The train journey

Sucharita was a eleven year old girl, studying in Class VI. She loved playing badminton. It started small, as all big things do. She picked up a racquet once in school during the games period, when she was in Class IV and her games teacher instructed her on the nuances of the game. It was not that she started loving the game from the time she touched the racquet. It was more a gradual liking for the game. It helped that her natural skills and keen eyesight helped her play the game well. The games teacher soon realised that she had an extremely talented player at hand. Feeling that Sucharita’s game would improve with a better coach, she recommended that Sucharita attend special coaching sessions under Coach C in his academy.

Coach C was conventional in his approach – he started slow and maintained the tempo. It was almost two years later that he considered Sucharita capable of attending a tournament. The tournament was being held in a city about 300 kms away and was conducted over a period of 2 days. Sucharita was to go alone with the coach and 3 other students of the academy. This would be the first time that she would be going anywhere without her parents and the newness was quite exciting.

She had her packing done a week in advance and then the countdown started. The day of the journey arrived and her parents came to the station to see her off. She just glazed over when they started reiterating the instructions, that they had already given her many times over. The guard sounded his whistle and they were off. She waved to her parents until they were just specks in the distance.

All of a sudden, she felt extremely alone and sad. Soon, her coach and friends started a conversation and she felt better. They started playing games and the time just flew. A few stations whizzed by and then, the kids decided that they would get a better view if they went near the door of the carriage. The four of them chose the two doors and plonked down on the two doorways. Coach stood in the centre watching over them. The cool wind on their faces was exhilarating and gave them a sense of flying, due to the speed of the moving train. When the train took a turn, they saw the end of the train curve and had fun counting the compartments.

A station came up and Coach made them all get back to their seats. He got down to get some snacks for them, with strict instructions to them to not stir from their seats. Well, you know how kids are. When they saw Coach disappearing, they sneaked down the steps to see what the platform looked like. There was a juice kiosk nearby and they went up there to get some juice. It gave them a thrill to be transacting on their own. With their juices in hand, they forgot the time and were sipping and savouring, when they were startled by a loud whistle. One of them said – well, that is one train that is leaving. Then Sucharita said – well, it looks like that it is ours. Reaction set in and they were shocked out of their wits when they saw that their train had slowly started moving. They made a mad dash towards the train and clawed their way up the train. They were real lucky that there was grown-up who pulled them in one by one.

Well, you can imagine the state of affairs then. Coach spoke to them then. He did not shout or raise his voice. However, they were not likely to forget what he told them about responsibility and heeding advice for the rest of their lives. His words showed how very much disappointed he was with them.

The kids were quite subdued the rest of the trip and when they reached their room, there was discussion on how they could make it up to Coach. Well, the only way they could think of was to ensure that they played extremely well. Needless to say, they did very well and came back with a host of medals. Coach was thrilled, to say the least.

The journey back was uneventful but a very happy one. They begged Coach to forgive them for their thoughtlessness. Coach smilingly accepted their apologies and said, “I hope you will continue to do well in subsequent tournaments also, without trying to get down on some platform and miss the train.” The kids burst into loud peals of laughter and started thinking about the stories they would tell their parents and friends.

 

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The wedding that lasts

She was born high up in the mountains. The surroundings were pristine – the sharp, clean air, the lovely snow and the majestic peaks made a picture post card background. It is a wonder that somebody would want to leave this heaven like place and want to come down to the plains. But that was exactly what she wanted to do.

She started off as a tiny one and then started growing. Although her size kept growing, she had the grace and the beauty to carry it. She learnt to crawl, toddle, walk and then she started racing. It was dizzying just watching her fly down the mountains. God only knew why she was in such a tearing hurry to leave her home. Her voice changed too – from the sweet tinkling that she was born with, it graduated to a gurgling and then as her speed increased, it changed to a deafening roar.

It was after she reached the plains, that she started picking up stuff along the way. She had heard about the big, bad world and how it would really ruin her but coming from a clean environment gave her no indication of what was to come. She didn’t realise that everybody would be out to ruin her. A stain here, a smell there, and so on. She became a bit sadder everyday as her burdens grew. She couldn’t understand why she was being treated so unfairly. It was not as if she was bothering anybody. More often than not, she was helping out everyone that she met in her way.

She also realised that her carefree youth also seemed to be slipping away from her. She was becoming a bit sluggish and slow. Just when she would think that she could finally break free and run, then the men would corral her and contain her. It was so frustrating that she wanted to weep.

Somewhere along this time, she started having self doubts. Her speed gone, her beauty marred, all the added burdens – was this really her? She desperately wanted a partner for company – somebody who would accept her with her burdens and stains and all. But the self doubts were strong. Who could ever love her when she hated herself?

Weary and exhausted, just when she had given up all hope, she met him. Somebody who embraced her with all her imperfections and absorbed it, gave her shelter so that she was completely absorbed in him, ensured that all her burdens were simply smoothed away. She was so glad and relieved that she didn’t even mind that her character was completely subdued and she completely lost her identity. She was content and happy to just be with him. Of course, she said yes, when he proposed.

Another small wonder was that some of the people realised her plight and started helping her clean herself. Her husband was very kind too and she really had nor Eason for distress. She began to smile a bit again and everybody agreed that this was a match made in heaven. Although she was still traumatised from her past, things were looking up. It helped no end, that her marriage was so wonderful, accommodating and understanding.

The one romantic story that will stand the test of time is the marriage between the dirty, sodden river with the vast ocean. Don’t you wish you had such a thing in your lives?

Presence….

Notice how some people leave their unique stamp and impression?

So that they seem to be present in the room when they are actually not.

You can see them in somebody else’s facial expressions.

The way somebody completely different follows the same train of thought.

 

Or you are reminded of them when somebody else reacts or speaks.

Or it could be a similar mannerism, a similar manner of dress.

The same style, that way of nodding that is no longer unique.

Or something like the toothy smile or wide grin that another could possess.

 

You may be going on with your tasks for the day, with no thought of Mr. X.

Suddenly a stray perfume (more likely cigarette smoke 🙂 ) will make you think of him.

What do you think happens and what creates this effect?

Would you say that this is something like the itch caused in a phantom limb?

 

Or you are extremely busy, harried and frazzled with utter chaos around you.

An image or a word pops up amidst your work that makes you think of Ms. Z.

Do you wonder if she understood your condition, if she actually knew.

That you needed that smile, that connection, that moment to just be.

 

Sometimes it is more tangible, an actual look alike will materialise.

Especially for people, who have been out of your life for a long time.

It is almost as if they are reminding you, to make you realise,

that you need to re-connect, call or email, it is high time.

 

At other times, you can actually feel a very strong presence.

Of people who are no longer in this world, that we call ours.

It is as if they came to check if you are okay in their absence.

Before they leave for their permanent home among the stars.

 

How do you account for these instances and these events?

Can science come up with a logical explanation or reason?

I would prefer to think that the souls need to connect and then be content.

Be happy that somebody thought of me and I am loved by someone.

 

The case of the mirror

This is the story about a young, mischievous lady, who was extremely fun loving. Her face was extremely shiny and very well polished. She lived in an extremely large mirror, mounted in the lobby of a block of flats.

She had such a wonderful personality that people, who looked at her, smiled back at her. She invoked vanity – one of the seven sins – in most people. Others would try to see their best features. Some would stand taller, some would pull in their stomachs, some would flex their muscles etc. Of course, she could not satisfy everybody and  there were people who frowned at her too. You know the sort of people – right? Them, who focus on the frown lines instead of the dimples, the few grey hairs in an ocean of black, auburn or blond hairs, the tiny pooch in a perfectly sculpted body and others like them.

So, our lady had a huge library, with stack upon stack of images. Her job was basically to identify the person standing in front of her, trawl through the library and handover the correct image to the person. After years and years of dong this perfectly well every single time, she was bored. I am not too sure if she was bored with her job or with her life in general. Maybe her incentives were screwed up or something. So, she decided to have some fun.

She started handing back irrelevant images, but was careful not to change the gender. The woman who had lost 10 kgs received an image of the chubby person she had been and immediately sank into depression. The toddler got an image of the wizened old man and started wailing. The teenaged girl, aiming for a goth look, received an image of an elegantly dressed lady and was shocked out of her wits. The body builder saw a weak, anorexic youth and was understandably bewildered. The elderly, smooth- shaven gentleman saw himself with a beard and unruly hair and thought he was suffering from dementia.

Can you imagine the chaos that reigned? There was hysteria and shock, despair and desperation and general pandemonium. Now, you know pranks can never be hidden and this was no exception. News reached the ruler of the land of mirrors and she was asked to report to him a little past midnight.

Oh – the scolding and the censure that she got. You would think that she had murdered someone. The ruler didn’t know the meaning of fun. She tried so hard to get her point across that it was all in good-natured fun but that didn’t cut any ice. Her trial was over before she realised. She lost her job and a replacement was found for the apartment lobby. However her punishment was to be pronounced the next day.

The ruler had never faced such a situation before and he kept thinking about the situation the whole day. He remembered a time, long ago, when he also wanted to have fun. He thought and thought and finally hit upon the ideal punishment for her.

She was sentenced to being the captain of the spirits of the distorting mirrors worldwide.  So, as per the rule book, she is punished but with a job that she likes. A win-win situation for everybody. Her job now is to monitor her entire team that hands over taller, shorter, fatter or thinner images, but never the correct image. However, she can never resist the idea of being hands-on and will get into the act now and then. The next time, you step into the mirror house in any amusement park, see if you can spot the lady grinning away to glory!

A different zoo

via Daily Prompt: Zoo

Year 3050 BC

The family had planned a zoo trip for the weekend. Mrs. B always tried to make any experience educational. This would be no exception. Before visiting any place, the necessary research had to be done and knowledge was to be gathered as to what to expect and what to do or not to do.

So, she looked over at her husband and children at the breakfast table and asked a general question – “So, do you guys know what a zoo is and what is it that you can expect to see?” Master B, only 4 years old, answered -“Yes, ma. It is a place where they house some other species of creatures, that we may not see in our cities.” Miss B, at 5 years old, knew a little more and said “Zoos are meant to let us kids know what these creatures look like and learn what they eat and how they live.” Mrs B smiled and said ” That is wonderful, kids. I am sure we are going to have a lovely day today.”

She added some more general information about the zoo. It was spread over an area of 1000 acres – with specific areas earmarked for particular species. The areas were cordoned off and above using lasers as an invisible wall – there were no cages. Visitors had to stay at a height of 10 meters above the ground and observe the species from overhead. Those who were unfortunate not to have their own teleporter could hire one at the zoo. Feeding or teasing the species was a punishable offence, as was trying to interact with them or fly below 10 meters.

They armed themselves with a picnic hamper, sunscreen, hats, binoculars and all the regular paraphernalia that is required for a family, when they step out. They teleported to the zoo and found that many other families had had the same idea as them. However owing to Mr B having booked premier passes in advance, they bypassed the long queues and went straight into the zoo.

They started with the informational video which showcased all the various creatures that had walked the Planet Earth and then the museum where they saw the reconstructed skeletons and stuffed creatures like dinosaurs, tigers, whales and elephants. They didn’t spend much time here because the kids were getting impatient to see the live creatures.

They decided to have a snack break before they proceeded. Nourished and fortified, they started again. They saw the wildebeest and the giraffe families, the tortoise and the antelopes, the hippo and the rhino families, the birds and the fishes. Mrs. B decided it was time for a lunch break before they went on to the special exhibit section.

They chose a lovely spot by the lake and spread their rug and dove into the delicacies packed by Mrs. B. After stuffing themselves, they decided to have a quick nap to allow all that food to get digested. When they woke up, they cleaned their space and moved on to their last exhibit.

Mr. B pointed out the families and identified the places of the globe that they belonged to. There was a Chinese family, an American family, a Nigerian family, an Italian family and so on. Master B asked – “But why are humans here, Papa? We can see them sometimes in the city too.” Mr.B explained in simple terms how humans had once straddled Planet Earth and then ended up destroying it with their carelessness and insensitivity. They polluted rivers and oceans and over populated the cities, they tore down forests and destroyed mountains and if all that was not bad enough, they destroyed almost everybody as well as the planet in the nuclear war in 2682 BC.

He also talked about how the baboons had slowly stepped in and moved bunches of people and other species to their new planet CKB8 and how the few humans, who had agreed to come along for the ride, were the only ones remaining in existence. In this new planet, there was no superior species, there was a representative of each on the governing panel and they took all the lessons learnt from the mistakes made by humans very seriously. So the planet had the baboons, the gorillas, the chimpanzees and the langurs in governance with the other species in the forests. The few human families lived in harmony.

They were all exhausted after this fun-filled day. They started back home and both the kids told their parents how much fun they had had. Mrs. and Mr. Baboon smiled contentedly at each other on a day well spent.

PS: This is in response to the daily prompt “Zoo” and also my tribute to Animal Farm by George Orwell.

 

 

 

 

 

Blurry world

As a child, she loved to sit and quietly read.

She used to devour books by the dozen.

There were times when people would plead.

Asking her to put down the book and listen.

 

Whether she read about people or monkeys,

She had this need to complete the book or novel taken up.

To read, she would quickly finish her chores and studies.

She was the president and secretary of the one-person reading club.

 

The stories allowed her to dream and fantasise.

She could be the best at anything there, you see.

She could literally reach for the skies and fly.

Or be the captain of a ship sailing the seas.

 

It also provided her an excellent excuse.

For not participating in any sports or games.

She didn’t want to face any catcalls or boos.

She sucked at sport – that was her secret shame.

 

She never tried to analyse or understand.

Why she could never catch a ball or shoot a hoop.

She just assumed that sports was her no-man’s land.

So she circled herself out of that group.

 

It was some years later that somebody suggested.

Was she seeing clearly? Was her vision okay?

The results of the eye test subsequently attested.

Her vision was a problem – that is why she could not play.

 

How was she able to read? you ask.

Her problem was not long sight or short.

She could do reading and writing and other tasks.

She had trouble with shapes of all sorts.

 

A circle looked like an ellipse.

A square resembled a rectangle.

So, her sports activities were given a miss.

Since her brain received the wrong signals.

 

When she wore the first pair of prescribed lenses.

It looked as if somebody had cleaned the world of the fuzz and blur.

The world was suddenly clearer – it was so miraculously splendid.

She no longer felt that she was looking through water.

 

It was no surprise that her ability at games grew better.

Not that she was aiming for the World or Olympic heights.

But now that her vision was sharper,

She could participate to her heart’s delight.

 

And no, she didn’t give up her first love – reading.

Only her fantasies changed – became more colourful.

She knew that appearances could be misleading.

And that she had the capacity to make her life wonderful.

 

On thinking deeply, the fact that stands out most of all.

She thought she could never play because she lacked co ordination and skill.

While all the time, her eyes were at fault.

Guess we have to really search hard for an answer that fits the bill.

 

 

The gift from the gods…

They were a normal, middle-aged couple living in one of those fast-expanding cities that we see everywhere nowadays. They raised a family of two children and followed their middle-class values with its usual dose of common sense, thrift and spirituality. That means that they had the right amount of all those core middle-class values. They went to the temples every week, read a little bit of scriptures and believed totally in His power. They thought nothing of spending a lot to gift someone they loved but would budget most cautiously when it was time to spend on themselves. Above all, they believed that tradition and modernity could be balanced and they balanced the tight rope very well.

As time went by, they all too suddenly realised that their family dynamics had changed. Their children had grown up, (wasn’t it only yesterday that they were mewling infants? You blink and they grow up) and had jobs and lives of their own. And just when they thought that they had more time now to devote to their jobs, the big, bad R word came up. Retirement – get it?

Isn’t it ridiculous that our country thinks that seniors don’t have the capacity to work and gently eases them out of their corporate chairs into their homes? Seniors have the experience and the time and the patience to actually do a better job but somehow they are not given a chance. Most of them end up depressed and picking up fights with their spouses.

Well, anyway, so our heroes too came by their retirement party and started spending time together. Having spent the majority of their life being busy, they loved the bliss of lazing around for the first couple of months. They travelled a bit and struck off the jobs on their huge to-do lists. Their savings were not huge but they were able to manage their lives with their sensible spending. With all this done and dusted, came the boredom. What could they do now? You couldn’t watch TV at all – the news could be heard in 30 minutes, the movies and other shows didn’t attract them. The daily chores and the walks in the park and the other regular activities of daily existence took about 4 – 5 hours of their lives. The remaining stretched out, long and boring.

They started bickering. It was when they were at snapping point that they received a call from the lawyer. It appeared that her black sheep uncle who ran away from home and snapped all ties, when he was a teenager, had died and left a huge rambling bungalow and some good chunk of money to her. It was in a place not far away from their home. It was surprising that the uncle should choose her because they had never met.

After the death and gift taxes had taken away most of the money, they still had some money and the bungalow left. After putting their heads together, they opened up a senior citizens’ community centre. A place where people like them could congregate and have some fun during the day – read magazines, learn some activities like tennis, baking, basic computer skills, dance, etc or  give or attend some talks. It was also a place where they could gossip, if they wanted to. They even had a theatrical troupe, a music group, a dance group and some magicians and jugglers. Event management organisations tied up with them. The more serious minded of them gave guest lectures. Some started a small daycare and they kept growing younger because of the company they kept. The seniors started their second innings at earning and having fun, while at it.

Our heroes were now busier than ever and peaceful and content because of their place ‘Rihansh’ literally meaning gift from the gods.