[Short Story] Saraswati

The colorful books of her brother always fascinated little Saraswati. She didn’t understand why her parents disliked her fascination of books. They either scolded her or snatched away the book from her. They always made her brother Sunil to read books even though he disliked reading.

Saraswati waited till her family went to sleep at night. She tiptoed into Sunil’s study room and retrieved one of his books. Under torch light beneath her blanket she flipped the pages of the book slowly with reverence. The pictures of A for Apple B for Ball intrigued her. She noted the curve of B the slant lines of A. She liked the picture of cat. She always loved kittens and played with them. She memorized the letter C of her beloved Cat. After an hour of studying the mysterious letters and fascinating pictures she used to carefully place the book at its rightful place.

The magic hour in the nights didn’t last long. Her mother soon discovered her covert midnight  mission. Saraswati didn’t forget the thrashings she received. Her bruises didn’t let her forget that dreadful night for a long time. 

One day Sunil saw Saraswati scribbling in the mud with her finger. She had managed to write her beloved C. This triggered a wicked idea in Sunil’s mind which was going to be a blessing for Saraswati. Sunil secretly taught Saraswati how to write with pencil. He made her write his homework. Saraswati was delighted. This continued for years without their parent’s knowledge. Even though Saraswati never stepped into a classroom she had more knowledge than others her age, thanks to her lazy elder brother.

Sunil’s class teacher Miss Sharada, knew that the homework was being written by Saraswati. She could make out from the handwriting difference. While Saraswati wrote in clear legible handwriting, Sunil’s was illegible. She didn’t object to this as she was happy that Saraswati was getting education.

One day while checking Sunil’s homework book, a piece of paper dropped from the book. Sharada picked up the paper. She identified Saraswati’s handwriting. It was written in hurry. The letter said:

“I am being forced to marry. Please help me.”

Saraswati hoped that the teacher would help her. However, as the minutes passed by and the Baraat came nearer, her hopes faded away. She was barely 15 and the groom was a 60 year old drunk. Her parents didn’t seem to care. They just wanted to get rid of me, Saraswati thought glumly. She was always reminded that she was paraya dhan. Tears trickled at first then started flowing in torrents.

It was a strange wedding. The groom’s cousin put forth a condition that they had a tradition of marrying at their ancestral home and bride’s parents were not allowed. The kanyadaan would be done by the priest’s relatives. Saraswati’s parents didn’t object. They gave away Saraswati without a second thought. Saraswati couldn’t see the groom’s face as it was covered in sehra.

Once they reached the ancestral home, the groom removed the sehra. Saraswati was shocked to see the face. She had expected an old wrinkled masculine face. Never did she imagine that she would see her teacher’s face instead. Sharada explained that she convinced the old drunk that his would be bride was a handicap. He felt cheated and went back to his village. Saraswati thanked her teacher.

Sharada took Saraswati to the city and helped her with her studies. Couple of years later, Saraswati completed her graduation and started working as a teacher. After working for 5 years, Saraswati went back to her village with a desire to teach the uneducated girls.

On the way she spotted her parents begging on the streets. She was shocked and appalled when she came to know that her brother had thrown them out of the house. She rented a house and took her parents in. Her parents realized their mistake and asked forgiveness. They helped Saraswati in convincing the villagers to allow their daughters to study.

With her determination and hard work Saraswati helped the girls in her village to get education. Sharada felt proud of her student’s incredible feat. It was the best kind of Guru Dakshina she could ever receive.

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[Short Story]: Vignaharta’s Woes

“Aaah”, Goddess Gauri wailed in agony. Lord Ganesha was deeply saddened to see deep bloody wounds all over His Mother’s body.

“How did this happen, Ma? Who did this?” asked Lord Ganesh, his voice shaking, on the verge of fury.

Goddess Gauri looked at her son with tear filled eyes and gave Him a feeble smile. “You were being immersed in the river… the lake… the sea… the ocean… I had come to welcome you! I am the water who embraces you… I am the fishes who lick you… I am the plants who tickle you… I am Prakurti (Nature)… Earlier your idols were only made of clay and natural colors. Now, it is made of toxic substances. I died a little when I swallowed the toxic paint as a fish. I died some more when I couldn’t breathe as a plant with all the garbage being dumped. These wounds signify the deaths of living beings due to toxicity…”

Even though Ganesha didn’t speak, his face spoke about the intense anguish He felt seeing His Mother in agony. Goddess Gauri could sense that her son was already thinking about how to solve this problem, however, He was finding it difficult.

Just then one of the deep gashes on Goddess Gauri’s forehead healed.

Lord Ganesha was surprised and looked at His Mother for answers. Looking at Lord Ganesha’s questioning face, Goddess Gauri smiled brightly.

“It looks like a seed germinated somewhere…” said Goddess Gauri.

On hearing those words, Lord Ganesha’s face lit up. He said, “I know what I must do, Ma.” He touched Her feet and left.

“Where are we going, Master?” asked Mushaka.

“To plant some seeds”, smiled Lord Ganesha.

They came across a child who was sleeping. Lord Ganesha took the form of a dream and entered the child’s dream. The next day when the child woke up, he told his parents about the dream he saw. He said that Lord Ganesha requested him to immerse His idol in a bucket instead of the river and to plant a sapling in the bucket once the idol disintegrates into mud. His parents obliged and felt immense happiness which they hadn’t experienced before.

“Now I get it!” exclaimed Mushaka. “We are not planting plant seeds but seeds of an idea!”

“Yes, dear genius” smiled Lord Ganesha.

“But there are so many children and so little time!” said Mushaka.

Lord Ganesha simply smiled and took the form of a thought this time. He entered the thoughts of teachers. The teachers asked students to volunteer for cleaning up the rivers in order to get bonus marks in their exams. The teachers and students from various schools collected the garlands from the devotees so that they are not thrown into the river. The garlands were buried to form compost. The students cleaned the river banks. The schools which participated in the clean-up drive were rewarded by the government.

Lord Ganesha came across a sculptor who was placing plant seeds in the idol he was sculpting. Lord Ganesha remembered how the wound had healed on his Mother’s face when one of the seeds in the immersed idol germinated. He knew that it was this sculptor who had helped in His Mother’s healing. Lord Ganesha took the form a cute little boy this time. He went and asked the sculptor for some water. Even though the sculptor was busy working on the intricate detailing, he stopped his work and went inside to get water. When he returned, he brought a bowl full of Modakas along with a glass of water. On seeing His favourite sweet, the little boy’s face lit up with joy! When the sculptor looked at the boy digging into his sweets, a deep sense of inner peace engulfed him. For that one divine moment, he felt no worries… only pure joy. He had never felt such happiness in his life.

“Who are you?” the sculptor asked.

“I am Vignesh. Thank you for the Modakas. They were very tasty! Your idols are most beautiful.” smiled the little boy and ran away.

The happiness of the sculptor started reflecting in his work. His idols became popular. In addition to the seeds, he started placing fish food within the idols.

Lord Ganesha was pleased to see this. He returned to Mount Kailash. He was welcomed by His Mother. Most of her wounds had healed.

“I know… I know… you are hungry… the Modakas are waiting for you!” beamed Goddess Gauri.

Lord Ganesha chuckled and ran towards his beloved Modakas.

Why traffic jams can be good for you!

While travelling back home from office in bus, my brain has this habit of wandering and coming into some weird conclusions. On one such adventure my brain came to this conclusion: since we mostly spend two hours a day (back & forth) in office commute, we spend approximately a month in a year on road. This time is mostly unproductive, however, there are some who manage to put it to effective use.

I have few friends who have managed to complete the entire Harry Potter series while they were on road and now they are onto Game of Thrones. And then there are some of us who simply enjoy company with our favorite songs or online games.

Those of us who drive, end up spending a month in a year, avoiding potholes/ idiots/ cows/ processions and so on.

But if you get stuck in a traffic jam on daily basis then obviously you spend more than a month on road in a year.

Traffic jams usually have negative impact on us. So my brain, in its quest for doing something unusual, tried coming up with some positive impacts of traffic jam.

Here are its discoveries:

  • It tremendously increases your patience: What can you do anyway? If you do, you’d either end up in hospital or prison. Either ways it’ll be a costly lesson on having patience.
  • It makes you an expert in finding alternate routes: Those of us who drive, would rather risk driving on footpath than wait patiently on road.
  • You can have a power nap: This is not recommended for drivers (You can attempt it if you are sure that you’ll be stuck at least for an hour). For others: Sweet dreams!

  • You can catch up with your old friends: Text them or call them. Talk about good old times. Chances are they too would be stuck in traffic and would be glad to hear from you!
  • Set your brain free: Let your brain wander. Who knows you might get a billion dollar idea!

What is your way of surviving traffic jam? Let us know.

P.S.: This blog post has been written while stuck in traffic jam. 🙂 

When my Nose goes for a date with Common Cold

It is the season of love and my nose has a huge crush on common cold. After every ice cream or cold drink date my nose falls head over heels in love with cold. Sometimes even dust plays cupid to this made-for-each other pair.

And me being the villain in this love story, I employ all sorts of tricks to get rid of the cold. My trusted tonsils, whose only goal in life is to keep an eye on these roadside romeos, are the first ones to notify me about the upcoming stormy affair.

So I employ the first weapon in my armoury- gargling with hot water containing salt & turmeric. This works when the cold is really not that into my nose. But if it is one of the fight-till-the-end types, then I have to employ an assorted combination of weapons.

I drink hot water just to irritate the cold. I also trust my old commanders- Ginger & Pepper for their experience in dealing with these kinds of affairs. I rely on Tulsi to convince my nose that the cold is not the right guy.

The battle rages on for two three days. The white blood cells properly allocate the resources provided by Ginger-Pepper-Tulsi to ensure victory. They mostly win the battles for me. However, there are times when they lose the battle.

At such times, you can rely on medicines which convince my brain that the battle will be won (even if the tablet is useless like placebo). Once the brain is convinced about the winning then the cold never stands a chance.

Of course the cold doesn’t give up that easily. It will brainwash the nose in such a way that both nostrils get blocked in the middle of the night, forcing you to gasp for air through your mouth.

And the worst part, with your nose blocked you can’t even differentiate the taste between karela ki subji (bitter gourd) and gulab jamun. Everything becomes tasteless.

Sometimes I feel nose courts cold just to make us aware of its importance. Breathing happens so naturally that we usually take it for granted. Smell plays an important role in tasting food. Without smell you can never enjoy food. Try eating something with your nose closed, you can experience the difference.

Our ancient scriptures have always insisted on breathing the right way. One of the meditation techniques is to focus solely on our breathing. It is a powerful way of clearing all that noise in our minds & helps in building strong immunity system. In short, take care of your breathing and it will take care of you!

My tonsils are now poking me with “Invasion alert” signals. I need to get that hot water for gargling…Oh no.. AAaaa…. Aaaa… AAAAAAAACHOOOOOOOOOO! And so it begins…

A Single’s Love Story

Fortunately (as per my married friends) & unfortunately (as per my relatives) I am single. Every valentine’s day, like all singles, I wonder when my Mr. Right would turn up. This valentine’s day, instead of brooding over the absence of roses on my doorstep, I decided to celebrate other kinds of love.

Love need not always mean roses, chocolates, gifts or candlelight dinners. It can also be a gentle pat on your back by your father or the heavenly aroma emanating from mother’s kitchen. It can be giggling on a private joke with your cousins or fighting with your siblings. img-20161202-wa0015It can be the cutting chai with your bunch of crazy friends on a lazy afternoon. It can be the hot steaming pakodas made for you by your neighbor.

Love need not be expressed only through love letters, poems or songs. It can be through your mom’s scolding. It can be through your father’s scary silence or your sibling’s punch in your face. It can be through your brother’s concern: “Ghar pohunch gayi na?” It can also be the extra star on your notebook given by your school teacher.

Love need not always mean long drives on an exotic location. It can be sharing the ear phone with your mom while listening to music on long journey. It can also be gossiping with your friends in a fully packed local train or fighting with your sibling for the window seat of bus while visiting relatives.

Love has many forms. It has different meaning to different people. Some people in spite of having many friends & relatives feel lonely or unloved because they keep waiting for the love from that special someone, ignoring the love that is already around them.

I am grateful to all the love showered on me by all the lovely people in my life. I may not get roses this valentine’s day but I will cherish the fragrance of good times shared with my loved ones.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was happy until I watched a news channel

The news anchor was screaming: “A cyclist bled to death while the on lookers simply took videos of him dying”. The channel kept showing the same videos which the on lookers took. The irony of it wasn’t perceptible to the over excited news anchor.

Another instance when I got really depressed was when the news channel kept airing the CCTV footage of girl being molested by two men. It was disturbing to watch it the first time but watching it in loop makes you feel miserable. I can’t even imagine how the victim would feel watching it being aired again & again on national television.

Over the time I realized that every time I watch a news channel I get depressed. Why is it that the major portion of news is always related to killings, rape, suicides, scams, corruption, molestation, riots & terrorism? I don’t even remember the last time any news channel aired something related to happy news. We have become so accustomed to hear about the bad things that we always think negatively. And when the news about ‘presstitutes’ broke out, I lost all faith in the news industry.

We are always surrounded by negative news; hence, it’s no surprise that we as a nation are among the most depressed nations in the world. This again was cheerfully reported by our news channels.

I have stopped watching the news channels these days and I am quite happy. I am no longer cynical about our country, but hopeful. Apart from Bollywood, Cricket & Politics, there are whole lot of other areas which have been silently progressing and very few know about it.

Nobody reports about a villager who grew a whole forest in an attempt to save our planet. No news channel is interested in reporting about young volunteers in our country who help the needy. News channels don’t care much about everyday heroes in our country who save lives. Very few journalists report about the good things in our country.

I am not saying that journalists shouldn’t report about the bad things. They should. But report about the good things in equal measure. Exposing corrupt ministers is necessary but attention should also be given to those who make our country proud. It will help inspire others rather than only feel bad about our nation.

 

Joy of getting pink note from the ATM

Demonetization has forced a millionaire, a sweeper, a house wife, software engineer, a house maid, a laborer to stand shoulder to shoulder at the ATMs & banks. I too was part of that queue. It was nothing short of an interesting experience. Complete strangers start chatting up with you, sharing their joys & woes. It doesn’t matter whether you are an IT professional, or a sweeper, or a VP of a company, or a laborer; in that moment, you are simply an Indian who is getting an opportunity to be a part of a national movement against black money.

A cute girl with a Punjabi accent standing behind me spoke, “it’s such a big line! In my native place in Chandigarh there is no such line. Only here there is such a mad rush. Yesterday I stood three hours in the queue. But when my turn came, the ATM ran out of cash! There is not a single penny in my wallet.” I could feel her helplessness of not having cash. I gave her an understanding smile & said, “Let’s hope for the best.”

I was quite at ease when I joined the queue, but her remark about cash running out made me anxiously count the number of people standing before me. I silently prayed to God that such a thing shouldn’t happen to me. The long serpentine queue moved at such a pace that even a tiny snail would outrun us. The queue was too long but we consoled ourselves by looking at the growing line behind us. At least we were way ahead compared to last person in the line.

A group of girls were standing near the ATM waiting for their friends to come out of the ATM. They wore anxious expressions & kept checking their watch. The moment their friends stepped out of the ATM, they yelled, “Hey come fast. The lecture has already begun. Ma’am won’t be pleased if we arrive late! Come on run!” The girls hopped onto their two wheelers & sped away. A smile escaped my lips as I fondly remembered my college days – the reluctance to enter first when late, pushing our friends to go first to face the wrath of the teacher.

Two guys ahead of us were pretty excited when they finally reached the entrance of the ATM. They couldn’t stop themselves from taking a selfie at the ATM door! A lady tried to enter the ATM without coming in queue, the security guard politely refused her entry. The guard stopped all those who cunningly tried to enter the ATM saying they wanted to print their pass books but actually wanted to withdraw money from ATM. He politely took all their pass books, printed & returned them. I didn’t see him lose his temper even once. Handling the crowd from morning till evening is no easy task. But he did his duty with a smile on his face. I felt immense respect for him.

When finally I arrived near the ATM entrance, my heart beat rose considerably. People who came out of the ATM clutching the pink note had huge grin extending from ear to ear. When I entered the ATM, I saw a man struggling with his card. The guard helped him swipe the card, but the machine couldn’t read it. The guard asked him to wait. He allowed the short man in dirty clothes in front of me to try his card. Instead of coming forward he gave his card to the guard asking him to swipe. He swiped for him & asked him to enter the PIN. To everyone’s amusement, the man said that the PIN is written on the backside of the card. It seemed the guy was illiterate. So the guard entered the PIN, entered 2000 as amount & gave the cash & card to the man. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that whoever steals that card with PIN written on it will be the luckiest thief.

The guard allowed the earlier person to try his card but again it didn’t work. I felt bad for him. I couldn’t decide which was worse: ATM running out of cash at your turn or your card deceiving you. The guard gestured me to come forward. I swiped my card, had a mini heart attack when it didn’t read my card too. The guard simply took my card from my hand & swiped it hard. I could breathe again when it read my card. I entered my PIN & amount. It was such a melodious sound to hear the magenta pink note popping out of the machine and such an amazing sight!

I stepped out of the ATM clutching the note with a 100 watts smile plastered on my face. I wanted to show the note to everyone around as if it was some trophy achieved after a hard fought battle. I couldn’t stop taking a selfie with the note & keeping it as my Whatsapp dp. Seeing me showing off my 2000 rupee note, many friends commented how wealthy I am. Truth is, yes, I had become wealthy, wealthy with joys & hope for a bright future which I share with billions of Indians standing at the queues.