Saturday, October 3, 2015

Pet Peeve

"Did you see that lady's tweet? Really a slap on these anti-beef protesters, don't you think?" Sanju asked her friend Renu, fondly petting her Labrador. "As if vegetarians don't kill life when they eat!"

"I shared a recent study on that, you remember?" Renu asked, not to be outdone. "Your vegetables scream when you cut them! That should shut them up!"

Sanju laughed. "Crazy how they want to fight for the right of the cow, but how about milk? Don't they deprive a calf to have that milk and dairy products?" she asked as she served her friend finger chips and cola. "It is none of anyone's business what one eats! I think this holier than thou, holy cow business is a bit too much mumbo jumbo. Cow, the mother, huh! Bull-shit?" The two laughed at the pun. "And who said India was a vegetarian nations? It was only with Buddha that some of the ancestors of these very protesters became vegetarians! And, even today, I know so many who eat meat on the sly? Hypocrites!" she said with righteous anger.

Renu shook her head to indicate she couldn't believe the heights of hypocrisy one could stoop to. Just then the lab got up and shook himself. "Oh! Isn't he cute!!!" She patted the lab's head who blinked and looked up at Renu with melting eyes. "I just love dogs! But my parents were quite against keeping a pet. Now I am alone, but I still can't because my house owners are against it!" she pouted.

"Oh that's the other thing I find funny! Vegetarians not giving their homes to non-vegetarians! This is discrimination!" Sanju picked up the thread again.

"Isn't it!" Renu exclaimed. I had a hard time finding a decent place! What am I going to do? Splash blood all over the house?"

"There should be a law against it!" Sanju argued. "This is a free society! People should be allowed to eat what they like!"

"I agree!" Renu replied, glad to have found a supporter. "And this recent killing for suspected eating of beef!"

"Too much! Our country is becoming unsafe thanks to these extremists!"

"We should start a petition or something, like there was one for stopping the dog meat festival! So sad that it happened despite that! How insensitive can one get!"

"That was so shocking! Can you imagine someone chopping up and eating these cutie-pies!" Sanju said, hugging the lab, as if fearing he was going to end up as meat somewhere. "Come on, they are man's best friends! So loyal, so loving! I signed and spread the word so that more like me can sign! I really wish it had driven some sense into the heads of these dog eaters!" she said with vehemence.

"As if they don't have anything else to eat!" Renu, the yes-woman nodded. "They can try chicken or beef, or pork! Why dog meat!" she protested, also petting the Lab for good measure.

The Labrador wagged its tail, its tongue hanging.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Earth: Just One More Tree

One Earth: Just One More Tree: He stood under the tree, taking in a deep breath and feeling refreshed. The sun burned just beyond the canopy. He felt safe...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Other Way

"Hey! We have to invite Ms Namrata Pandey as the chief guest!" Vidya insisted when the topic came up.

"Namrata Pandey! She is so hard to get!" someone whined.

"I will figure out a way if all of you are okay with it," Vidya assured them, excited about the challenge and the hope of achieving success. She idolised Namrata for her confidence, clarity of thought and speech and professionalism. Vidya had attended some of her sessions in conferences.

The self-employed women's group was organising an annual event and was planning to inviting an icon of entrepreneurial success as the chief guest. There were several names that they could think of, but Namrata Pandey topped them all. She was on the cover of all business magazines, in TV channels and was invited as a speaker to business conferences across the country. Her education venture had started small, but had suddenly grown exponentially. Investors were lining up to fund her venture, but she seemed in no hurry to take money.

In the galaxy she ruled, with her time taken up by important agenda, what value would this insignificant organisation have? But she had also started small. Maybe they could persuade her to share her wisdom on how to scale up quickly. It was worth a try, Vidya suggested.

"You have to let us know in two days," the president of the association said firmly. Vidya nodded, glad of having got at least an excuse to approach that great lady.

"Can you drop me?" Subha asked as Vidya stepped out. "Had to send my car to pick up my daughter," she added apologetically.

"Of course! Come on," Vidya said and got into the driver's seat. Subha sat beside her in the front.

"Do you know Namrata?" Subha asked as Vidya drove out of the driveway. Vidya shook her head. "She is my friend's cousin..." Subha added.

"Oh! Wow! That is lovely. Do you think your friend can help us get an appointment?"

"Mmm... I will ask. But I don't think they are in touch anymore."

"Oh!" Vidya asked, slightly deflated.

"My friend Bindiya said Namrata had ruffled many feathers in the family... I don't like gossiping, but you may want to know that her growth story is not such an inspiration as people make it out to be."

Vidya pursed her lips, irritated at the obvious jealousy that must have been at the root of this rumour. "Really?" she asked.

"It was a small venture, if you remember?" Subha asked. Vidya nodded. "She started it with her classmate, and over time, the two fell in love with each other. But her family did not approve for the obvious reasons and he moved out. They continued to see each other on the sly..."

Vidya did not react, disgusted at the personal story being aired so easily, but curious enough to want to hear more.

"She has not married... They are a couple, but not officially... He suddenly came into some money and invested in her company. They got themselves a big house - sad that it is lying locked. Cannot even enjoy the wealth openly," Subha said shaking her head slowly. "Then trouble started. Initially the family was upset that she still continued to see him. But when they got to the bottom of it, they discovered that the money was not clean... The family is an old one in the city and has a reputation to protect. They found out that he was a conduit for the education minister. It helped Namrata both ways - she got the money as well as approvals needed to reach her solution to schools."

Vidya stared at Subha incredulously. "Surely the business magazines would have found out!" she asked, interested despite reservations.

Subha laughed. "Oh she is smart. Many of the centres she opened in other cities are languishing. But she manages to show profits."

"How do you know that?" Vidya asked suspiciously.

"Bindiya told me. But I also run a business, Vidya. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you can make out... Namrata is a smart, intelligent woman. I can tell you, she would have got to where she is now if she had taken the slow and steady route. What she says at the conferences are possibilities, not her own experience, I can vouch for that. The speed at which she has grown is unbelievable...!"

Vidya digested this silently, still sceptical and disbelieving.

"In any case, I will ask Bindiya if she can help us get an appointment."

"Thanks," Vidya replied, suspicious of Subha's intentions.

She heard from Subha in a couple of days, but for a different reason. "Check the news," Subha said cryptically and waited as Vidya switched the TV on. "Oh my god!" she exclaimed in shock and disbelief.

"Business tycoon Namrata Pandey's body found. Suspected suicide" scrolled across the screen.

"Did you read today's paper?" Subha asked.


"Did you see the news about Arvind Sahni?"

"The man who was jailed for embezzlement?" Vidya asked.

"Yes, framed, most probably. But he is the man I was telling you about, Namrata's partner. Maybe the minister has no more use of him. Maybe they crossed some line with their extravagance."

Vidya watched silently as other people from the industry, her employees and family spoke of Namrata's brilliance and business acumen. Many expressed shock at her sudden death, some suspected foul play. "Nothing will come out, take it from me. The police will close the case as suicide," Subha asserted. "I wish she had taken the traditional path instead of this ambitious growth. She really was brilliant," she added her eulogy.

Vidya felt sorry for the woman whose photos and video footage flashed. Confidence oozed from every pore of this woman who took the mike knowing what she was about to speak. She wished Namrata had had the same confidence in her business and her skills and not take the short cut to success.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

These Young People

"Did you hear?" Mini, short for Mrinalini, asked her friend Lakshmi. "Nandu's niece has left her husband..."

"Really!" Lakshmi perked up. "Why? Hadn't she run away with that man?"

"Yes, a different community too! I remember her parents were upset. Nandu had to intervene," Mini smirked and Lakshmi winked. "All that for nothing!"

"Today's youth... they don't want to spare a thought. Just jump in and jump out!" Lakshmi complained. "Even my neighbour's daughter divorced her husband because he was moving cities too often, disrupting her career." She shrugged. "Really, I don't know... I remember my mother packing bags and following my father through big and small cities when he was in government service..."

"Ya!" Mini replied eagerly. "See my own daughter-in-law! She is upset with my son because he refuses to go abroad. He thinks he is doing fine here... But she wants them to be abroad. They are seeing a counselor..." she grimaced. "When we elders try to intervene, they don't like it..."

"So what's Nandu's niece's story? Her name is Mala, right?"

Mini nodded. "I don't know. But I know he is unwell..."

"Oh! She left him because he is unwell?"

"Nandu didn't say much... Just that he has some debilitating condition. I thought it was very unfair. To marry when he was healthy and handsome and to leave him the moment he fell sick. I didn't tell Nandu anything, she seemed to think her niece had escaped in time... I was surprised, you  know..." Mini gave vent to her feelings.

"Really!" Lakshmi's eyes widened in surprise. "Hmmm... That's really sad. What happened to 'through joys and sorrows'? My husband has been so difficult of late. The lower back pain has been killing him and he snaps at everyone. Even I feel like walking out sometimes. But we have had such good times together, how can I just leave him?"

"Exactly Lakshmi! You know how my husband would shout because of stomach pain. When we discovered he had cancer, he just crumbled. He was in so much pain, I would run away! My son only took him for the treatment. I couldn't stand it, you know!"

"Ya Mini, I don't know how you went through it. You even stopped coming for kitty parties initially I remember!"

Mini nodded, her face puckered as she remember those days. "But look at girls these days... Leaving the moment they sense trouble..."

Lakshmi sighed. "Who told you about Mala?"

"Nandu only. She was in Mala's parents' home at that time. Said she was talk later."

"Did she?" Lakshmi asked, jealous that Mini should know the latest before she did.


"Let me call her. It has been a while since I spoke to her. In case she needs any help..." Lakshmi dialed. Mini pulled her chair closer. She became impatient as the conversation seemed to drift away to their next kitty party. Finally Lakshmi asked, "So how is family. All well?"

Lakshmi made faces at Mini as Nandu spoke about her immediate family and the usual woes. Finally, unable to stop herself, Lakshmi said, "Hey, is your niece Mala still in Madurai?"


"Oh, not Madurai...? ,,, Oh, what happened? ... Really?" Lakshmi made appropriate noises. When she cut the call finally, her eyes expressed horror.

"That man... he started beating Mala," she blurted out. "As the disease progressed, some muscular disability that affected his lower part, he started suspecting Mala and would abuse her mentall and hit her if he could get his hands on her. When she ran away from him once, he flung a knife that lay next to him...! Oh the poor girl! Luckily she took it on her shoulder. Now her parents have forbidden her from returning to that man..." She looked at Mini, feeling guilty about their assumptions.

"Oh these young people," replied the indefatigable Mini. "They cannot handle their illnesses. Not once did a cross word cross my husband's lips when he was unwell," she said.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Hundred Mistakes

Shishupala's mother knew that her son was destined to die at the hands of Krishna. She begged him to please spare her son.

Krishna promised his aunt, "I will forgive a hundred errors..."

The mother was content, thinking she had bought her son redemption with that promise.

At Yudhishthira's Rajasuya Yajna, ignoring warnings from others, Shishupala insults Krishna and continues to do so till he reaches his quota of 100. At 101th insult, Krishna lets fly his discus and beheads Shishupala.

Devdutt Pattnaik, in the notes at the end of the chapter on Shishupala in his book 'Jaya' points out that the mother sought Krishna's promise not to harm her son, but did not caution her son not to give Krishna a reason.

So many times I see children running to their mothers with complaints and their mothers immediately taking up arms on their children's behalf. Never are they asked for the complete picture, nor helped to take responsibility for their actions. When they make a mistake, some mothers brush it aside, and expect other children to overlook it... They are not taught to forgive others and forget small oversights. When they feel slighted, they are not taught to rise above the situation.

As a mother, many of us take our role as protectors too seriously. But we are not going to be there all the time. Children will grow up to be adults, out in the world on their own. These very things that seem small and insignificant in childhood will lead to bigger and unpalatable personality traits that will be hard to overlook and forgive. They will not know how to handle being ignored or rejected. They will not know how to be accepted... As parents, we will be unable to help them at that stage.

Or, if that becomes the norm, will that cease to matter?


Friday, August 14, 2015

To Do As You Please

The car jolted through the roads, dipping into potholes and bumping over humps. Kani checked her watch. There was still time to reach the venue.

But as if on cue, the traffic slowed down near a main junction and the car came to a stop at the signal. She looked up at the timer as it ticked in a countdown from 45 to 0. She braced for the car to start, but the traffic didn't budge. Horns blared, to no avail. The traffic flowing from the other side had not stopped, despite it turning green. A third side entered the fray and within minutes, there was chaos, each trying to cut in and effectively. There was no traffic police and like the proverbial mice playing when the cat is away, the people jumped the signal as if they would be stuck on the road forever otherwise.

Kani grimaced, pained at this simple lack of discipline. Her driver switched the official beacon light on and forced her way through, a few people tailgating in her car's wake.

The roads were smooth till they entered the street. She had to close her nose. The sewage water was overflowing and the driver drove cautiously, for fear of getting stuck in a ditch. An SUV with a party flag drove past more confidently, brazenly, splashing slush generously all around. "Ugh!" she exclaimed.

She entered the apartment where the meeting was to be held. She was welcomed warmly, obsequiously by the residents. Her experienced eyes quickly assessed the situation. She could see people standing in loosely formed groups. Some were clearly the residents of the apartment. There were a few who looked like they had come from the nearby slum. They looked uneasy and militant. There should have been a third group, but hardly surprising that it was missing.

The secretary of the apartment association whispered in her ear, "The hospital management team that was supposed to meet got held up in a meeting and were unable to come..."

She pursed her lips and nodded as she walked towards the community hall.

The hall filled up as she took her place facing the crowd. The secretary stood up, welcomed her and introduced the topic - the overflowing sewage that had made living there and walking on the road impossible.

"Madam, after much investigation by your department, it has been found that the hospital's waste is getting into the drains and clogging them..." he submitted humbly.

The people in the audience started murmuring. "Such a large hospital, and they cannot control it?" "How are you going to stop this?" "It is an environment problem..." "How much are they paying in bribe?" demanded the educated.

"Children cannot play on the streets!" "The water enters our homes!" "The water mixes with our drinking water!" the slum people added their voice.

She got up and raised her hand to calm them. She had asked for a projector and connected her laptop. Images came up, of garbage being thrown near the drains by the slum people. One man had stuffed sack full of bricks in the manhole to stop the sewage from entering the slum area. The residents of the apartment looked shocked.

The slum people became quiet.

She silently played another set of slides. Sanitary napkins, used condoms, plastic covers in manholes clearly inside the apartment complex.

The residents fell silent.

"We provide the services. Do you want us to police its use also at all times?" she asked quietly.

She packed her laptop and left the hall, refusing the offer of coffee and snacks. The next day was Independence Day and she had to be early at the office for flag hoisting.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Engagement Ring

She was pretty but poor. He was attracted to her, he knew that. Her calm, efficient and friendly manner were added charms. But what pleased him most was the way she held herself with quiet dignity. Only her sense of dressing betrayed her poverty.

Poornima was a data entry operator in Suresh's office, but showed a willingness to learn and assume greater responsibilities. Her friendliness had won her many admirers in the office, not the least of them being Suresh. She was the only one who teased him despite the layers that separated them. Truth be told, she made him laugh like no one else did.

But he could not ignore the chasm that separated them; and he could not ignore how the more he thought of the chasm, the more he thought of her so that he was losing sleep.

When his mother placed photos of prospective brides, it was her face that stood before him. This was madness! He called her to his room one day on the pretext of some work and slowly extracted her story - he expected it would be abhorrent and it would cure him of this infatuation. It was just as he expected - drunk father, frequent fights between parents, wayward siblings. But she shone through it like gold treated in fire. Her maturity in realising the degradation her situation could bring and her courage in breaking free...

What was the chasm on the face of such vision? He would fill up the gap, he decided. He would make her worthy of his status in life.

When he proposed, he expected her to jump with joy. What he saw was surprise, hesitation, and withdrawal. He wooed her gently, persuaded her to consider the offer and when she accepted, treated her royally. When she resisted being pampered, he laughed, pitying her for having grown up in deprivation. She smiled, and he thought he detected pity there. He brushed it off.

Their engagement date was fixed and he assured her he meant business. He assumed her scepticism was because she did not believe her good luck to last.

"I want to get you a ring for the engagement," she said and took the measurement of his ring finger.

He chuckled. "It's okay darling. You select and send the bill to me," he told her, sure that he would have to change it. She merely smiled and left.

No bill came and he wondered what she was getting him. His friends' surprise at his choice of such a bride, his mother's silent protest, his father's open criticism... he wondered if he was making a mistake. All such doubts vanished when he saw her. But when away from her, he wondered if he should give a long gap before the wedding happened.

The engagement day dawned bright and sunny. He felt elated as he got ready for the event. The event was not as bad as he had expected - her family was uncouth but maybe for her sake, better behaved than he would have hoped for. Still, they were an embarrassment - loud and flashy.

When, after the religious rites, it was time for the rings to be exchanged as per modern diktat, Suresh took the one he had bought for her out. She demurely showed her finger and their colleagues clapped as the golden petal slipped easily on her finger.

He waited apprehensively as she took out his ring. His heart sank. Was it silver or some plain white metal? He covered her hand with his. She was surprised as she looked at him. He leaned towards her and whispered, "Take the ring I got just in case."

She was holding two rings now - a golden one and the white one she had got. She clutched the two in her hand and paused. Then slowly she slipped the golden one on his finger.

She fell silent after that.

When they met alone the next time, she was playing with the white ring. "Why did you not want this?" she asked.

He picked it up and laid it on the table, between them. "I didn't want people laughing at you, Poorni."

"I picked it up with great love, because you mean so much to me..."

"Then it is better that you leave this cheappiece out of the equation!" he snapped, pushing it away. The ring bounced and fell on the floor below the nearby table.

She looked shocked. She got up, picked it up and came back to the table. "This is my lifetime's savings. A platinum ring for the unique man who loved me despite my shortcomings, I thought." His jaw dropped. "Even if it was cheap, as you think it is, if you had treated it with respect, I would have believed you truly love me. But I think you only truly love yourself, the image you have built of yourself - a magnanimous man marrying a poor girl," she said coldly.

She removed the gold ring. "It is not the gold you gave that I care for, but that it was you who gave it."

She turned and walked away, spurning the gold and the riches. They were no price for her dignity and self-respect.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...