Sunday, April 15, 2012

Destiny

Prasad spotted Naina, his 9'0 clock student, standing near their practice car. He signalled her to wait. A glance on his faded wrist watch showed the time as 8.45. Collecting the Yaris keys from the front desk he proceeded to the tea stall to sip his fourth cup of tea.

Naina was busy counting her attendance on the small green card. Her index finger stopped at seven. Thirty-three more classes left. Desperation was writ all over her face. She had to figure a way out. She hurriedly pressed for the calendar screen on her mobile and started calculating her twentieth class date. The onlookers passing by could hear her counting. Oblivious of her surroundings, she was occupied in thinking of ways and means of fulfilling her dream. She had to convince Sunil by hook or crook, to let her complete mandatory thirteen more classes. The driving school only allowed candidates to appear for the test after completion of twenty classes.

Today’s morning events had toppled her world upside down.

Sunil, bubbling with excitement had hugged her today morning at the clinic. The result was positive. The corners of Naina’s mouth only quirked upward in response. She did not have any strength left to face disappointment a third time. Her hands were also itching to hold her own baby but she concealed her emotions.Both of them had cuddled other’s children many times in the past. They longed for a baby of their own.The gynaecologist seated opposite them was patiently reading the pages of Naina’s pink file.The file contained a detailed report of her two previous miscarriages and her rare blood group. The doctor, closing the file started advising them on precautions to be taken and explained the long list of pills to be consumed. Every movement, any odd pattern had to be reported immediately. Both of them were listening to each word in complete attention. However, the chamber’s stillness and her throbbing heartbeat suddenly felt a jolt hearing the next utterances of the doctor.

“She cannot afford to take any risks. Secondly in addition to all the history, it’s also a late pregnancy. She has to take complete bed rest”. Her face fell listening to these words. Naina shot an icy stare at Sunil, when she caught him nodding in agreement with the doctor. “Bed rest” Her driving dream was again getting shattered. She let out a sigh in despair once she and Sunil walked out of the clinic. She brushed Sunil’s hand away when he tried to put an arm around her shoulder.

Her teen excitement had not waned a bit even today. Naina had always wanted to drive her father's fiat when she was in high school. Her father had strictly instructed their driver never to pass the keys to her. “You will get married one day. I don’t want you to get injured. Why do you want to drive? I will marry you to a guy who can afford a driver for you.”

Naina rebelled at the standard answer he gave every time she requested him. She sulked, pleaded with her father and even tried bribing their driver. But her tricks did not move a single facial muscle of her Dad nor changed the smile of their loyal driver. Mom never had a say in these matters and her driving remained a dream till she married Sunil.

Sunil, after marriage enrolled her for driving lessons. He himself had never driven a car. Hence, when he enrolled for driving lessons, he suggested that Naina should join. Naina was on top of the world. She was thrilled to have a husband who was not a chauvinist like her Dad in these matters. She got a slot a week later than her husband at the driving school in India, but she was ready to wait. She had waited all these years.

Her first lesson at the driving school was still fresh in her memory. She woke up early in the morning, raring to go. Her long lost desire was getting fulfilled. Her one and only objective was to impress her parents with her driving skills, particularly her father. They were visiting her after a fortnight. She even imagined how far her Dad's jaw would drop, if she picked them from the railway station. The very thought gave her a thrill. She joined the driving classes. Over enthusiasm even pushed her to cover three classes on some days. Dining table conversations would invariably end up on discussions on hers and Sunil’s driving progress.

Her confidence improved with each passing day. Two more days left for her parents to come. The only bit now left to learn in the last two classes was reversing. Sunil had already finished his classes and had his licence in hand. He was keen to buy a new car. She decided to give her remaining classes a miss. She wanted to go car shopping with Sunil. His insistence to finish all the lessons fell on her deaf ears. She argued that she had been reversing their scooter perfectly.

Naina confidently drove the new car to the station and parked it. Brimming with joy on seeing her parents, she ran and hugged them. She narrated emphasising particularly that she was the one who drove to the station. Her happiness was plastered on their faces. Sunil, arranging the luggage in the boot fondly looked at Naina. Shutting the boot, he signalled her to sit in the passenger seat. She did not take the cue. She grabbed the car keys and strode confidently towards the driver’s side. She glanced into her father’s eyes in her rear view mirror and started the ignition. With oozing confidence, she reversed, only to dash the car badly against a pole. Sunil ended up coughing thousands of rupees repairing the dent. How foolish she had been in assuming that both car and scooter followed the same pattern of reversing.

She never got an opportunity to drive the car again.

The repaired car had to be sold the next month. Sunil’s company was sending him to States on a new assignment for three years. She joined him in a couple of month’s time, but her mid bump and morning nauseas put her driving dreams on hold in States. Her driving remained a dream and so did her motherhood all these years. within a short span, she had another miscarriage in the States and hence could never drive there too.

This time, in Qatar, she wanted to get everything right, her baby and her driving licence.

A loud burp broke Naina’s chain of thoughts. Prasad, her training instructor longed for a different tea burp. The tea at the corner shop in the driving academy had tasted the same the last three years. He pined for the fragrance of the jasmine flowers and the tinkling of bangles. His thatched hut in Konkan still carried those lovely scents. After marrying Sunita, the smell of jasmine pervaded to every corner of his empty hut. The smell of jasmine adorning her wet hair and sound of her bangles accompanied his morning tea. The couple were happy in their little world.

The first tremors in their blissful married life came in the form of environmentalists. Even today Prasad did not understand the complete implication of the word. One fine day, when he set out for fishing, he and other local fisherman were blocked by a group of people protesting against fishing. They were shouting slogans in English, none of which made any sense. When translated, the entire village was baffled to know that the fishing community was the culprit. The red banners accused them of causing water pollution and ecological imbalance. The agitation continued for days.

The fishing community in particular disliked a person who spearheaded this movement. An Indian and a native of Konkan, a person named Mr.Kelkar, a States returned environmentalist who spoke their mother tongue. The community had to sit through his lectures on global warming and ecological imbalance. Prasad only knew one thing. He had never harmed anyone. He was a God fearing person. “Why was everything going wrong”, he wondered. Mr.Kelkar was the one responsible for shattering Prasad’s domestic bliss and robbing him and his friends of his livelihood. He still wondered even now, how one human being had concern for fish in the sea, but not for co-humans, their aged parents and children.
Mr.Kelkar assured them of all help from the Government for an alternative livelihood. But nothing worked. He tried to find employment, but the numbers of jobs available were few. There were so many jobless fishermen. The competition was stiff. He did not have any other skill. Government’s and Mr Kelkar’s promises to provide compensation never saw the light of the day. Hunger can test a man’s limit. He could never forget Mr.Kelkar’s face.

Some friends suggested that agents in nearby town were sending men to Middle East for jobs. Boarding the bus to the neighbouring town, he also set out to meet the agents. The agent promised him job in Qatar, but he had to pay a hefty fee of 50,000 rupees to the agent for all expenses. The local, moneylender lent him money at a very high rate of interest.

Prasad landed in this Qatar with no skill. The local agent asked him to shadow his current driver. He had never even sat in the passenger seat of a car in his life. He was not as lucky as Naina to enrol for a course to learn driving. The agent by day three told him to start driving, with one clear instruction. If he ever hits or is hit by any vehicle while driving, he was to quickly swap places with the experienced driver. If he doesn’t follow and is caught by police, he will be deported back.
Prasad couldn’t risk losing his job and the he also had the loan looming large on his head. With shaking hands, he clasped the steering in this new country. The speeding cars, the roundabouts at every intersection scared him to death. The experienced driver seated next to him was barking instructions. He wanted to open the trailer’s dusty rattling door and run back to his wife and his town. He also missed the sea, his torn fishing nets, his fish and his friends. The extreme heat, unfriendly terrain and lack of a comforting shoulder added to his woes. He very well knew that he could never escape. His agent had his passport and he was now stuck for two long years.

On the tenth day, his agent took him to appear for the driving test. Prasad to his own surprise passed the test and ended up as a driving instructor in a driving school. His routine included waking up at the crack of dawn and teaching driving from morning six till evening six.

Brushing his eyes with back of his palm, he handed Naina the car keys. Both of them sat in the car and strapped the seat belt lost in their respective worlds. Naina shared with him the news of her pregnancy and the urgency to clear the driving test. Prasad fondly recollected the day, when Sunita had called him one day to share the happy news. He felt so helpless at that moment for he could not even go back to be part of the joy. He had to wait.

Prasad assured Naina, that she would clear the test and he would definitely help her in improving her confidence. He showed Naina, his son’s picture. Last twelve months he had to be content staring at his son’s pictures only. He never had the opportunity to see him in flesh and blood. The company’s contract only permitted him to travel to India at the end of his two years. Six more months wait. Each day seemed never ending. No one could understand his pain. Prasad a father now, decided to provide his son best of education. But he would never let his son become an environmentalist. He still bore the grudge against the environmentalists.

Naina went back home and requested Sunil to let her continue her driving lessons. After hours of discussion, Sunil finally agreed with a condition. “If due to any reason, you are not able to clear in the first attempt, you are not attending anymore classes. I do not mind money wasted, your health is more important.” Naina, thrilled at her small victory nodded her head.

Finally the D-day arrived. The previous day Naina had requested her driver Prasad to come on the test day morning just for moral support. Even Prasad prayed for her. He prayed for all his students, because each student’s first attempt to get licence would fetch him 100 rials. Every rial meant some more savings for his unseen son.

For Naina, he sincerely wished she clear because of the state she was in. Prasad came early in the morning. Naina cleared the signal test, the parking and the L parking test. She next boarded the van along with other students for the road test. She was tensed. Prasad wished her good luck and got back to his teaching. An hour later, Prasad spotted Naina walking with a guy towards him. He could see Naina beaming. The result was written all over her face. He had never seen any of his student so happy on clearing the driving test. As he walked closer to congratulate her and wish her happiness for her future, his eyes fell on the guy walking next to her. The face, the gait all seemed so familiar. He could not go wrong. As they came closer, he felt a lump in his throat. It was the same Mr.Kelkar.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Conspiring senses rebel

The month of March began with an excitement to furnish the house which meant continuous trips to shopping malls, visits that I dislike. I have always detested shopping. However, the enthusiasm to fill the company provided accommodation with possessions that would give me momentary happiness filled my days for some time. Each object parked in my house provided me immense gratification whenever I stepped into my house. I couldn't resist admiring them. Any tiny speck of dust activated me to reach for the cleaning cloth. The smell of new furniture in the house affirmed my settlement in this new place. Sipping my green tea, enjoying the feel of new texture adorning my apartment, I appreciated the unknown craftsmen, who toiled hard to give my senses a pleasure.

My adrenalin rush had not even settled down, when my sensory organs having had their brim started producing uncomfortable sounds. The very eyes, which till yesterday were busy appreciating the beauty indoors, started watering. Nose choked with all the dust and sand blowing outside refused to perform its primary function. My mouth, gasping for breath was forced to open itself at all times. The sore throat sent shrill vibrations in the room tiring me completely. The parched tongue developed a metallic taste swallowing white pills and gulping queer syrups.

Exhausted with the internal aches, my body slumped one day onto the new grey and black sofa. The sedatives numbed me and my sensory organs failed to differentiate between day and night. I was sleeping both through the sunrise and sunset. Whenever I woke up, I found myself lying on the couch. I had become a part of the living room, in other words an extension of the new furniture and I abhorred the feeling. However much I patted myself in selecting each piece, I did not want to be identified as an object of beauty. My limp body convulsing in between, in fact was a blotch on the new upholstery. The grey couch would surely have preferred a healthy companion rather than me and box of wet tissues.

My mood irritable from days of sedation smelt like rotten eggs. But I could feel my senses conspiring to rebel all the resting. The same fingers which enjoyed the rough texture of the sofa material now were aching to do work. Eyes started longing for change of scenario and were pining for some natural hues. The diaphragm was craving for pleasing odours to fill up the thoracic region. Nonetheless, the body wasn't supporting and settled adding an extra layer on the settee. Senses still not armed enough decided to lie low for couple of days more. Now my moods emitted a stench unbearable to my own self. I had to muster courage to discard myself of old smells and firmly hold myself strong.

Gradually, my senses pushed me out of the couch one day, lest I get accustomed to this lassitude. Weakness does resurface some times during the day even now , but my senses fruitfully distanced me from the couch. Thatched conspiracy eventually worked to my relief.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Yellow flowers broke the pattern

I step closer to one of the rectangular glass windows for a fresh peep of nature’s work of art. My eyes long for a freshness beyond the cream walls and the salt and pepper furniture. This subconscious pattern is routinely followed in the last few months.

The L-shaped living room boasts of only three windows. All three bear an uncanny similarity. The wooden pelmet shading the windows looks equally drab and unattractive. The striking similarity of the windows spreads even to the pattern of dust clinging on to the outer sides. The artist is none other than the erratic sand storms and mud blowing from over the seas. Each new design unashamedly reminds me to clean the piling grime. I conveniently ignore it.

The strong sandy gale one day may decide itself to blow strong and vacuum the windows to a sparkle. But as of now, the sandy windows act as canvas for kids in the neighbourhood. They draw ingenious patterns with their tiny little fingers. On some days it even turns into a blackboard. Kids merrily scrawl their names on it, messing their fingers and clothes. Jumbled names with occasional missing letters end up forming a literate pattern in the lower part of the window.
Eyes accustomed to the sprayed dust and illogical patterns were greeted one morning by few small peeping yellow flowers on one window. The ignored shrub below the window had branched out small multi-layered yellow flowers. The dust on the window awed by the flowers beauty dislodged some of the dust letting me appreciate the flowers. Sleepy senses got a jolt and a cheer rose in my heart. Each spread out branch had a bunch of blossoming flowers at its tip. The following days multiplied the yellows and heightened my happiness. I could not drift my eyes from them.

The lifeless window seems to have sprung back to life, the other two windows envious for obvious reasons. I let the window bask in its new found reflection. I leave the window with an inner reflection, so akin to human behaviour.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Deep in sleep

I always heard as a child the story of a poor farmer, who toiled all day and slept like a log every night. He did this for his entire life. Since last fifteen days, I have also been sleeping blissfully. Each body limb just crashes at the sight of the bed. The mind has learnt to switch itself off to the world. Fresh in the morning having slept like a baby, each limb performs its task diligently, like obedient slaves under colonial rule.

There are always dusty rooms everywhere desperately in need of cleaning service. The last fortnight has helped cleared the coating. The sedimentary deposit needs state of art drilling tools and hands of a deft physician to scoop out in all the worrying clots of the mind. The hard working farmer never even had the time to think of all these. He just practiced Nike shoes advert "Just do it", with probably no shoes to shelter his cracked soles.

I don't hop, skip or jump though I have a pair of trainers. My play area is wherever my uncracked soles land and playing is moving. My mind having learnt mathematics at school has passed on the buck to the body parts. So now it's all the organs practicing to be vertical in the broad daylight and crashing as horizontal in the night. There is something now in common with the farmer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Morning

Black round patterns on the grey pleated curtain
Shadow of its strings dangling on the crumpled tip
A blurry pattern emerges before my eyes
A long yawn escapes my dry lips
The numb arm involuntarily reaches
For the spiral water bottle
Cosily resting on the bedside table
The water slipping down my gullet
Sets my mood to start another day.

I shift awakening my sleepy red blanket
The rooms tranquil feels the stir
The creased pillow still bears my outline
My fingers caressingly trace the imprint
A borderless rectangle arrests my attention
My first visitor has sneaked through the glass window
To draw the four side pattern on my old bed sheet
My painted toes play with the beam.

Slipping out of the cosy brown bed
I stake my claim on the cold blue flip-flops
Closing the door on the comforting snore
My feet move along the familiar corridor
The creamy brown tiles recognise my half yearly contours
And guide my sleepy legs to the sliding window
I stop to stare out at blowing sands
The early morning all to myself.

The odourless morning breeze
Sends tiny particles of sand in my eyes
Something does not seem right
The swaying green branches, empty cold benches
The sprinkling hosepipes, the gigantic dusty cars
The green manicured lawns, the noisy power plant
Everything seems out of place.

My eyes still searching for something
Innate in this vast barren land
This wilderness has something to offer
Except vast sandy stretches of blankness
I step out to touch the flowers
To share their loneliness
Both of us confide our tales of displacement.

I do not belong to this desert
Neither do the flowers nor the trees nor the soil
I enter my world back
I stuck my piece in this uprooted jigsaw puzzle.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

TO WRITE

I itch to write something
About what I am still not sure
The quiescent urge is prodding me today
The bygone months having passed in frenzy
Packing and unpacking bags
The pen lying cosily in my white purse all these days
Only crawling out to write mundane to do lists

What can I say about my mind?
It is still in its state of slumber
Needs a desperate jolt to even start thinking
Ideas playing game of hide and seek
Probably searching my new address
Maybe the desert wind blowing outside
Will send them patting my brown wooden door

Ideas need not even climb the tiled stairway
My ground floor any easy access
The blue pen and the white paper are ready
And so is the hot Arabic tea
I now wish for their everlasting companionship
When I hear the knock I will let you know
Until then it’s adieu from me................


I just moved to Middle east couple of weeks ago. Trying to settle and get back to writing again. These are the few lines I wrote after I moved here. I hope it makes some sense. With all the travel in the last few months, shifting across countries, I never found time and could not get into the right frame. Hopefully I get back my mood to write as I find writing very soothing. So need lot of support from all of you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

FIRST TIME

I first saw a picture of castle in fairy tales
Where witches lock princesses
And handsome princes rescue them
To take them to beautiful lands

I first time saw real castle in tourist places
And in visits to Disney land
Never ever built a real castle
Or stayed in one

I first time built sand castles on beaches
But the waves washed them away
I tried building castles in the air
But they got blown away

I first time wish not a castle for myself
Because I am an ordinary mortal
But I genuinely wish a roof
For every homeless child in today’s world