The Girl with the Yellow Handbag

Her appointment was at 10 am. She sprung out of bed with cold feet; the alarm had snoozed as usual. She could not afford to be late today. She managed a quick shower in record 11 minutes. With the clock ticking away, there was no room for experimenting different attire. She slipped into a pair of camel color trousers and a crisp white shirt. She would never leave home without styling her hair. And today, when she thought she must, she was racing against time. A quick math later, she pulled out her hair dryer. Only a few strokes with the hair brush, she decided against the styling after all.

She wasn’t one for makeup. Lipsticks, foundation, and mascaras had no place in her life, let alone her handbag. Oh, the handbags. She was obsessed with them. So much so, she had handbags not just for different occasions but for different moods too. Today was the yellow handbag’s turn. To her, all things yellow- the sun, daffodils, and fire were synonymous with newness. And so, her yellow handbag was saved for days which promised newness. ‘And what better day than today!’, she thought to herself. She tossed her belongings into the bag and set out.

In what she considered a baby-step but nevertheless her contribution towards eco-friendliness, she always booked a shared cab. She had accounted for a 30-minute buffer time as usual. She plonked herself in the back seat of the cab and shared her location details with the driver. As the cab wheeled off, she rummaged her bag for her pocket mirror. ‘Ain’t I pretty? ‘she smiled and brought out a thick book from her yellow kitty. Only a few minutes into the ride, the cab stopped for another pick-up. A guy swiftly boarded the cab, also in the backseat, and shared his location details with the driver. She had an Achilles heel for musky scent. Musk always kindled soft romance in her. She couldn’t help spare a pleasant glance at her excellent-smelling co-passenger. ‘Hmm…Cute’, she thought and returned to the book she was reading while Jai, her co-passenger seemed engrossed on his phone.

Jai’s new job had brought him to the city, miles away from home. Turning 34 in a month, he had chosen to be single till he found that one girl who, at once, would make him go weak at the knees. Today, he was headed to his first client meeting. He looked his best; dressed in a bright white shirt and a pair of chic black trousers. An avid reader himself, he held in high regard, women who read books. He managed to catch a glimpse of her book from the corner of his eye. ‘Woah, Murakami!’, he thought. His respect for the Murakami-reading brethren was one notch up. Unable to resist looking at a fellow Murakami fan, he looked in Mira’s direction as if to look out the window. Her droplet-shaped diamond nose pin shone gracefully against her tanned skin. One look at her kohl smeared eyes and he fell into a swoon. Like a flirtatious teenager, he pulled out his phone and looked up her name on the cab-sharing app. In a rare case, the name did justice to the face. ‘Mira!’ He muttered her name under his breath. No girl had enchanted him this way without uttering a single word.

Just as he mustered courage for a small talk, the driver said, ‘Sir, your stop’. With cars blaring horns and the traffic signal about to turn green, Jai did not have a single extra second to collect his thoughts. He looked at her one last time as if to capture her beauty with the lens of his mind, and got off from the cab in a hurry.

Mira caught a glimpse of Jai as he fumbled his way out of the cab. ‘Hey, your mobile phone’, she called out. He went red in the face like an absent-minded teenager would after a clumsy first kiss. They exchanged a friendly smile before the car veered off. Her husky voice rang in his head all day. Her beautiful face sent him into a state of drowsy enchantment.

Days turned into weeks but he never shared another ride with her.  He contacted the driver to get Mira’s details but did not succeed. Making assumptions about her whereabouts, he booked cabs to and from different parts of the city, all in vain. The task of finding her was formidable; its improbability disappointing. But the hope that he might someday spot the yellow handbag and its owner lead him on for way too long. So intoxicating was that one shared ride and so romantic the silence of that trip, that she became his quest.

Seven seas apart in Canada, Akash was all set to celebrate his out-of-turn promotion. It was date-night at home. The candle-light dinner was set beautifully with a soothing Jazz number playing in the background. As he danced with his wife and kissed her gently on the neck, she smiled with her eyes closed. The girl with the yellow handbag was enchanted by the scent of musk. Yet again.

An ode to the Grandfather

Another year had passed and it was 20th July again. The date not only made Mira melancholy but also filled her with a heavy dose of regret, guilt, and an irreplaceable void. No amount of busy work schedules, family obligations or responsibilities made her forget this date. Every 20th July, she liked to be left alone. She dedicated this day to contemplation, alone time, and memories.

Mira lived a better part of her life in a 3-bedroom apartment with her family; her younger brother and she in one room, her parents in the second room and her grandparents in the third.

Her grandmother was an unpredictable woman. She was caring but that was accompanied with her switching between wicked and grumpy. The old lady always had a litany of unreasonable complaints at her disposal. Her grandfather, who Mira fondly called Dada was everything the grandmother was not. He was a man of sensibilities, intellect, and enviable self-discipline.

Dada was very attached to his grandchildren. He expressed his love for his grandchildren by way of candies and gifts, pulled them up when they were unruly, invested funds for their higher education, as well as maintained sufficient distance to not interfere in their lives in any way.

As Mira landed herself the first big job, she got sucked into a trap she was blissfully unaware of. She practically came back home only to gobble a quick dinner and sleep. As her social network grew bigger at work, she thought it necessary to keep all the friends in good humor. Weekends were all about catching up with friends.

Little did she realize that there was an old man waiting to catch a glimpse of her but holding himself back to not be intrusive. When he did see her around, he would ask how she was doing hoping she would sit him down for a chat which she rarely did.

Desperate to express his dismay without sounding nosy, he would jokingly pass a remark or two about how she had forgotten him. While she laughed it off and promised that she would take time out for him, he knew the odds of that happening and only felt worse about it.

“Can I teach her chess or maybe Bengali. It’s a beautiful language. I could narrate to her war-time stories of when my father was an officer in the East India Company. I think she should train for badminton or tennis; how amazing it would be to watch her play for the nation someday. She must start reading books at an early age. It will help her with the vocabulary. With a little grit and determination, she could clear the IAS exam. It will pay off in the long run ” He had a lot to say but she had very little time to spare or so she thought.

Friday nights when she came back home very late, she’d see a small light flickering in her grandparents’ room. Her Dada would be dozing trying to keep with the football match or reading a Bengali novel. He liked to get only the required amount of sleep and spent his waking hours very productively unlike men his age.

Gulping down a liter of water, he would march off at 5 am everyday with his sport shoes and walking stick. He believed in fitness not because it was a fad or a way of bonding with his octogenarian brethren but because he firmly believed that his health or rather the lack of it should not cause trouble to his children. For a retired old man, whose life was pretty much confined to his house, he would carefully iron out every single crease from his clothes. With the neat appearance of a gentleman, he would look as if he was all set to go to work. Every Sunday, he would buy freshly made savories and sweets, the only way he felt he could get his family to sit together for a while. His way of life was an inspiration not only to his family but to anyone who met him.

In what seemed like yet another day in Mira’s life, she received a call from her parents while she was still at work, telling her that Dada had suffered a paralytic stroke was admitted in the hospital. She rushed to the hospital only to find out that Dada had slipped into a coma. With a frail body, gnarly skin and a calm face with the innocence of a newborn, her grandfather was lying there with his eyes shut. With an unholy sense of remorse and shock, she had an urge to cry, to be all alone, to pray for her grandfather and beg God to give her a chance to make up for the lost time.

She went home while everyone was still at the hospital. Letting a loud cry, she said, “Tomorrow, I shall tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me. Starting tomorrow, I will learn a little from Dada about the plethora of things he has to teach me.”

Hoping against hope, she waited for a better tomorrow. Her Dada, still in coma, was brought back home. Every night, she kissed him on the forehead, held his petal-like hands and said a tearful I Love You. Only, now, after all these years of waiting to hear her talk, he wasn’t listening. On 20th July, he breathed his last. Friends and relatives mourned and left. Her parents buried their grief to take care of the more practical aspects like the rituals, cremation, closing of bank accounts, and procuring his death certificate among other things. The grandmother eventually got accustomed to a life without her husband.

As the family was clearing out his paraphernalia keeping only a few items as memorabilia, her heart sank. In his perfectly arranged cupboard hung crisp ironed clothes, his meticulously organized address book and an even more systematic ledger of monthly expenses and transactions. His thick reading glasses, sport shoes and walking stick lay there waiting for their master. His mattress and bedsheets were discarded. He smiled blissfully from the photo frame as if to reassure her of his presence.

But to Mira, that house was never the same again. The third room, her grandparents’, became lifeless. There was no more late night television or book reading, no toffees or candies to look forward to, no Sunday family sittings. Her Dada had taken with him an ocean of knowledge, a golden heart, and all the unconditional love of an old man.

While to everyone around, it was the passing away of an old man who had lived life to the fullest in an abundance of love and happiness, Mira’s guilt never petered out. She held herself guilty for letting go of opportunities to express her love for him. For not learning from a man who was eager to share his wealth of knowledge. For not being inspired enough. For not giving the man her time, the only thing he sought.

Looking back at her daughter’s laptop, she found herself staring blankly at the essay topic. “If there is no tomorrow, how would you spend today?”. Chiding her little one for interrupting her thoughts, she smiled and wept at the same time thinking to herself, “I would spend it with you, Dada.”

The Story of India

Come one and all,

Let me take you on a journey;

which is one of love

and also a little funny;

I am too ancient, don’t ask me for my age

In my lap were born the most revered seer and sage;

It was one of my sons who discovered the Zero

Yoga was invented by another one of my heroes;

In my heartland was fought the great war

Justice, faith, karma – the epic stands for,

Low on literacy, development still a fantasy

But my children’s jugaad can outsmart any policy

I must also tell you about my not-so-easy past

My slavery was gruesome and long it did last;

My freedom struggle, to date, causes a chill

It pained me to see my children getting killed

But did I tell you yet about what values meant to us?

We swore by them even when the path seemed so tough;

We won a war with Satyagraha and salt march

Non violence and Dharma won us more than we could ask;

Speaking of values, we believe in forgiveness,

We greet our enemy with love and kindness

Our military prowess is known near and far

But my children, noon and night

pray for peace and not war;

And now, my children bicker over religion and ideology

But I am still the land with the largest democracy

In my land, I see modern technology penetrate

And development seems to happen at a rather fast rate;

But grandparents are the preferred storytellers and not apps

No playstation has still replaced the gully cricket, cheers, and claps

We have inspired vegetarianism, in fact, even made it a fad

Our mysticism and spirituality has also placed us on the world map.

Well, enough said about my children and myself

Come and witness my glory yourself

In my beautiful land, I welcome you

Where every few miles the culture, language and faith is new!

Love, warmth, hospitality,simplicity: This country raptures you even before you can blink,

for its people are more Indian than you think!

India, a country known for its mysticism, spirituality, culture, values, traditions and warmth has long been a fascination with most people abroad. This is for the exact reason why many choose to trade their high paying jobs for a peaceful life in small Indian hamlets in the quest of the ultimate truth.

While our feet are always grounded, for our intelligence, only sky is the limit. No wonder, the brain behind some of the most innovative and intuitive developments is mostly an Indian. Silicon valley wouldn’t be what it is but for Indians.

Our Indianness is what puts us in the catbird’s seat. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:

You can also visit the to know how Lufthansa Airlines has customized its service to make us Indians feel at home More Indian Than You Think

Happiness is..

Happiness is…..

Watching a baby smile

Doing a good deed

A walk in the rain

Hot maggi on a rainy day

A visit to Delhi

A friend’s homecoming

A blog accolade

A discount on the Uber ride

An unplanned road trip

A dive in the pool

A night under the stars, on the beach

A coldplay song on radio

A philosophical talk with your best friend

Watching Love Aj kal

Reading Rumi’s poetry

Watching FRIENDS after a tiring day

Cuddling up with a loved one

Tucking into a furry blanket on a cold night

A fridge full of chocolates

Camping in the forest

Making your parents proud

Browsing old photographs with family

Growing up with a younger sibling

Spotting your favorite novel at a book store

Listening to childhood stories

Revisiting your wedding album

Eating Mom’s food

Bonfire and friends

A hammock, music and cool breeze

A well written blog

A well baked cake

Flowers at the door

A crazy party night with friends

A guilt-free trip to desserts section

Diwali shopping discount

A good night’s sleep

Happiness to me is a few handpicked things along the way, every day.

This post is a part of the Incredible Blogger Marathon Challenge.  The final task was to write about Happiness.

Cinema in the 90s

When we were young, cinema was synonymous with story-telling. It was light, funny (at least at hindsight), modest, and entertaining. If a movie portrayed an extra marital affair, the depiction was subtle, a humorous movie had clean and funny jokes, a violent movie was without gore, and an emotional movie impactful. The cops caught the bad guys, a broken marriage was fixed, the evil was punished, and good won over bad. Romance was depicted most beautifully without a kiss. Yes, it was possible!

We cracked up at Govinda’s slapstick comedy in his “No.1” series, wept at Anjali’s eulogy for her mother Tina in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and when the police arrested Don, our faith in justice was cemented. Cinema was a canvas for all things good.

And then the millennium happened. It was the tipping point in the world of cinema. While some saw that as evolution, for others like me, cinema had clearly fallen on hard times.

Movie makers wanted to add pep to the stale state of Bollywood. They brought in raunchy songs and item girls.

They wanted glamour. They replaced genuine actresses with fair skinned straightened hair models.

They wanted to give a twist to the plot and so the villain had the last laugh.

They wanted to make cinema more real. They focused on serious world issues.

They wanted to take comedy to the next level. They tossed in generous doses of sexual innuendos.

Cinema became more experimental. We were exposed to high profile bank robberies, strange phenomenon such as stockholm’s syndrome and schizophrenia, newer and lower moral standards of betrayal in relationships, graveness of drug problems in Punjab, abductions in Haryana, and crimes in the national capital. Cheating in a relationship, pre-marital sex and extra marital affairs did not raise brows. Directors were lauded, their movies acclaimed, their experiments appreciated.

No-story-in-the-movie became a rage. Bringing out the surreal became the buzz word. And before we realized, we had a laundry list of absurd movies. Even as cinema has broadened our horizon and become more visually appealing with all the state of the art technology, it is no longer the weekend family outing.

When I am midway through another first-world movie, I tell myself, “Try looking at it from a different perspective.” I try to watch cinema from a director’s perspective. From an actor’s perspective. From the perspective of a friend who raves about it. But invariably, I realize that cinema has lost its innocence in the garb of evolution. I only know that I miss the 90s cinema. It was Unsullied. Modest. Funny. Sometimes unreal but entertaining.

 

This post is a part of the  Incredible Blogger Marathon Challenge The challenge was to write about perspective.

Climate Change

If all the world was paper,
And all the sea was ink,
If all the trees were bread and cheese,
What should we have to drink?

This nursery poem, tweaked a tad bit summarizes the  sorry state of our planet today:

If all the world were smoky

And all the seas were flooding

If all the trees were felled

You’d think I might be joking!

With the grave climate change situation that stares us in the face, devastation is imminent. LeoNardo Di Caprio, who is also the messenger of peace for the UN, traveled the world for two years shooting a documentary to spread awareness about climate change. The three irreversible damage we have caused our planet are:

  • The dangerously high carbon footprint leading to unprecedented pollution
  • The rapidly rising sea levels due to global warming warning us of a potential wash out of cities altogether
  • The  rampant deforestation causing a multi-fold imbalance in the ecosystem in ways we cannot imagine.

I am not sure if it’s too late to save the planet. Smoke emitting vehicles, paper cups, dry Augusts, addiction to air conditioners, and wars over water constantly remind me to be prepared for the times to come.

This post is a part of the  Incredible Blogger Marathon Challenge.

The challenge was to pick a nursery rhyme, edit it and interpret it.

The emotion behind terrorism

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/burhan-wani/who-was-burhan-wani-and-why-is-kashmir-mourning-him/

 

Terrorism has taken the world by a storm now more than ever. There are bone-chilling statistics that suggest that by 2035, there will be an Islamic caliphate in more than 70% of the world. With their overt operations and brazenness, ISIS is redefining terrorism altogether.  But before we worry about the bigger fish and even our Kashmir claiming neighbor, we have a whole lot of internal problems to sort.

Kashmir for long has been the hotbed of violence. It aches me to realize how numb we have become to the deaths in the valley. Terror has become the way of life and it ceases to pinch us anymore.

A few months ago, the news of Burhan Wani’s death flooded the media. The killing of Burhan Wani, a member of terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, by the Indian army saw a strong opposition from the Kashmiri villagers. More than 50,000 Kashmiri villagers mourned his death and called him a martyr. Whether or not his cause for Kashmir as an independent state was justified is not the point here. Aspirations are like faith. They do defy reason and logic. There is no way to change someone’s personal beliefs.

Burhan Wani belonged to a very well educated and affluent Kashmiri family. Upon some reading, I learnt that he and his friend were harassed and beaten up by some army personnel when they were children. One such occasion where an army personnel asked his friend to buy him ciggarettes in exchange for using the road and was still bashed up for no reason was when Burhan Wani decided to avenge the Indian Army. He openly challenged them and said they would pay a price for their action. How much truth there is to this story is again questionable.

But what if it is true. It certainly does show the significance of human emotions. The inhuman behavior of one army officer led to the rise of a militant. Similarly, the adamancy of a militant and his vengeance led to the killing of so many patriotic army officers who happened to be posted in Kashmir as part of their duty.

If terrorism has to stop, we must detach it from religion. We must dive deep to understand human nature. While the unjustified must be fought, a szieable share of aggression and unrest could easily be put to rest if we treated people as human beings. Disassociating the tags of religion, language, color from them. For, in the end, loss of lives is more grave than a hurt ego.

 

This post is a part of the  Incredible Blogger Marathon Challenge. The task was to express personal views on a newspaper article.

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