Sunday, December 8, 2013

The suitcase that took a detour.

After my husband retired from his office job, we were in wanderlust  mood. So we decided to pack our clothes, medicines, few daily necessities and then set out. Of course  we also had to add our laptop and charger. We had made a program were we would attend the marriage of our friend’s daughter (Shreya, d/o Subramaniyam and Ramani)  at Hyderabad. Our elder son is also living there now. So after attending all of the associated functions of Shreya’s marriage for three days, we spent a few days with our grand-daughter. Then we came to Delhi. My son had some program at Ghaziabad. We all then travelled together to Delhi by rail. This was our grand-daughter's  first outing by rail. It was a memorable journey for all of us.

From Delhi me and my husband then took the train to Chittaurgarh. The train was Mewar Express. This train starts from Hazrat Nizammuddin station and the final destination is Udaipur. It usually starts in the evening and it reaches Udaipur at 7:30 am the next morning. Maloti one of my dear friends is living in Chittaurgarh.  Her husband, Probir, is working with Birla Cement and they stay in company quarters near Chanderiya. This is a little industrial town outside Chittaurgarh city. So Probir-da told us to get down at Chanderiya railway station because this is the nearest station from their home. Otherwise he had to go to Chittaurgarh railway station, which is 20 km from their home, to receive us. The scheduled arrival time of this train is 5:30 am at Chittaurgarh and at 4:30 am it stops at Chanderiya just for 2 minute.

21 August evening we boarded the train with our baggage. We had two suitcases and one hand bag. We pushed the suitcases under our berth and the hand bag was with me. Our seat numbers were 1 and 2 in 2nd AC coach. A family of 6 members were our companions. They had lots of bags and baggage with them and they pushed two of their suitcases under our seat. Soon we started chatting. After a good deal of conversing, I gathered these information.

  1. This family belongs to my home city Varanasi.
  2. The lady is an ophthalmologist and has a private clinic.
  3. Her husband is a Reader in BHU.
  4. He is teaching in medical department as cardiologist.

I asked her that if she could give me her contact number so I could contact her when we were back to Varanasi. She smiled and said “Your spectacles shows that you have a eyes problem. She gave me her mobile number. Then we had dinner and occupied our berths.  I was at the lower berth and Abhijit was on the upper berth. He set the alarm for 4:15 am into his mobile. One by one our co-passengers  fell asleep.

I did not sleep well during the journey. We both were tense about the fact that at 4:30 am we had to get down at Chanderiya where the train would stop for 2 minutes. As luck would have it, the train reached there before time. I was looking out from the window. It was dark and train was entering in the station. Suddenly I saw a torch light was approaching towards the train. The train stopped. In the faint light I recognized him.


Immediately I jumped off and pulled out my suitcase and pushed my husband hard.  "Come on. We've reached.” Though he was fast asleep, he woke up and jumped down, then pulled his suitcase and came out. In that dark and life less platform we three were feeling so happy. We had met after a long long time and were excited. We were totally nostalgic.
We soon came out from that life less station. After reaching home I fell asleep. It was only 4:40. An hour latter my husband called me "Minu I took the wrong suitcase. I have brought a suitcase that belongs to the doctor family and left my suitcase in the train.” In my deep sleep I said “Then I lost my laptop…I kept it in your suitcase.” He gave me a good shake and said "Wake up!!!”.

Probir-da was trying to call the station master of Chanderiya. But nobody was picking the phone up. Abhijit said “It is 5:45 am already and the train will reach Udaipur at 7:30 am. So it's no use calling Chanderiya’s station master. I then desperately started calling the lady doctor's number. But her phone was switched off. It was 6:45 now. Our desperation increased to new heights.  Then Abhijit said. “If the Doctors' realized that the suitcase was not theirs' they will leave it in the train. In that case it will be lost forever.“  I was more concerned about my laptop though. It was in his suitcase, and if that got lost, then it was not possible for me to get another one. I wanted to cry but I somehow controlled myself.

I then requested my husband to call someone in Varanasi. He asked “But who and why??”

I replied “May be Ray-dada. He should be able to tell us about BHU Doctors.”

“Our Professor can help us.” he replied and then called up his BHU-IT Professor (Dr. Ramji Agarwal). And the Professor gave him the mobile number of that doctor. It was 6:55 am by then. The train had stopped at a station before Udaipur. Meanwhile Probir-da called one of his friends and asked him to attend the train. He was able to catch up with the train and inform the Doctor family that their suitcase had been erroneously changed. At the same time Abhijit could contact the cardiologist on phone. They jumped up and only then were they able to realize that their suitcase was gone. Abhijit asked him where they would be staying at Udaipur, so that their suitcases could be exchanged.

One of the senior officer from Probir-da’s company was going to Udaipur to take a flight to Delhi. He asked the driver to meet up the Doctor at his Hotel, after dropping the officer at Udaipur airport. There, he would exchange the suitcase with the Doctors' family before return to Chanderiya. By 4’O clock in the evening, the driver gave us our own suitcase.

And I found my laptop.

Monday, June 24, 2013

School Admissions

Last month, I was returning from Sigra to Durga-kund (locations in Varanasi city) and I got struck in a traffic jam. Why? Because Central Hindu School for boys and girls (CHS) had an entrance exam for admission into the different classes. There was a horrible rush. People from whole Purvanchal (entire eastern U.P.) had come with their kids to seek admission in CHS. This was the scene for admission in government schools. The admission scene in Private schools is scarier. I am now well above this stress. But in the past I had also faced such tension.

In my very primitive memories I recall the scene when my elder brother held my hand tightly and took me to the nearby girls’ school. He did all the formalities and paid the fees which our mother had given to him. Next day I was a part of that school named Kanpur Vidya Mandir, where I spent my next 12 years.

My second experience was my elder son’s admission in Prep level in DPS Haridwar. This was the only Public School having good reputation in 50 km radius. Paku loved motor vehicles and locomotives since the day he was born, and I told him “If you behave like a good boy, you will get admission in this school, and then you can ride the school bus daily.” This was a major incentive for him. So when we reached the school for his admission, he was extremely happy. Other children were not so happy and even a few of them were crying. One of our friends, Mr. Deb was also there for the admission of his son. He noticed our child’s good mood and commented “He simply does not know what is going to happen – his freedom is about to be snatched.” Paku successfully managed to impress the teachers and staff. He got admission easily and spent the next 12 years in that school.

My next experience was with my younger son. We were confident about him because he had learnt alphabets, counting, colours and other things at home from his dada (elder brother) which a child has to answer for admission. On the day of admission, when we were going to school, Piku was very happy because he was going to his dada’s school first time. He was talking too much and asking lots of questions. In the school other children were behaving as our previous experience. Suddenly Piku stopped taking and it looked like as if he was totally unconcerned with the surroundings. A lovely lady took him for is first round interview. I was waiting outside with confidence. Half an hour later, the lady came out and said “He said nothing.” I was shocked. My confidence was shattered. The lady said “Hope that he talks at the next round, otherwise we cannot help.” I asked Piku “Why didn’t you answer them?” He said “They are asking stupid questions.” In the next round with parents Piku did not utter a single word. He was not selected for admission. We were disappointed.

15 days later the school announced for a second round of admissions. We again filled the registration form. This time his father and his Dada tried to convince him to talk in the interview. Piku was enjoying our desperation. The day of interview lady took him for first round. When he came out his father asked him “Did you answer their questions?” He said, “Oh yes! I told them everything. The miss showed me a kite and I told her the colour and even how to fly it.” We didn’t believe him. In second round where he was with us, he again remained silent. There the Head master told us “He did not speak a single word. We have a doubt because we will not take in a challenged child.” We were shocked. He did not get the admission.

Now the new session had started. We had to wait for one year and try again in DPS, or put him in some second grade school. 20 days later, the school again called third time for few students in various classes. This time they had plans to take five more children in prep class. His father again filled the registration form. And this time little fellow showed a kind of kindness towards us and answered to the teachers. He secured admission at last. He spent 5 years there then his father was transferred to Varanasi. Again I faced the admission problem. Paku got admission easily at the new school at Varanasi, but for Piku I had to work hard.

Now both boys have grown up. Paku has his own family. Now I am waiting to see Paku-Neha’s experience for their child’s admission. There are two reasons. First is now a days situation is much more competitive and difficult, and second is that their child shares Piku’s birth date.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A day with Har Har Mahadev

For 10 - 12 days I was vacationing with my husband in ‘Chickluoha’ district Lalitpur U.P. Why? Because he is now posted there, where BHEL is to set up a power plant. All men including my husband are living in single room quarters.  There are no families living here as this is ground zero. There are no markets, schools, hospitals or doctors. The land is rocky and barren. I could only see jungle berries and bamboo bushes. Palash trees gave some colour to the otherwise barren brown terrain. Even the roads were forged by the tires of heavy vehicles.

So last Saturday we went to Khajuraho which is 160 km from this place. The driver told us “Relax sir! The roads are very good once we cross the U.P. border.” That fellow told us about a temple name Jata-Shankar - a shiv temple.  Me and my husband strongly believe in Lord Shiv. So we decided that if got time we would go there but for the time being, we would only be visiting Khajuraho. This is a magnificent place on earth. For artists or lay men, these temples give you a life time experience. That is however a different story.

On the next day, when we were returning from Khajuraho, the driver asked “Sir! Jata-Shankar jayenge kya? (Sir! Do you want to visit Jata Shankar). We said “Yes.” We started from Khajuraho at 10’o clock in the morning and by 11:30 we reached Jata-Shankar.  The road was very good. On the way km after km there was no village. A few small farms were visible from between the rocks. But when we reached near the temple there was a small market. Many private buses and cars were parked there. The temple was up the hill. We purchased some sweets and incense. It cost Rs. 50. My husband pulled out his purse to pay, but the shopkeeper said “Pay me when you come back.”

We started to climb up the stairs. I saw 50 - 55 steps and I thought that could climb it easily. Few steps later, I saw a woman was sitting with fresh flowers. I bought some and asked her “Where do you get such beautiful flowers?” She told me the name of the village which was not to be found in an India’s map. So with full energy I hiked the steps, and from there I saw another 50 - 55 steps. I took a little rest and started again. At the last step I again saw another set of 50 - 52 steps. Now my speed had decreased. We reached at a veranda. On one side of it was a huge kund (water reservoir). Hundreds of men and women were bathing in the kund. There was a natural water fall and families were bathing together. Teenager girls also took a dip in the kund and pronouncing ‘Ohm Namah Shivaai’. We rested there for some time and started to hike another 50 - 55 steps. Here I saw that the hill was made of lava rocks and from the cracks of the rocks, water was flowing in narrow lines and meeting at a place that made a water fall. Some Banyan trees that were growing through the cracks had water dripping from its aerial roots. It appeared as if the water came out from Jata (hairs of shiva). But where was Lord Shiva? I could see another 50-55 steps more. I gave up. I could not climb any more, but my husband encouraged me and I started again. This time my own body weight was too heavy for me to bear. When I arrived at the last step, I saw another 100 steps. Now I could not climb anymore and thus I sat down under a tree. One sadhu was sitting there who pointed towards the remaining flight of steps and said “Bus yehi khatam (that is the end).” We started again. Half the way I sat down (again), my lungs were working very hard. At this point, not a single tree was there and the scorching sun hit us. My husband gave me support (again). With his help I reached at the top (Finally).

On the top there was a mini market. Some sweet shops, cold drink shops and one or two dhabas were there. My husband asked someone “Where is Shiv-ji?” The man replied “Down stairs, near the kund”. I asked Shiva, “What kind of joke is this?” Then the man told us “This is a Radha Krishna temple and a Nandi is living here.”

My husband purchased some sweets to offer. This was a small temple and a beautiful Radha Krishna was there. The Pujari (Temple priest) showed us the bull called Nandi. It had three horns and an eye like impression on its fore head that appeared as if the Nandi had a third eye like Lord Shiv has. We were really amazed to see and experience this uniqueness of nature, and it washed away my fatigue.

I drank a lot of water and came down on the varanda. Here we offered our puja to Lord Shiv. We were the last ones there, and after we came out from the temple it was closed for 4 hours.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Monkey Menace

In Varanasi our house is situated near two famous temples. One is Durga temple, which is described in the age old literature “Puran”. The other temple is Sankat Mochan temple. This is the place where Tulsidas wrote “Ram Charit Manas”.  People believe that Shri Hanuman gave him a ‘darshan’ here (rendezvous with Tulsidas).

Beside history and mythology these temples are ruled by macaque monkeys. I never could understand the  logic behind the fact that if  you feed a monkey, you'll be cleansed of your sins and your bad times will go away. These monkeys are eating puree, halaw, besan ke ladoos made of pure ghee (clarified butter) + chana, gur + fresh seasonal fruits. These well fed monkeys have thus increased their population. They are now an  absolute menace for us. We cannot spread our laundry outside for drying. We cannot keep pickles or papad in the sun light. My garden is destroyed and they've even bitten my children. The list is far too long to even bother writing about.

Yesterday I was coming back from an area called Kabirnagar to Durga temple through a narrow lane (called “gully” in Hindi). The lane is barely four feet wide. One side of the lane is an ill maintained public toilet and other side is a personal property with six and half feet high boundary wall. I was walking alone. I saw a young monkey was peeping under the door of one close toilet. Most of the doors have corroded by 5-6 inches from the bottom. I felt pity for the person in the toilet. Suddenly a big male monkey aggressively jumped up the wall. On the other side, 10-12 monkeys were jumping and screaming on the public toilet roof. I was scared. I increased my pace. 2 shopkeepers rushed towards the monkeys with large bamboos. I reached the market. I was breathing fast. The bread shopkeeper offered a plastic stool. I sat down and felt better.

I remember that once Sanju (one of my best friend’s younger brother Dr. Sanjiv Sharma) told us about his experience with these nutty animals. He said -

“When I was doing my MS from Agra medical college I was living in hostel. Our toilets were separate from our residential area. First day morning I was going to toilet with a tin can filled water because most of the time taps were not working. My friends gave me a bamboo stick. I asked them ‘why’ with curiosity. They said  that it would be needed to save the water. I did not understand the use of a stick in the loo. At that moment I push the toilet door something jumped over me and ran away. My tin can toppled down and spilled.
Now I got the answer. I spent the next two years with them. They would enter the toilet from anywhere.”

I now got up from the stool and started walking on the roads of Varanasi. The roads full of idiotic traffic, pot holes, filthy garbage and stupid monkeys. They are always ready to snatch your shopping bag.

I returned home safely. Thank you o’ lord almighty.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The sixth sense of a man's best friend

The Hindus believe that a dog’s howling is a very bad omen. A dog’s senses are much more active than humans. Their smelling ability is used by security department worldwide. Dogs can visualize the paranormal activity. Whether this is true or false, I don’t know but I feel that something is there.

Last year on 13th September my elder brother passed away. I lost the childhood part from my life. There was a stray dog that was attached to his family. Dada (my elder brother) gave it food regularly and pampered it. When his daughters went somewhere it would follow them like a body guard.  The day when he was hospitalized the dog was howling the whole night. After his death it howled for 10 days. Then it stopped coming their house. No one had any logic for this phenomenon.

In the year 1976 I was an 11th standard student. Beside my parents and big brother I had a pet play mate with me. It was a dog named Munmun. Many times my friends asked me “Why does this masculine dog have a feminine name?”  I told them that I wanted to play with girls only and we laughed. The dog did not mind anything because of a feminine name. We were very good friends.

I had a cousin sister at my age. Her name was Shukla. She was very dear to my mother. She had a brain tumour. Those days the survival rate of the brain operation was just 0.05%. My uncle decided that without operation death was certain, so he would take that 0.05% chance. Beside that, the girl’s health was deteriorating day by day. In the month of March Uncle took her to Vellore hospital. This is still situated in South India. For us, March meant exam season. Via land line phone he told us, “Tomorrow morning doctors will do the operation for the tumour.” Next day I and dada went to school. Father went to office but my mother sat down in Puja room (worship place) in front of god and goddess. When I returned home she was still in the Puja room.

At 10’o clock in the night, suddenly Munmun started howling.  My mother shouted at me “Mini! Chup kora oke!!!” (Mini! Make the dog shut up!!!.) and prayed to god “May Shukla be alright.” I grabbed Munmun and settled on my bed. Few moments later, he went to the courtyard and howled. We scolded it but all in vain.

Every day my father called my uncle over the hospital’s telephone and asked about Shukla’s health. She was in coma. Doctors took care her nicely. Uncle said “I hope she will be all right”.

The howling continued for eleven days. We observed that exactly at 10‘o clock it started misbehaving and we scolded it. On the eleventh day it did not howl. My mother said “May we get a good news tomorrow.” Same night at 12:30 Munmun was restless and scratching me. I said Munmun please let me sleep. I grabbed it in my bed. But it escaped an started howling and restlessly walking in and around the courtyard . I tried to grab it, but it react violently. Dada tried to sooth it but it kept reacting violently. We left it there and came back to our bed . It stopped howling but stayed in courtyard. I fell asleep. At 3:30 am, I woke up. My mother was screaming “Shukla... Shukla! Stop… Shukla...” She was breathing fast. This time Munmun was growling aggressively. It was moving around my mother’s bed. I served some water to mother. My father patted her. She said, “Bad dream...  may god bless us all.” Munmun kept behaving in a weird manner. We could not sleep that night.

Next morning Uncle called and gave us the massage “Last night, at 12:30 am the doctor declared her dead.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Evening Prayer for peace

I will begin writing this experience with two lines written by Ravindra Nath Thakur’s

Bahe nirantar anant anand dhara
Baje asim nabh
Majhe anandi rav
Jage Anaya ravi Chandra tara

Simple translated as ‘a steam of pleasure flows in the endless universe. This sound of pleasure vibrates in the endless sky. May the sun, moon and stars exist for ever’?

I am staying with my son at Bangalore. A few days ago I met a lady. She is living in the same building as us. Her name is Mrs. Rama Roy. In my first introduction I came to know that she is a regular visitor of Ram Krishna Mission. I asked her “Why??” she said that “I go to listen to their prayer”. I did not ask her anything more. But she said “there are enormous powers in their prayer. If you come with me, you’ll feel it too.” I don’t believe in these things. I am a typical house-wife, God fearing and my whole world is limited into the boundary of my house. My thought process starts from husband and children and end up to them. But I accepted and went with her. I had two reasons. First - I wanted to explore the city and the second reason was curiosity. So I told her that I would go with her.

So, Yesterday I went to R.K.Mission (Husur) with Mrs. Roy. In the evening, at near about 5 pm we took an auto-rickshaw for Husur. She was living in Bangalore since 2001. She knows the city very well. She gave the direction to rickshaw driver. It took us 20 minutes to reach our destination. In the ashram we walked through the pathway and both the sides were blooming with flowers. Some were known to me, and some were unknown. The atmosphere was calm and quite. I felt a kind of peace inside me. The lady and I entered the hall. There were three big pictures of Swami Vivekanand, Shri Ram Krishna Paramhans and Maa Sharda in the hall. The ‘dari’ (a handmade floor spread) was spread on the floor. 50-60 people were sitting in the hall. I loved this silence but the woman near to me said “silence is not synonym of peace; peace comes from inside the soul. It cannot create, but a prayer gives you a little peace for a few moments”.

Rama Roy asked me if I had any problem with my knees then I could take a chair, but I preferred the ‘dari’. A monk came up to the mike and gave a speech - a text from Vedanta. He read the text in Sanskrit and explained in English. As the sun set, the bulbs were turned on. Two monks came with harmonium and tabla and sat down in front of the pictures. First they sang a few ‘Richas” (the Vedas hymns). The sacred Vedic sounds are healing music to our ears. Then they sang prayers to the Almighty and followed by Bengali songs. These songs are dedicated to Mother Goddess.
I was engrossed in the music.

7:30 we returned home. We were not talking with each other because we both did not want to come out of the vibe of that prayer.

Yesterday night I could sleep at least 5 hours. Past 6-7 months I am suffering in sleep disorder problem. May be I am insomniac. Prayer blessed me with one night sleep.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Birthday

26/11 is my birthday. It is a very painful day for a Mumbaiker (someone living in Mumbai). All kind of abstract nouns can express love, lust, wisdom, fear….etc, but the pain has no expression.

In year 1985 I was living in Hardwar. Second week of September my 3 year old son, Pakku had cough and cold. His father went to Germany for an official tour. My in laws were staying with me. My mother in law tried to sooth him with home remedy.  He had no fever so we had nothing to panic. But as time passed he became restless. Within two days, the intensity of the cough increased. Next morning I went to nearby clinic. The doctor said that this was an allergy, and gave anti-allergy syrup. It was a temporary relief. But as the night fell, he was becoming more and more restless and coughing continuously. Gradually he became inactive. He hung his head on my shoulder and stuck to me. By then my in laws were also worried. We were feeling helpless. It was 9:30. That day was Saturday. Entire neighbourhood went to the club as they had a Saturday program. It was a cloudy night. Pakku was breathing very slowly.

10 O’clock I saw Mrs. Doctor Majetia enter the building. She was living at ground floor.  I wrapped my son in a small blanket and rushed to her. She was just entering in her flat. She stopped and asked me “what happened?” I told her the whole thing.  She put her hand on his back and said intensely “you must take him immediately to hospital he is serious.”  Hospital! How I will take him there? What was wrong with my child? Hospital was two Km. far from my house.

It was raining. My father in law said, “Wrap him in a rain coat; we will walk.” I did the same. When we came out of the building we saw that the people were returning from club. A motorcycle’s headlight hit us. The motorcycle crossed us and stopped. “Meenu!”  It was Ranjana’s voice.  Dube bhaisab was returning with his family. They stopped and asked us “In this weather where are you going?” .I could say just two words - Help Me.

Dube bhaisab left Ranjana and Sona (their son) at home and took me and Pakku to the hospital.  He stopped his bike near emergency in the hospital. He parked his bike and snatched pakku from my arms and throughout the rain coat and went into the medical room. Male attendant did not allow me. I was watching from outside through glass panel. Dube bhaisab, dr. dutta, a nurse and a paramedic were standing surround the table. I could not see my child. I was waiting in half wet clothes. A kind of unknown fear grabbed me. It was raining and the night was cold.  15 minutes later, bhaisab and Dr. Dutta came out and said he was out of danger.  Bhaisab said, “Abhijit ka beta hai use kuch nahi hone dunga.” (I will not allow anything to happen to him because he is Abhijit’s son). They went in the room and I stayed outside. Night passed and dawn came Dr. Dutta came out and said, “You may go inside now.”   

In the room bhaisab was sitting on a stool beside the bed and kept his head on the bed with eyes closed.  I put my hand on pakku’s chest. He was breathing normal and his heart beat was little fast. I.V. Tube was settled in his arm. He was sleeping. I kneel down beside the bed and joined my hands to say “Thank You God”. My eyes were closed. Someone pat my head. That was Mrs. Dr. Majetia. I stood up. She said “Pakku’s bronchia were choked due to mucus. He is now out of danger. You have to stay in the hospital for a few days. Mucus will be cultured only then we start antibiotics.” Bhaisab raised his head.

He did everything he could and he and his wife took care of my in laws. We spent 15 years together in Hardwar. Lots of merry time we spend together. 26th April 1996 bhiaisab expired due to cancer. But Ranjana never failed to give me good wishes on my birthday because 26/11 is bhaisab’s birthday. She said “Happy birthday Meenu. Have a happy and long life…” every time I feel the pain in her voice.