Rock-a-by-baby…

Aw no mom! Not already! I am just beginning to enjoy with my friends! See, doggy is waiting for me to take him for a walk. And then there is monkey, and my ducky… they all want to play with me. Me too mom, I am not feeling sleepy at all.

Ding Dong….

Its the doorbell! Dad’s home! Yaaaaayyyy! Now I can get to play with him too! Oh no mummy! Not so soon! I want to have fun!

Arghh… there she goes, lifting me in her arms and rocking me… with her signature “mmmm….mmmm…mmmm…mmmm….” tune! Let me try to wriggle out. But ouch! Her grip is firm… I would have cried if she was hurting me… but she is not, she’s just firm. I try to twist and turn and somehow get down, but to no avail. She goes on rocking and singing her melancholy tune.

I think of the boy with whom I played today in the park! He looked just like me! And my height too! My mummy and daddy are so taller than me, just like everyone else around me! So it was a pleasant surprise to see someone my height. We had a great time in the swing. Oh! How I love the swing, the way it goes up, up and up in the sky, then comes down with a swoosh! of air. Yummy! Swing is my favorite, followed by the spring duck.

I have so many wonderful things to think about, but my eyes are becoming heavy now. I look at mummy. She has her face close to mine, and I am loving the smell of her face. I touch her cheeks, and she smiles to me, pouting her lips. Her “mmm.. mmm” tune is so soothing. It is lulling my senses. I feel so at peace with the world.
 Suddenly there is a big roar in the skies. Fighter jets from the near by air force station have started their sorties. Their trembling roar frightens me, and I cower near my mummy’s bosom. She holds me tight, and whispers into my ears, “Its all right, I am here.” When she is near, I have nothing to fear.

My eyes start drooping now. Fudgy visions of the swing and the jet flash inside my mind, which seems to be slowly coming to a grinding halt. My eyes close completely, and I feel calm in my mummy’s arms. The world has grown completely dark now….. zzzzz….

***

Yamini gently places Sid on the bed and covers him up snugly with a cozy blanket. She looks at her two year old son with a smile of satisfaction and pride and turns off the light.

Atul’s Dilemma

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Everyone in Batra House was jubilant today. The youngest person in the household, Atul, Mr.Batra’s son had stood first in social studies for the first time. Sweets were being distributed and everyone was showering praises on Atul. Atul was feeling very happy. More than all the praises, what he was enjoying most was the thought that he will now get a bicycle as his father had promised. Atul had been asking his father for a bicycle since long. All his friends had one, and it made him yearn for a bicycle when they zoomed past him while going to school. He had put up a lot of tantrums pestering his father for a bicycle. Finally his father had promised to get him one on the condition that he comes first in
Social Studies.
Social studies was Atul’s least favorite subject. While he always excelled in Maths, Science and English, he only managed to scrape through Social Studies every time. During his study time in the evenings, he hardly took out the Social Studies book to study, except for the times when his father would come and monitor him and specifically ask him to study the subject. Mr. Batra was concerned about his son’s lack of interest in the subject. So one fine day, two months ago, he decided to do something about it.
Calling Atul to his side, Mr. Batra said, “Come Atul. Let’s go for a walk in the beach today.” “Hurray!” yelled Atul, because he just loved the beach. So father and son started walking towards the beach. That day being a Sunday, the beach was very crowded. Mr. Batra looked at his son and asked “Atul, you see so many people here. Have you ever wondered where they are came from, who their forefathers are?” Atul thought for a moment and shook his head. He knew that his father and grandfather preserved their family history dating up to 4 to 5 centuries back, but it had never occurred to him how things were before that, or that everyone would have some history of their own. Mr. Batra pressed on, “How do you think it is possible that people from so many different cultures, speaking so many different languages, live together in harmony in our city and the whole country?” Again, Atul did not have an answer. He looked around. Any crowded place in Mumbai looks like the Mumbai bhelpuri, a confusing mixture of so many tastes, colors and ingredients. Atul looked up to his father for the answer. “This is what you learn in Social Studies, Atul. The events that occurred in the past to make the world what it is today are taught in History. The laws and rules that make people live peacefully and in harmony is taught in civics. The knowledge about the very earth we live on is taught in geography. In fact more than other subjects, social studies is more relevant to us since it is a study about ourselves and things around us.”
Atul realized how correct his father was. Holding his father’s hand, he told, “I see your point dad. I will put in a real effort in doing well in Social Studies and enjoy what I am studying. I will come first in the next Social Studies test in school, I promise.” Mr. Batra stroked his son’s hair lovingly and said, “That’s my boy! And I promise you that I will get you a bicycle if you come first!” “I want a red one!” yelled Atul, jumping in joy at the thought of getting a bicycle.
This was two months back. Few days back Atul had given his quarterly examinations and today the results had been announced. As Atul had promised, he had stood first in Social Studies, along with all the other subjects, making him the class-topper. Atul was ecstatic. At night, tired but contented, Atul went to his room to sleep. Before getting into the bed his eyes fell on the Social Studies answer sheet. He took it in his hand and beamed with pride at the marks written on the first page. Teachers usually write the marks for each answer on the margin beside the answer. Atul started adding the individual answer marks casually. That was when he saw it. For one of the long answers which carried 4 marks, his teacher had awarded him marks twice. Which meant his mark was 95 and not 99 as his teacher had calculated.
Atul was in tears now. 95 marks meant that he not only lost the first position, but in-fact slid down to the third, because Pradeep had scored 97 and Sowmya 98. His promise had also been broken, so there was no way he was going to get that bicycle now. Atul thought hard. He had options though. He could be silent about this whole issue and go on as if nothing happened. After all, only he knew that his teacher had put extra marks by mistake. Or he could go to the teacher and bring this discrepancy to her notice and change the marks, thereby losing the first position and the bicycle. After thinking for a long time Atul decided what to do and went off to sleep.
The next morning in class, Atul walked up to his teacher and handed her the answer-sheet, telling her that he had been awarded extra marks and asking her to change it. The teacher was surprised and looked at Atul and asked, “Are you sure?” Atul said, “Yes ma’am”. The teacher patted on his back and changed the marks and gave him back the paper.
That evening Atul went to his father. Mr. Batra was reading the newspaper. Looking up from it, he asked, “What is it son?” Atul went near him and sat down. Holding his father’s hand and looking down, he explained to his father all that had happened. When he finished, he finally got the courage to look at his father. He was expecting sadness, disappointment or anger in his father’s face, and so he was confused when he saw his father smiling! “Your teacher phoned me in the afternoon itself and told me what happened and how you bravely owned up. These are the values I want you to learn! I am proud that you have learnt your morals properly. You can always try to do well in the subject next time, but morals are much more important to a man than mere textbook knowledge. I am happy that you have good morals, son”, he said. “Thank you Daddy!” said Atul, “I will work harder and stand first in Social Studies next time for sure. Then you can get me the bicycle”. “Are you sure?” his father asked and winked. He took Atul to the window and asked him to look outside. There, standing in the lawn was a brand new, shining, red bicycle. “Marks are important, but not at the cost of losing one’s values. This bicycle is for the honesty and sincerity you have displayed, my dear Atul” said his father smiling. Atul gave his father a big tight hug.

Vote for me now!

Supermom

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Prabha looked at the system time in the far corner of her computer screen. It was 5.30 pm. Chinni would be standing at the gate of her creche, looking out at the road, searching for the face of her mother. Mustering courage, Prabha walked up to Govind’s desk to tell him that she was leaving. Govind was her Project Manager and was very strict when it came to meeting deadlines. He gave Prabha a look that would make you think she asked him his property and not permission to leave. But it was a legitimate reason and Prabha had stated it in no clearer terms before joining the project. If he refused to let her go now, she could create trouble by taking the matter up with the HR department. And Govind didn’t want to drag HR into this as it would reflect badly on his managerial skills. So reluctantly he gave her permission to leave and watched as she hurriedly wrapped up her tasks, shut her system down and literally ran towards the exit.
Prabha came out of her office complex and looked for an auto. By the time she found one who would take her to the creche, haggled over the fare and reached the gate, it was past six. As expected, Chinni was at the gate, clutching the grills, tears in her eyes. As soon as she saw her mother her face lit up like the morning sun and she ran towards Prabha. As Prabha took her into her embrace she could not hold back her own tears and was cursing her wretched job that kept her away from her sweet daughter.
Prabha woke up with a start. Chinni shuffled in her sleep, snugly dozing between Prabha and Naren, her father. Prabha slowly realized that it was only a dream. But it seemed to be a glimpse of the future to her. She had got an offer from a leading software firm and was supposed to join the company in two weeks. Prabha pulled herself together and got up to make a cup of tea though she could not take the dream out of her mind.
It was nearly two years since Prabha had left her last job to take a break for her delivery and nursing. Now that Chinni was two, Prabha was finding that she was getting some free time at home and wanted to do something useful in it. She had had a successful IT career for seven years before she quit and before that she had been a bright student both at school and college. So Prabha didn’t want her skills to get rusted sitting at home. But at the same time she didn’t want Chinni to face the same loneliness that she had faced in her childhood, when her mother would go off to work and Prabha had to fend for herself till her mother returned. Prabha knew that her mother also had struggled a lot, working hard at her job and returning home to do all sorts of chores to ensure that her daughter did not feel her absence. Now that she herself was a mother, Prabha did not want to put her daughter and herself in the same situation again.
Prabha’s mother had been forced to work in order to complement her father’s earning, which had been modest, so that together they could meet the expenses. But Prabha had no such constraints. Naren was a high earning automobile engineer with a steady job with one of the largest luxury car manufacturers in the world. His income was more than enough for their family. So Prabha could easily afford to remain a home maker and shower all the love on her daughter that she herself had felt deprived of when her mother was working. However, where on one hand Prabha had this strong desire to stay at home and look after her child, on the other she feared that it would render meaningless all the knowledge she had gained. She was apprehensive about becoming the typical housewife who knew only about taking care of the family and forgot her individuality.
After a lot of deliberation, hours of discussing with Naren, her in-laws and her parents, Prabha decided to join the software company. Everyone had emphasized to her the importance of having her own career. She would have to leave Chinni at the local creche, but that was something that could not be avoided. Though Prabha’s mind accepted this, her heart ached and shivered with trepidation. Prabha was not entirely sure that her decision was correct, and today morning’s dream only seemed to affirm the same.
Naren noticed Prabha’s drawn face as he sipped the tea she had made for him. She was reading the morning newspaper and not looking at him, but after 2 years of marriage he could read a lot from her face. He instantly knew something was not alright. He went and sat down beside her and asked her what was wrong. Prabha told his about the dream and how she was feeling uneasy over her decision. Taking her hands into his, Naren said, “Sweety, I have told you many times before and I tell you now. Do not do something just for the sake of doing. Listen to your heart. If you don’t want to work, don’t work. We do not have any financial constraints here. Just do that which will make you happy”. “But if I don’t work I will feel useless! I don’t want my talent to be wasted…” cried Prabha.
Thrown an arm over Prabha’s shoulder and pulling her nearer, Naren smiled and said, “Your talent need not go wasted Prabha! There are a lot of things that one can do from home. You can study, you can do some freelancing… Hey! Do you even remember that you have a great gift? You can write Prabha! I know how beautiful your words are! Yes! That’s it! Prabha, why don’t you try your hand at writing? Write something, anything, anything at all that crosses your mind. Just write. Search the internet. There are so many forums where you can publish your work! I know you will like it”.
Prabha was not quite as certain as Naren, but was amused by his enthusiasm. She had written few poems and stories when in her past company and posted them in the internal mailing lists of the company. Her work had received fair appreciation from the readers. She had also posted them on the blog she maintained. When she first met Naren, she had shared this blog with him. She never had an idea of how much impressed Naren was with her posts.
Not sure how it would proceed, but nevertheless buoyed by Naren’s enthusiasm, she decided to give writing a try. An opportunity to have her talent recognized by a wider audience and fulfilling her dream of making it big while still having enough time to care and nurture Chinni and her whole family seemed a mouth watering proposition compared to the stress and demands of an IT job. She still did not know if she would be able to do full justice to both her talents and her duties, but what was life without trying? Giving Naren a long kiss, she picked up her phone to call the HR from the software company and decline their offer.
Chinmayi looked up from her laptop screen with a smile on her lips. She always liked to read her mother’s first publication, her own story, whenever she was in a dilemma. She picked up the phone and started typing a text message, “A high profile job alongside a family alone does not make a woman a supermom. The superb manner in which she nurtures her family AND her talent, does. I love you, Supermom”. Picking her mother Prabha’s number from the list of contacts, she hit the sent button.

Black

Even though the window is closed, I am able to feel the chill wind outside, thanks to a small crack on the right corner glass pane. I go near the window and touch the glass panes, the cold moisture in them giving me an inexplicable chill. I move my index finger over it, round and round, hoping it would make on the moist glass, the pattern that I have in my mind. And I wish, mom would allow me to go out and feel the flakes of snow…

Bella says snow is white in color. I wonder what is white, because I have never known any other color in my life, except black.

Black – the color of my life. All my life I have known but one color, black. I remember the time when I used to be just a life form, during my childhood. Being born deaf, dumb and blind, there was no way I could know where or what or who I was. I was wary of everything that I touched, everything I smelt, everything I sensed. Except for my mother, the only person I used to recognize by touch and smell, and the only person I used to let near me. All other smells or touches were dangerous to my young mind.

I knew not the colors of the day or night, not the faces of my mom or my dad. I did not know what a smile was, or what flowers were. I had no language, no words, and no meanings for anything. I did not even know what my mom thrust inside my mouth each time my stomach rumbled, which made that rumbling stop! Food and waters were just some unknown substances that I knew were safe only because it was mom who was putting them inside my mouth.

My life would have passed on like that, without me living it, had not my teacher come along. He taught me letters, words, meanings. He taught me what word should be associated with the sweet smell of flowers, and the warm tickle of the morning sun. He taught me how I should walk, how I should sit, how I should eat… he taught me to live. Under his guidance, I finished my schooling at home. He instilled in me the urge to accomplish something. And because of him, I decided to go to college.

College was one place where, though I struggled, I enjoyed a lot. For the first time in my life I was away from home, with only Bella to look after me. No mom, no dad. My teacher moved in the house adjacent to mine. Though he used to take me to college, sit with me during the lectures and write the words the lecturers uttered onto my hand so that I understood, he slowly started keeping away from me so that I became independent. He brought me a walking stick, and taught me to walk alone, calculating the distance of my destinations in my mind.

With the descriptions that he used to make about my fellow students and my surroundings, I used to envision them in my mind. I used to imagine the smiles on me classmates faces when they applauded me each time I got up to participate in some discussion in the conference room. Somehow, being in their midst would enthuse me to no extent.

My only ambition was to get my degree. But that somehow kept eluding me. What my classmates managed to achieve in three years, I could not achieve even after ten years. I would have not continued, would have given up, if not for my teachers words. He used to say, “You lament that your world is black. But do you even realize the significance of that color? Black is the color of success, the color of achievement, the color, of wisdom. That is why the color of the graduation robe is black. It is the color that instills confidence that light is not far away. You should attain your goal one day, because that will give the true meaning of your life. Never say you can’t. Your life is black. Be proud of it. And strive to give a meaning to that blackness.”

And today, after twenty years, at the age of forty, I have attained my goal. I have successfully passed the last of my exams and am going to receive my degree, in the black robe. My teacher had to leave me due to some health problems. His departure did devastate me, but I carried on, deriving strength from his words. Today, all his hard work, right from the day he came and touched my hand, has borne fruit. The animal that he had to encounter in his first meeting has become a fully civilized, educated, independent and self-reliant graduate today!

“Anne! Close that window! The snow flakes are coming inside the room!” I hear old Bella cry from the kitchen. But I am enjoying the snow. As the soft feathery flakes kiss my cheeks I imagine myself standing on the podium tomorrow receiving my degree, adorned in the black robe. I only wish my teacher can somehow make it to the ceremony, to see his pupil fulfill his greatest wish in life.

The Bond Never Breaks

I couldn’t wait to come home today. Every 5 minutes my eyes wandered over to the system clock on my computer screen to check the time. Really, there is nothing as enigmatic in this world as Time! When you expect it to stand still, like when you are spending time with your girlfriend, it runs as fast as Jessie Owens! And when you want it to run as fast as Jessie Owens, like today, it chooses to take the pace of the slowest snail in the world!

I finished all my work in no time and came to the bus stop half an hour before the departure time of the first bus. Ignoring the half curious and half amused looks from the security and the bus drivers, I got into the bus that would take me to my destination. The driver took pity on me and switched on the radio, to while my time away till the bus started.

After many minutes of glancing at the watch, peeking outside the window and wondering why couldn’t people board the buses on time (here I chose to ignore the fact that most of the days I board my bus only at the last second!!!), the driver finally got into his seat and revved the engine.
The next hour and a half, I barely managed to keep myself from getting up from my seat and going to the driver and pleading him to drive more fast (notwithstanding the fact that he was already driving so fast as to give Narain a run for his title!)

Finally, my stop came, and I jumped off the steps even before the bus stopped, much to the shock and consternation of the driver and cleaner. My heartbeat started quickening as I walked towards my home, and with each step, I only increased my speed, until I almost broke into a run. When I reached my door and knocked, it was he who opened the door!

“Hey Sis, back home so soon!” My brother’s voice was almost choked in the bear hug I gave him!

He is studying at a college in a far off town, and comes down to Chennai only during holidays. Never did I think during all the fights we had in our childhood, that I would miss him so much! And yet, it is a fact now! I had been telling everyone I saw in office that my brother is coming home today! Even I did not know that I would have such unfathomable happiness in seeing him!

“Hey Sis, what the hell! Why did you remove Sachin’s poster from my room wall!”

Here it goes again! The fevicol behind our bond – fights!

“Buzz off! Your room?!?!?! FYI, that’s our room deary!” I yell as I start towards OUR room, fuelled with expectations for a good fight, all tiredness from work vanished and replaced with tons of enthusiasm, and waves of happiness sweeping through my heart!