Monday, December 10, 2012

Witness of a tragedy

On the 7th March 2006 in the city of Varanasi - the day was a normal day, as any other day would have been. It was spring. Cold days had passed and warmer days were yet to come.

I spent my day doing normal routine work. At 5 o’clock in the evening I went to Lanka market. The sun was about to set. The distance between my home and Lanka market is hardly 1 kilometre. In the year 2006 I used to pay a rickshaw puller Rs 10 only for that distance. Sankat Mochan temple is situated on the way to Lanka. Normally rickshaw pullers took Rs. 5 from my home.

In the Lanka market I purchased a lot of green vegetables and few house hold things. I hired a rickshaw for going back to home. A thought came to my mind that according to the Hindu calendar the day was very auspicious. Lots of marriages were performed in the city. I should go to the temple. So I asked the rickshaw puller “Take me to Sankat Mochan”. He turned the rickshaw towards the temple. 

I got down from the rickshaw and gave him a Rs 5 coin. I started to enter the temple gate. During those days, there was no security checking. The rickshaw puller called me “Didi. Give me two rupee more.” I was irritated and said “No! For this distant Rs 5 is enough. “Then an argument started between us. I was not going to give him Rs 2 more but he demanded. Few minutes had passed. He continued “You people gave thousands of rupee to the temple but like us poor labourer you cannot spend 2 rupee.”  Finally I gave him 2 rupee in a very irritated manner and said “One should not be greedy”.

I turned around and stepped in the main gate of the temple. Suddenly a boom sound hit me. The sound was very strong that hit my heart and mind. “What’s that??” I was spell bound. For about 2 to 3 minute there was absolute silence. Few minutes later some men and women were running outside the temple. They were screaming “Bhagoo……Bhagoo…..” that moment I didn’t realized what had happened to me. I could not move a step. Then an injured girl came out of the temple. Her clothes were soaked in blood. One after the other, people came out in bad shape. There were four men came out holding a rag and shouting “hato…hato” (clear the path). Under the rag the trail of blood dropped on the floor. Suddenly a women shook my shoulder in a histrionically and asked “Mera beta kahan hai” (where is my son) .I regained my consciousness.  Then I started running towards my home. Police vehicles were heading towards the temple. The shop - keepers pulled down their shutters. 

It took a good amount of time to overcome this experience. Later I thought that if I was not arguing with the rickshaw puller then I would have been on the spot where the bomb blast occurred…

Why did Sankat Mochan save my life?  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Posters abound

कैडबरी की मिठास जो मुह मैं घुल जाए 
कोला की ठंडक जो दिल मैं उतर आए 
सर्फ की धुलाई से सारे दाग धुल जाए 
फेयर एंड लवली  से रूप निखर आए 
बाटा के जूते और टाटा की कार 
चारो तरफ है पोस्टरों की भरमार 
इस साबुन से निखार, आये जवानी पर बहार 
एक गोली से भागे सर्दी, सरदर्द और बुखार 
एक ताज़गी भरी चाय से बन जाए परिवार 
एक कप कॉफ़ी से मिल जाए बिछड़े यार 
टीवी पर चलता रहता है दिन भर 
आपकी त्वचा आपके बाल 
हर प्रोडक्ट मैं होता है 
खाद्य पदार्थो का इस्तेमाल 
सड़क पर फिल्मो के पोस्टर 
देश का हाल बताते हैं 
जिस्म, जब तक है जान, Oh! My God
Dirty Picture, हेरोइन दिखाते है 
इस पर भी जी न भरे आपका सरकार 
नेट पर आए, यहाँ भी पोस्टरों का भरमार 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Small Talk Ladies

Two ladies are talking on the telephone. Both the ladies are aged between 54-55.  Before I write down the conversation I will write a little bit about them. These ladies have asked me not to mention their name, so I am not writing their names here.

Lady A is a very intelligent and educated lady with a good sense of humor. She is the wife of an executive and mother of two successful children.

Lady B is of average intelligence and not very educated, with no sense of humor. Of course she has a pure heart. She is the wife of an executive (now retired) and mother of two successful children.

B - Namaste (Hello). Am I disturbing you?
A - Namaste (Hello). No no ! How are you?
B - (In low mood voice) fine….
A - Your voice sounds low? I hope your health is ok.
B - Health is not perfectly ok, but I am fine.
A - What kind of problem is it?  Nothing serious I hope?
B - Oh! No no no ! Yesterday, I had a bad headache.
A - I hope today you are fine
B - Yes yes. Only a bit of backache left. Just leave it there. I called you to tell you something.
A - From where are you calling?
B - I am calling you from Ghaziabad.
A - Oh! So you must be at your daughter’s home.
B - Oh no! He has purchased a flat here.
A - Very good!
B - Nothing is good. The houses are like match boxes. He never listened to me. At this age how will we adjust to a new place? Father and daughter have decide to live here. For the past 30-33 years he never listened to me .What should I expect now?
A - What did you do the house in Lucknow?
B - (sabki najar lag gai) People evil eyed that house. We have now finally sold it.
A - Ok! Now congratulations for your new house. Hope Bhaisahab (B’s husband) is alright.
B - Yes he is alright. Nothing will happen to him .
A - At least in this age you have a partner with you. This is a great thing.
B - It doesn’t  matter if he is here or not. For the past 32-34 years he did not talk to me. What should I expect now?
A - What is he doing after his retirement? Is he doing any job?
B - No. He just sits in front of the T.V.for the whole day.
A - So he is killing his time by watching T.V.
B - I don’t know. May be watching or may be sleeping.
A - Don’t say  things like that. After all he cares you a lot.
B - May be. Yesterday he came in the kitchen and sang a song - Choli ke piche kya hai (a Hindi movie song. It means what is behind the blouse.) I got angry. I scolded him that he should take care of your own lungii (a long cloth men wrap around their loins). You are not at an age to see behind the blouse. Since then, he is angry with me. Now look I said nothing wrong.
A - When will you visit to Varanasi?
B - I don’t know. Let me talk about the reason I called you.
A - Oh yes ! Tell me please.
B - We purchased a house in Ghaziabad. We will be happy if you pay us a visit here.
A - Oh sure! Whenever I visit Delhi next, I will visit your place.
B - Please convey this to Meenu also.
A - Sure.

And the Conversation  went on…

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Thank you", said the cat

In the 2nd week of august I was in Haridwar BHEL township. This is the place from where I started my married life and spent 17 years. During that time I made some great friends. So whenever I or someone from my family visited Haridwar, we stayed with our friends at their place, instead of a guest house. This time we had come to attend Mr. and Mrs. Deb’s son’s marriage. We stayed with Roy’s home. At this age, our children have left home to pursue their destiny, and we live alone with their memories.

At the noon near about 11 am. Abhijit and Roy Dada were not at home. I and Kabli(Mrs. Roy) was chating in her kitchen and she was cooking lunch.  Suddenly something drew my attention. I peeped out from the kitchen window. There was a 3 and1/2 feet long moniter lizard . It was walking into the courtyard. ”How did it come inside?” I asked. She said “May be it crawled under theback gate.”  I took some photographs.

A long time ago, I went there on a casual visit, and that time lots of cats were roaming in her courtyard. I asked Kabli “Where have all the cats gone?” “They all are my younger daughter’s pet. Five years ago when she left for college hostel, they came for a few days, but gradually they stop coming. Now where they are I don’t know.” I recalled that one of the cats was one eyed because when it was a kitten it was living in Dr. Dutta’s flat, and a tom cat hurt it very badly. It would have died of infection and bleeding. But the Dutta’s are a very animal lover family. Dr. Dutta and her family cared for it and it survived . It healed but it lost one eye and became a full size cat. So she named her KAANI (a hindi word, which means "one eyed").
When Dr. Dutta had left their quarter and moved to their own house, she gave Kaani to Bidisha (Kabli’s daughter). Kaani never lived with the Roys but it was very attached with Bidisha. Once I had asked her “How do you maintain your ‘0’ figure.” She smiled but her mother said “Just because of Kaani .She gives her 3/4th  of her food to it.”

That afternoon Kabli narrated a rather amusing incident about Kaani. It is quoted below

“One evening there was a get together in my home and as you know that I am very fond of cooking so with other dishes I prepared three types of fish. When the party was over I gave the left over as well as the bones to Kaani. The time was late night and I was tired. We shut the doors, turned off the lights and went to bed. Next morning Kaani was desperately scratching the back door. When we opened the door it rushed to come in. Its mouth was full of blood and saliva. I simply did not know what to do. Kaani was seeking my help. My husband grabbed it with a towel and with very difficulty we came to know that a big piece of fish bone was stuck deep into its teeth gums. Bidisha called a doctor. Dr. Dutta came immediately. With a lot of drama we manage to pull out the bone. Bidisha picked it , hugged it, and tried to sooth it.
Two days later, again it started scratching the back door. When I opened the door, Kaani came in and started searching Bidisha. She was sleeping. Kaani waited patiently for her to wake up. When she woke up, Kaani put down a dead squirrel in front of the girl then politely left out. Bidisha was confused “What the hell am I supposed to do with this dead rodent?”

It took some time for us to realize that this dead animal was a precious thing for Kaani. Kaani gave it to her as a way of saying thank you.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tied up nostalgia

On the 4th of July I was in Varanasi to attended one of my friend’s daughter’s marriage.  After a good rainfall on the 3rd of July,  the 4th was a sunny day. That day was very a sweltering hot day.  In the afternoon there was a small ceremony and all of us ladies were gathered at her home. As you may know, Ladies who attend marriages of kids who would be my son’s age, become nostalgic. May ladies started chatting about their own marriages. What she wore? How she dealt with her nervousness? What kind of comments did she face... etc.  Suddenly Joi, the younger sister of the bride, came to us and said, “Please! Can someone tie my hairs into pig tails?”   We Indian girls and women tend to tie our hairs as one or two pig tails. This is an age old way to keep our hairs neat and tidy. But now, girls commonly have their hairs dressed in various fashion.  Someone said, “Why do you want to tie your hairs? Because I know you spent a lot of money and time for it.” Another lady said, “Your untied and spread hairs are looking good.”  Still she said with some irritation, “All is true. But the weather… The weather is extremely humid and sultry, so I can’t manage it anymore.”
I volunteered and said “Come dear I will tie your hairs.”  One lady questioned me “Do you know how to make the pig tail (choty).”  I replied “Yes I do.”  Then I took a brush and start brushing. As I was brushing Joi’s hairs I felt nostalgic.

I was around 8 or 9 years old. In my school untied hairs were strictly not allowed. So every morning my mother used to tie my hairs neatly into two pigtails. But one day she fell ill. The Doctor came and gave us his report, “Viral fever. She needs medicine and proper rest. It will take some time for her to recover”. She was too weak to get up from her bed. My father worked hard to manage home and office. Dada (my elder brother) got ready for school by himself; but I was totally dependent on my mother, mostly for having my hairs tied up. Even though it wasn’t perfect, but somehow my father got me ready for school. On the first day I went to school with untied hairs and as per my school rules, I got my punishment for it. After I came back home, I was waiting for my father to return from work. When he returned, I burst into tears. Father calmed me down and asked me to come with him.  He took me to the saloon and said to saloonkeeper, “Abdul! Cut her hairs short.” The man picked me up and put me in a chair . Then he cut my shoulder length hairs in to boy cut. I felt happy that I need not worry about tying up my hair in the morning rush.

At school my friends and class mates giggled and laughed.  My teachers looked at me in weird way. I felt hurt and pathetic. After I returned home, I again waited for my father to return from work. When he returned, I again burst into tears. The next morning, my father covered my head with a scarf and as the day passed by, the girls giggled and laughed at me.  That day my class teacher asked me “Is there something wrong?  Why do you wear a scarf in such a hot day?” I was depressed. I could not say anything. Some girl in the class said “Miss! She has lice in her hairs so she applied medicine.” I could only shout.”NO!”. But it would have been useless. Nobody would understand that my mother was ill and my father did not know how to tie hairs.

On my way back home, one of my close friend walked back home with me. She put her hand on my shoulder in friendly manner and said, “You know! If you have some mental problem then my mother can help you. She knows of a very famous Ojha! Tell me honestly if you have any problem…

I said, “Joi! Here is your pig tail.”
She said “Thank You Mini aunty.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

Being bad is sometimes good.

If I am polite or talk normally with someone according to their wish or preferences, then I am a good person. But if I tell them my wish or my dislikes then I am a bad person to him or her. This is human nature. In my childhood whenever I raised my voice or said anything in a irritable way, my father would hold my hands tight and ask me to say the same thing politely. This prophecy made my behavior controlled and helped me become popular within my friend circle.

This incident happened in the year 1987.  That was the last week of June. I was in Varanasi with my in laws.  After spending quiet a good time with them I was returning to Haridwar, where my Husband used to work at that time. Those days there was no e-ticketing system so either me or my father in law would have to go to the station to buy a reservation ticket.   That month of June was scorching hot in U.P. and it was very difficult to stand in a queue under the sweltering heat.

My friend Ranjana, who was from Haridwar, was also in Varanasi with her parents. Her father was (and still is) a resource full person, so I requested him to book my ticket to Haridwar along with Ranjana’s.  He said “Ho jayega beta.” (It will be done). 

The day was a Friday. I do not remember the date. The train was Doon Express and those days there was no A.C. coach in that train. Our reservation was in a first class coupe.  We had four reserved berths. One for me, one for Ranjana and two for Sona  Guriya (Rajana’s children) and  Pakku (my child). The kids were on half ticket.  At 9 am Ranjana picked me from my home and we headed for the railway station in her father’s official jeep. Sanju (Dr. Sanjiv  Sharma),  her younger brother accompanied us. In the jeep she asked Sanju “If Raghubir does not come with ticket then….?”  Sanju said “Aaa jayega.” (He will come).  I was shocked.  “If Raghubir doesn’t turn up in time, and if we didn’t have tickets by then, how………?”  Sanju  interrupted  “Don’t worry." I looked at  Rajana who  looked worried.  She asked Sanju that what if that fellow arrived late or if he could not get reservation for us?  Sanju said in very relax way “Then you girls can always return back home. What’s the problem?” However, I understood that I would be in a problem. At the station that Raghubir was waiting with the ticket and we felt relieved.  I asked Ranjana to show me the ticket. She passed the piece of paper to me. It was a paper ticket with names of passengers written on it. I took a good look and screamed. It was a confirm reservation ticket with individual names. The names are like this:

Ranjana Dube
Abhishek Dube (Sona)
Anjali Dube (Guriya)
Minu Dube
Abhinav Dube (Pakku)  

I protested “If the ticket checker challenges me over this name, then what I will do?” Sanju said, “How will that man know that you are not Dube but Banerjee.  And besides that, you can always tell him that you are my sister.” (Those days there were no e-ticket and identity proof was not asked.)
The train had arrived about an hour late.  Our seats were already occupied by lot of people. Sanju, Raghubir and the jeep driver carried and put luggage under our seats. We somehow settled down. Most of them said that they will get down at the next stop.  One husband wife said they will go to Lucknow. A middle age man with two women said that they will go to Haridwar.

Soon, the journey began. I told the man with two woman, “Please get down or change the seat from Lucknow.” In the evening 7o’clock the train reached Lucknow junction. The husband and wife got down. They thanked us and said sorry for our inconvenience. We said “Good Bye.”  The other man with two women was still on our berth. I said “You should leave.” He said “Oh no. We will go along with you.”  I retorted back, “This is my reserved seat and I have paid extra money to the railways for little comfort.” The man laughed out aloud. My head busted with anger. I raised my voice a little and said “Leave immediately”.  The man stood up, so I also stood up and shouted at him with full volume,  "Leave  immediately… or… I will pull the chain… I will call the police..." From my right hand I snatched a bag of his belonging and threw it outside the coupe.  Ranjana held on to my left hand tightly. Three - four men came outside the coupe.  I stretched my right hand with my finger pointed outside and shouted “GET OUT!” The women left the cope and then the man dragged his suitcase under the berth and left. Ranjana released left my left hand. I shut the coupe door with a big thud.

I sat down on the berth and took few deep breath. Guriya came into my lap. Pakku and Sona looked confused. Then I looked at Ranjana. She was breathing with quick and short breaths.  I got scared as I knew she was a chronic asthma patient. I pat her back gently and children gave her some water. Soon she felt better. She asked me, “Are you ok?”   I said, “Yes. And you?”  She said, “Now I feel better , I never saw you in such state of fury in past 7 years that I have known you. We all thought that you never lose your temper.” I said, “Yes, I am not a short tempered person but that man thought my politeness is my weakness. I  allowed him to sit and he was occupying my berth so I was compelled to throw him out.”

The night fell soon . Rest of the journey was peaceful . The children slept as I and Ranjana chatted until midnight. Train kept moving in the darkness...