumpled ill-fitting khaki standing at the gate: ‘Watchman, did you see anyone take off wearing her chappals?’

The poor immigrant was used to rudeness: ‘No, Sir. No one was here in the time I’m standing here on watch. You’re the first to come over here.’

Giving him a disdainful look reserved for an erring domestic, the man to his wife in Tamizh: ‘Who knows, this fellow may have swiped it himself. You can’t trust them at all. Days are such…’

The Nepali guessed they were talking about him, none of it complimentary. Mumbling to himself: ‘Don’t they know I’m here to guard the temple’s things and god’s against theft and not for keeping a watch on footwears left outside?’

Just then the woman cried an excited ‘Eureka’: ‘Oh, I found them…thank god. Some mutt had left his jumbo shoes on top of my chappals. That’s why…’

They left, not looking back.

Back at home, his mother to the woman: ‘So how was it today?’

Every day when they returned from the discourse, his mother always wanted know. It would not be out of place to mention she had been to at least half a dozen discourses on the subject before her knees gave way. Still…

The woman summed it up for her: ‘Amma, it was very nice today. In today’s paasuram, the thOzigal (cow-herd girl-friends) are up and ready – they have assembled in front of Nandagopan’s palatial house, also Krishna’s residence. And you know what? This is so much like what happens today…to gain entry into the house for Krishna’s darshan, they try to enlist the support of others who matter – first, the guard at the main gate, then another watching the courtyard and the inner door. That’s not all – once inside, they now appeal to Krishna’s elder brother Balram too and mother Yashodha. Even here, see how smart they’re: when they address the guards, it’s not by their names, but by describing the important job they are doing – remember how Krishna is under constant threats from asura’s assuming unimaginable forms – massaging their professional pride! The operating principle here’s: ‘When you go to seek favors (god’s grace), don’t offend others on the way. In fact it helps to get them on your side!` Just like what we do today, isn’t it? Digressing briefly at this point, the upanyasakar (the speaker at the discourse) pointed out, how many of us understand and appreciate, whenever we go to temples, the job dwarapaalakaa’s (the two iconic door-keepers depicted on the doors at the entrance; full-sized stone moorthy’s (icons) in bigger temples) do – keeping watch on in-comers – and are worthy of our serious devotion as noble servants of god?  And, we hardly notice them much less bow to these watchmen…’




Source: Image from United We Blog!

On Thiruppavai (from Wiki):

The Tiruppavai is a collection of thirty stanzas (paasurams) written in Tamizh by Andal, belonging to the pavai genre of songs, in praise of the Lord Vishnu. Andal assumes the guise of a cowherd in these 30 verses and is intent upon performing a particular religious vow to marry the Lord, thereby obtain His everlasting company, and inviting all her girl-friends to join her. Sri Vaishnavas sing these stanzas every day of the year in the temple as well as in their homes to bring peace, prosperity and Divine Grace. This practice assumes special significance during Margazhi: each day of this month gets its name from one of the thirty verses. There are references to this vow in the late-sangam era Tamil musical anthology Paripadal.


Pritamji And His Nuska’s (A Short-Story)

walk-in-indiaThe park had a track laid out along its periphery, used by joggers in the morning and by senior citizens for their evening walks.

One evening, reaching the track, I saw him already doing rounds all by himself.

I fell in step with him: ‘Namshkar, Pritamji, you’re early today! Or, am I late?’

‘No, my friend, you’re very much on time. It’s just that I wanted to go for a few extra rounds starting a little earlier and finishing with you.’

‘Looks like only two of us today. Wish I too could go with you full length but for these knees…’

Too late, the words had already gotten out. No phrase in English, as far as I know, captured my predicament so vividly as Hindi’s ‘Aa Bhail, mujhe maar’ (Dear bull, I invite you to hit me). Oh, boy, now for the music, sure as night follows day.

‘I told you and you won’t listen. Let me meet Bhabhi and tell her. I’m sure she would ensure you do it. People have reported dramatic improvements within two weeks.’

Rummaging my memory did not yield any recall of the subject conversation.

A little bit of a background is in order here so I don’t lose you: Pritamji, my co-walker for a couple of years now, is a likeable soft-spoken ex-shop-keeper who has handed over the reign to his children and now spends time watching on TV and sharing with a willing audience – he’s perceptive and considerate –  all about how indigenous patthe (leaves, herbs), powders, pastes or potions are far more effective and affordable than the ‘poisons’ pushed by these foreign pharma companies. He calls them MNC’s, Multi National Colonialists, a new breed ominously redolent of the infamous East India Company of the good old Brits. Did it have anything to do with what he had told us some time ago – the pharmacy abutting his shop in the market-place had refused a few years earlier to sell him some space for expansion at any price. Perhaps, not – we never brought it up.

Now, do I make a willing audience?  Before I respond, consider this for a moment: I subjected myself for years successively to various nuska’s (prescriptions) for diabetes – karela juice (bitter-gourd) on empty stomach first thing in the morning, methi seeds (fenugreek) with dahi (curds), pomegranate seeds mixed with ghud-maar (gymnema sylvestre) powder, water left standing overnight in a copper vessel with/without pieces of okhra soaked in it, wearing a brass-band on the wrist, looking out-of-the-world with green-gram seeds press-pasted visibly on nerve points all over the limbs, etc. etc. And, if you rush to me with one of your own, not figuring in this list, the one you thought would have if only I had, I must tell you it’s all over now, water under the bridge, with me going on emergency under the knives wielded by a leading cardiac surgeon a few years ago. And, post-surgery, diabetes managed by frequent and liberal doses of insulin every day.  This being the case, I’m sure, you won’t fault me for my disposition towards these gharelu nuska’s (home remedies).

This doesn’t mean I shut him up whenever Pritamji gets going. He’s a nice and friendly guy. I must tell you they don’t do it to me either when I wax on philately in general and in particular about my collection of stamps of island states. Each to his eccentricities.  In fact, there are a few in our group, easily outnumbering the interest in stamps, keen to hear him out and even try out a few of those prescriptions. On those evenings like this one when there are only two of us, I still let him, of course within limits, unspool updates, new finds and whatever, responding passively with appropriate ‘interesting’, ‘really’… And, he too knows how I feel about the subject, but that doesn’t discourage him from pursuing his suggestions with me.

Going back to where I left you off with my failed search:

‘Pritamji, I’m unable to recall the occasion you’re alluding to when we talked about my knees.’

What made me say this beats me even now. This was more like rolling out the red carpet to the bull yet undecided on the invitation held out last.

He was pleased with my hitherto-never-evinced ‘interest’: ‘Doesn’t matter if you don’t remember. I’ll be too happy to repeat for you to benefit: Collect tender neem leaves from a plant-tree that hasn’t grown higher than ten feet, heat it with a few betel leaves and a pinch of camphor in til (sesame) oil on a slow flame until the leaves turn crisp. Mix it with enough of rice flour – ah, take care, it must be from unpolished rice – to form a paste. And it is this hot paste that’s slapped onto your knee caps. Every night, lying on the bed, this paste is applied on each knee-cap, held in place by a tightly wound piece of cloth; no movement of the limbs for twenty minutes. That’s all to it, so simple, isn’t it?’

I had no intention of stringing him along any further. Kept a bunch of queries to myself: Won’t it scald the skin? Won’t it spill onto the sheet? Besides, the room would be soaked up in an odor strong enough to drive away anyone within twenty-five feet. Not to mention the stiffness in the lower limbs. Are neem leaves sold backed by some kind of a provenance statement on their source to ascertain if they indeed come from a plant-tree?

He read my mind and was ready: ‘As for the spill, smell and stiffness, well, don’t they say: ‘No pain, no gain, eh.’?’

Gain? All I wanted was ‘no pain’.

The one he did not read was on provenance of the leaves.

I let it go for the same aforesaid reason.

Like a hound on a scent, he was not to be easily shaken off: ‘While on neem, let me tell you something else: a group based in Rishikesh has done research and found a preparation of these leaves takes years off your age, if reports are to be believed. Am trying it out on myself for a month now…I intend finding out more about it. Haven’t told anyone about it. You’re the first to hear.’

‘Am honored, Pritamji. But, wait a minute…’

‘Yes, you heard it right, my friend, you live longer.’

This was something else.

Seizing the ‘baton’, I said light-heartedly: ’And do what, Pritamji? Did you see today’s TOI (The Times Of India)? A boy killed his mother and sister because she scolded him for not studying.  You want to live through witnessing all that? Kalyug, it’s predicted, would see unabated spread all around of despair, disease, disaster, debauchery, depravity and devilry.’

Admittedly I got a little carried away there.

Encountering an unexpected objection to living long, the usually unflappable Pritamji showed a mix of irritation and incredulity at this ‘imbecility’: ‘Life is not what TOI sees and says. There’s so much more to life…So much one could be doing…’

Precisely at this moment Pritamji’s exposition on gift of life was prematurely ended by the sudden arrival of his wife.

Namashkar, Babhiji,’ I greeted.

Namashkar, Bhaisab,’ she then turned to her spouse: ‘Bhool gaye kya? Dentist ka mera appointment hai in half an hour.’ (Have you forgotten my appointment with the dentist?)

I winked at Pritamji, untainted by mock or malice, I assure you: ‘Kya, Pritamji, aapne koi nuska naheen bathaya Babhijiko?’ (Didn’t you recommend any of your prescriptions to her?’)

Babhiji assumed the strike: ‘Arrhe chodiye ye nuske, vuske ko. (Leave all that aside) Don’t get me wrong, am not against it. It’s perhaps good for health in peace time boosting defenses against diseases. But not fast enough when you’re riding an ambulance hosting some specific ailment…’. She quite seamlessly mixed Hindi and English with enviable felicity.

To her spouse: ‘Maaf keejiye, Shoharji, you know how it sits with me.’ (Am sorry, dear husband…)

To me, softening it up a little for Pritamji: ‘Bhaisab, don’t go entirely by what I’m saying. It might work for you, who knows. Listening to those guys on the show religiously every day, my patidev should know what he’s talking about.’

Pritamji was somewhat mollified to be back in the game.

Some insights were shared: ‘In fact that’s all he watches on the TV…for about half an hour in the morning. These days, he finds newspapers – purveyors of gloom and doom, books – too many pages to make a point, magazines – voyeuristic, music – just loud sans melody, places – crowded and noisy, travel – a hassle, spirituality – a leap into the unknown, gadgets – too complicated with more keys than a piano, gym – a myth minted by mass over mind, money matters – if money didn’t matter…’

At this, a self-congratulatory smile appeared on his visage, pleased with himself for an accurate assessment of the world around us. Therein was also an invite, it seemed, for me to join him on his take.

Regrettably I did not oblige my co-walker on this occasion, me thinking: ‘So, turning his back on life, what did he do with his days?’

Babhiji saw in it something none of us did and quite seriously: ‘Did I miss out anything, dear…You know what? Come to think of it, you may be onto something big – a nuska to relieve boredom. You’re hardly ever, if you noticed. I did. Ever thought of it?’

Oh, my…she was right. He never pulled a long face, cursed anything or anybody, held his head between his hands or whatever people do when weighed down. . Was it the neem leaves? Can’t be…for one thing, it was only a month of usage. Moreover, if it did work as claimed, it would only aggravate the ailment, piling more time on his table when our poor dear didn’t know what to do with the time he already had with him. Then, what was it?

I was not the only one pondering over it. I saw Pritamji already off the starting block in a race of self-inquiry and self-discovery for the elusive nuska, proudly his own.

Before he could cover any ground Babhji called a halt: ‘Sunoji, dheri ho raha hai. Vo khadoos doctor naraaj hojayega. I don’t want an upset doctor holding a drill to my teeth.’ (Come, let’s go, it’s time. That moody chap (doctor) would get annoyed…)

Till date our group is on its evening rounds with the fond hope our Pritamji would share his nuska with us first; this time he’s sure to have an audience, much larger than he can imagine, and willing too.





PS: This is largely fictional, written in jest, not to put down nuska’s.

Source: Image from yoga-anatomy.com

Friendly Neighborhood

Shuchi Krishan

At the dinner table, it was unusually quiet.

“Over the last few days, you’re not your usual self, I’ve been observing. Is something the matter? Are you alright? What’s eating you?”

Tongue-tied, none of the chirp and cheer of the last couple of weeks in evidence since we booked ourselves on a 10-day tour of Europe fulfilling a long standing wish of hers.

“Oh, nothing, don’t fuss.”

“Come on, look at yourself in the mirror…you know, long face, this trip has gotten to me too now.  Am going to tell K (the tour operator) to give us at least half a day at Louvre.  Anything less is scandalous.”

“Tch…I wish I had not pestered you for this tour…Incidentally no one full of life likes visiting museum’s that are but dwellings of the dead.”

“Why? What happened? You were like a kid before his birthday and now…Incidentally, Mona Lisa residing in Louvre is 500+ years young, outliving everyone of her contemporaries, and going strong!”

“Last week I told Sneha aunty about our tour as matter of neighborly courtesy.”

“That’s good. She can receive any courier packets coming to us.”

Mathlabi…that’s not it. Ever since I told her, she has been cautioning me with one thing or the other. It’s scary. Tell me, was there a crazy shootout a few days ago in Brussels at a crowded shopping mall randomly killing innocent public? I missed the story – these days I don’t read papers like I used to.”

“Happens all the time in some part of the world or the other. The trick in life is not to be there at the spot at the time.”

“Ha…why, these guys send you a sms before rolling out their vile plans to let their pal get out of harm’s way? Get serious. This is another thing – is winter in Europe severe this year? People getting stranded for days? Can you imagine us cooped up in some hotel miles away from humanity? Aunty got these horror stories coming from her cousin in Zurich.”

“Dear, this is an annual phenomenon.  It’s winter. Unless hell is freezing over, guys out there cope up with it day-in and day-out. If it does become unmanageable, I’m sure, K would cancel, reroute or do something about it.  Why think of and worry about a worst-case situation?  Don’t forget there are eighteen others going with us on the trip. It’s amazing our aunty keeps tabs on far beyond the walls of her house, even across oceans!”

“Oh, she reads papers, watches news channels; have no doubts –  her stories are authentic, put out by sources trusted world-wide. And today, you know what?  Poor dear tells me – I could detect a tinge of envy – I’m lucky to have you take me to these places while Arvindji (her husband) doesn’t even think of it, not even to places within India, all the time worrying about the expenses. I thought he had a good business going in Kalbadevi. They don’t look hard up…That reminds me, last month apparently our Rupee slipped badly against the Euro and continues to be weak, pushing up costs in Europe by 15% to 20%. Curse our luck.”

Ah, so that’s what it really was. Now it all made sense. Well, the problem was not without solution, though this was not one of them – much as I hated to admit: I didn’t think my persuasion skills were that good to get Arvindji to change his time-hardened ways. On the other hand I could certainly…now let me not get ahead of myself.

Picking it up from where my wife left off: “I presume this also comes from our aunty since you don’t read papers these days. Didn’t know currencies and conversions too receive her attention. What a waste of talent to confined within the four walls of her home, a truly world.wide.woman!”

“Correction: I said “not like I used to”. Doesn’t mean I don’t look at it all. Let’s keep the lady out of this – sizing up her expertise, its reach and depth are no part of the agenda here – and get back to Rupee vis-à-vis Euro.  Looks like we’re going to be over the budget by 15 to 20%. All this had to happen just when we’re stepping out.”

“Don’t lose your sleep over it, it’s not going to majorly impact us. Remember, we booked the tickets two months ago? K is bound to hold the prices. And ours is an all-inclusive tour, K taking up all expenses. Yes, some incidentals we incur would be pricier – but that’s not big-ticket. Now, you feel better about going?”

“Yah…if all that you say is what it is. Though aunty may not think so.”

“Quit worrying and get ready – we have no more than 72 hours before we leave and so much to do. And, as a measure of abundant caution, you may wish to go to the temple sometime and pray for our safe journey and back.”

“Please don’t jest in these matters. And, I certainly intend to at the earliest.”

So, we made it finally. The days were so packed my wife quickly forgot all about her apprehensions (or, aunty’s, to be accurate, whom we ceased forthwith talking about since last injunction) and gave herself up fully to the excitement of travel, sight-seeing and sumptuous food. We were lodged in hotels where our rooms were clean and comfortable. Bonus: We made friends with other families going with us on the tour adding much spice to our experience.  The tour was an unqualified success and an unforgettable experience for my wife – as for self, it was not as novel, having visited some of these places earlier while in service. Mercifully, the gentleman, Murphy, for some reason, had not thrown his rule-book at us.

We returned late evening on a Friday. Saturday was spent in running some errands and in doing some chores – emptying the travel bags and stowing them away, collecting clothes for wash, sorting out toys, trinkets and gifts for friends and relatives.

My wife walked in just then: “Hey, that handbag looks classy, thank you.”

“Sorry, not for you.”

“Don’t tell me once again this is for your boss’s wife. She must already have the largest collection in the land, a good part of it coming from you. And, I never noticed it, when did you buy this?”

I just shrugged. Another tip for blissful life: “It’s not always questions need to be answered.”

On Sunday, in the afternoon, we had our aunty inviting herself in.

She was all cheers, half-hugging my wife, as much as their torso’s permitted the maneuver. To my wife’s surprise and delight, she asked at length all about the places we went to, people whom we met, the food we had and so on.

As she got up to leave at the end of it,

“Next you must go to Scandinavian countries, very scenic and tourist-friendly places, my cousin tells me.”

“Oh, the one in Zurich? Aunty, since it’s further up north, the temperatures must be closer or below zero.”

“My dear, all you need is the right kind of clothes. After all you handled European winter and not any worse for it.”

“What about random violence?”

“Which part of the world outside of your house is totally safe from the crazies these days, tell me? You must plan it for next year.”

As she stood on the landing outside of our door,

“Oh, how remiss of me, I forgot all about it. Thanks very much, dear, for the prettiest purse you got for me. And of course, the chocolates-n’-candies hamper. So nice of you to have taken the trouble.”

Parting time: “And don’t forget what I said about Scandinavia.”

As my wife turned around closing the doors, I got ready to explain myself.

How did it end?  Well, realization – there indeed was a problem and it was not with her – took a while and recognition – the fix was swift, smooth and smart – a little longer. No harm in tooting one’s horn once in a way, right?





Source: Painting by Shuchi Krishnan