Monday, January 21, 2008

Life is like that - 2

Years have passed.. Ajay is now no longer a young kid, but an all knowing teenager. But financially nothing has changed. They still live in the same house, in the same village. Its evening and music blares down the street.. some melodies to please the deity residing in the temple down the road.
In the foyer (front room - with a steel grill covering the side facing the road), Ajay's dad Ranjit rests in an easy chair (a recliner of sorts, made with a cloth loosely wrapped around a steel frame), a book lying open on his chest, his eyes closed, legs stretched out on a stool (wooden ottoman).
Beyond the foyer is the living area, with a bed, some Almira's and a television. Ajay's mother and grand mom sit on the floor watching a daily soap along with the next door neighbor. They have cranked up the volume to drown the music blaring outside. Ajay walks in to get a glass of water from the earthen pot and shakes his head in disgust.

He goes back to his perch on the bed in the adjoining room, which is essentially a bedroom but doubles as his study. With the balls of cotton stuffed in his ears not doing much to drown all the sounds, he returns to his books. But not before he stops to think "I need to get out of this god forsaken place.. I need to go far away!!" With a heavy sigh he returns to his books...

The exams come and go, and its now time for the results. Ajay has done well, but not well enough.. He knows his marks will get him an engineering seat in the city, but will his dad be willing to pay tuition which will be rather expensive? Ranjit has drilled it into Ajay that it was just not possible, and unless Ajay got into a Government Engineering College with lesser tuition he could not afford it!! But Ajay is hoping he can depend on his mom to influence his dad.

Ranjit comes home from work... Radha is waiting at the doorstep for him
Radha: Ajay has got admission in KG college of Engineering
Ranjit: Whats the point, if he had got admission in Government Engineering College, I would have been happy
Radha: But think about it, if he studies Engineering he will be settled in life
Ranjit: A science course is not bad, let him do BSc (Bachelor of Science), I spoke to my friend Govindarajan, who teaches at PS Arts and Science College. He says that if Ajay studies hard, even after BSc he can come up in life.
Ranjit's Mom has been listening all this while. She speaks up in support of her dear grandson
He is only asking money to study, why cant you give that.. he is not asking for money to blow up like other kids!

Ranjit: Amma, you don't understand anything.. where will so much money come from
Radha: Satish's dad took a loan for his son to study.. maybe you can do that?
Ranjit: Let me see

Ranjit arranges for a loan using his house as collateral. Ajay gets his admissions in the KG College of Engineering. He promises his dad that once he starts earning he would return all the money.

Ranjit: You need to study very hard and concentrate on just that. Wrap up your play for a while till you finish your education.
Ajay: Yes dad
Ranjit: I will send money for food and boarding, spend the money very frugally.
Ajay: Yes dad, don't you worry I will be very careful.
Ajay runs out of the house to meet his friends!!

Ranjit turns to Radha :I am not sure he understands how much we sacrifice to give him all these luxuries he asks for.
Radha: You don't worry, I know my son he understands our difficulty.
Ranjit: I hope he does, and studies hard to prove that the money we are spending is not wasted
Radha: You keep doubting your son.. he is a gem!! You can't find anyone like him
Ranjit: I do hope you are right.

A month later.. Its time for Ajay to leave for the city. Ajay's grand mom has packed boxes of delicacy for him to carry with him.
Grand mom: Take care of your health. Eat well.. don't study too hard.. eat and sleep well.
Ajay: Yes Patti. I will
Radha: Ajay be good, and make us proud of you!
Ajay:Yes Amma don't you worry.. I will study hard and make all of you proud!
Ranjit is very quiet.. He just says : God bless you son.
Ajay touches the feet of all the elders and leaves. His friend is waiting with a cycle outside the house and loads the bag on the back of the cycle, and rolls the cycle along. Ajay walks with his friend to the bus stand where the bus will take him to the City.
He leaves with excitement in his heart, a little fear in his eyes.. and thinks to himself "I will study hard and get a highly paid job... I will never be poor again"

(To be Continued...)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Treasure

Not so long ago, On a warm and sunny day
My father took me aside and told me a tale
What a tale it was, of a long lost treasure

Listening to it made me tingle with pleasure

He said: In the depth of the forests

Beyond the bushes and the tall trees

Covered in sand, beneath the Pipal (Bodhi) Tree,
Is a treasure chest as shiny as can be
And when the sun sets it shines through the leaves

On the ground where the chest lies beneath.

With a bit of fear and lot of thrill, I set to venture
On a journey to uncover the coveted treasure
I walked beneath bushes and bore the scar(s)
The reptiles lurked but did not (me) deter

I searched far and near, I searched high and low ,

Beneath each rock and below every bough..

Rivulets ran down my face and spine

My back did ache but never did I whine

As dusk set in, I saw the gleam so near

And tripped and fell as I rushed to the clear (ing)

And there I beheld the Giant Pipal Tree

Beneath which the promised treasure would be

I dug with the shovel and with my arms bare
My eyes lighting up at the sight of the chest so dear

I opened in a hurry and was surprised to see
A palm leaf scroll with words wise as can be!

" Things not your own will yield no good, however you guard with pain;

Your own, however you scatter them abroad, will yours remain."

-Thirukural (Chapter 38, Verse 376) (Source - Wikipedia)

The last couple of lines are that of the famous tamil poet Saint Thiruvaluvar. Tirukural was written 2200 years ago and consists of 1330 couplets divided into 133 chapters. They teach you the philosophy of life.. an attempt at translation has been made on Wikipedia The tamil kurals can be found at Tamilzone
In those days , in India the scribes were recorded on the readily available medium of smoke-treated palm leaves (olai in tamil)

The reference to the Bodhi/Pipal tree is intentional. Buddha got his enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.
This poem (cum short story) is in response to the prompt from Writers Island this week, I had fun writing it... hope you enjoyed reading it!!

Life is like that

It was a warm and sunny day and the kids were playing a game of cricket. Little Ajay's dad couldn't afford cricket gear in his meager income. But he would have loved to have a bat for himself. He was having to borrow the bat from his friends. And most days he never got a turn at batting.
Rohit called out : Ajay pick up the ball fast.
Ajay picks up the ball half hearted and throws it to Rohit. Meanwhile the batsmen Krishna and Sanjay have run 4 runs. Rohit is mad at Ajay for being so careless.
Rohit: Don't come to play with us if you wont pay attention.
Ajay: I want to bat too
Rohit: Then get a bat of your own.
Ajay walks away dejected. His mom has been watching all this from a distance. Ajay walks home and sits down on the doorstep. His grandmom sees him and approaches
Grandmom: Ajay why aren't you playing?
Ajay: I don't feel like playing
Grandmom: Why? Are the other boys troubling you?
Ajay: No no.. its too warm to play out.. I am tired!
Grandmom: Oh you poor boy, come let me get you something to drink.
Ajay follows his grandmom into the house.
That evening, his dad Ranjit comes home from a long day at work. Ajay rushes to greet him.
Ajay: Daddy did you have a good day
Ranjit : Yes Ajay I did, how was your day
Ajay: I played cricket and then played at home for sometime
Ranjit : Did you not study today?? Go pick up your books and read for a while before dinner
Ajay walks away looking forlorn
Ranjit : Radha do you know whats wrong with this boy. Why is he looking so upset today?
Radha (Ajay's mom) narrates the whole incident to him.
Radha: I think you should get him the bat. Poor guy!!
Ranjit : Do you think I don't want to buy him a bat. It will cost 200 bucks, I can't spare that much cash.
Radha: You call yourself a teacher at a govt school and if you cant spare that cash who will? The dhobhi next door buys so many toys for his son, and you can't buy anything for yours.
Ranjit : Don't say that.. you are being unreasonable....
Radha (interrupting him): I have work to do..
She the walks away!
The next day as Ajay returns from school, there is a shiny new bat waiting for him. He is so excited. He runs to his dad and hugs him, thanks him and runs out to play. Radha is also beaming.. neither notice the missing watch on Ranjit's hand.
(To be continued ...)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And so it ends!

She looked around her at the sad sorry faces...
At those wailing and weeping uncontrollably.. Why are they crying? she asked herself So many familiar faces. What did I miss ?
She walked through the doorway and into the house.
There huddled up sat her partner of 25 years. With tear filled eyes and a cloth to his mouth.. Her heart skipped a beat as she went up to him.
Whats Wrong? She asked. Are Roopa and Radhika alright?
He dint respond.... She frantically looked around. Both the girls were nowhere to be seen.
They never tell me where they are going, don't they know I will worry! She thought
Roopa She Called Are you home, Where are you?
She turned to look at Ravi...Don't worry She said I will go look , they are going to be okay
When he dint respond, She bent down to give him a hug and hoped that would reassure him
He wouldn't even hug her back.
She started a methodical search around the house, looking for the girls.
As she entered her bedroom she saw Roopa splayed across the bed. Weeping uncontrollably.
Whats it sweetheart... why are you so upset? ... Where is Radhika?
And then she remembers, dint she see Radhika off at the airport the day before. She must have reached the US by now, I wonder why she hasn't called yet She thought. And then it occurred to her Why Ravi and Roopa were so upset, why there were so many people around, Had something happened to Radhika?
She ran down to Ravi.. Ravi is Radhika alright she called out.. What happened to my little girl, I told you I didn't want her to go to the US. You insisted that she go.
Ravi didn't even look up. At that instant the phone rang and Ravi went to pick it up
Hello Radhika he said. She breathed a sigh of relief thinking Oh thank god Radhika is alright
Ravi said Radhika I want you to listen to this carefully. Your mom has met with an accident. Can you try and come back?
Then she saw it. The lifeless body lying in the middle of the room, the same face she had looked at in the mirror for the past 45 years. She looked around in despair
She said in her loudest voice... Don't worry Ravi I will be with you forever... But she knew he couldn't hear, he would never hear her again!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Over the horizon

(Pict Courtesy:

Over the horizon, the promise of light
New beginnings dawn, a whole new life
To live and conquer a bright new day
The very first for the rest of my life

As I walk my walk I ask myself
Will I reach whole new heights?
Will I conquer the world in my stride?
Will I acquire success oh so elusive?

I trip, I fall, I hurt as I walk...
I get up and walk a little too fast
The light blurs and the horizon seems so far...
The sun is setting on my day...
But I still have a long long way!

I stop to think and I find...
I have been there all the time!
The bliss and peace has always been mine..
Oh if only I had stopped before

And then I look up only to see
Over the horizon, the promise of light
New beginnings dawn, a whole new life
To live and conquer a bright new day
The very first for the rest of my life

Writers Island prompt - Over the horizon.
Here's wishing all the writers a wonderful "rest of your life". I think of Scarlet from "Gone with the wind" standing at the stoop of Tara... looking over the horizon and declaring "Tomorrow is a new day"...
Oh yes it is and like the saying goes.. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life!