Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't Play with Fire

The stranger in the bus stop turned and smiled at her. Rinku inhaled sharply, stunned at how the curve of his nose looked just like Pratul's.

She looked away, chiding herself for being silly. She was always seeking Pratul in every man she met. Sometimes, even in women. In their smiles. In the colour of their eyes. In the shape of their teeth!

She really must stop this obsession. It was going to drive her insane. If she was not already one, Rinku reminded herself as she hailed an auto and gave directions.

As always, memories of Pratul drove a knife through her heart. She could not forget the pain he had caused her before going so far away that he could never give her any joy any more.

She had known him since childhood. He was a couple of years older, but because they lived next door to each other, it was inevitable that they should meet everyday, several times. They hopped in and out of each other's homes on work, or just like that. They had such a lovely time growing up together. How her friends teased her about him. His friends too, she knew, teased him. A soft smile played on her lips as she recalled those wonderful days.

And then, the dark cloud had cast its shadow. A new neighbour had moved in and their stunning daughter seemed to win everybody's heart, including Pratul's. It was hard to see him smile in a special way every time he saw Mahima cross. Rinku consciously kept her distance, but that was a mistake, she realised later. Because Pratul and Mahima became friends, and since Rinku had been obviously indifferent, she found Pratul dividing time between Rinku and Mahima.

They seemed to have all the fun. They started going out to all fun places while Rinku strove hard to maintain her steady, 'I am waiting for you' image. Either he did not understand or did not care. No, that cannot be true. It was Mahima who did not give him the space or the time to think about her. Rinku's lips pursed in disapproval. Oh, how she hated that girl! Always buzzing around Pratul like a bee around flower.

"We are in love, Rinku. I want you to be the first one to know," Pratul had told her.

She had slapped him affectionately. "Of course I know, you silly," she had chuckled.

"Of course," Pratul had laughed good naturedly. "You know me inside out. Probably you knew before I did that I was in love with Mahima." He had hugged her, not knowing how her world had crumbled.

The auto stopped at the entrance to her home. She looked up sadly.

Life changed after that. It seemed as if happiness forgot her, working full time at Mahima and Pratul's homes. And the worst was being his confidante, seeing his eyes shine thinking of another woman, his lips stretch in a wide smile sharing trivial nonsensical stuff.

How could he not know how her heart burned! Didn't he know her every mood, her every look? Didn't he really not know that she loved him?

"Hey," he slapped her on her back. "You fall in love soon and we can celebrate a double wedding!"

It was an insult to their relationship. She realised that he was blinded by Mahima's physical beauty. What was beauty? Just skin deep. If that vanished...?

But for it to vanish and Pratul to realise the truth, she would have to wait a long time. The more Pratul spoke of Mahima, the more eager she was to shake him up and make him see the truth.

She went out of her way to befriend Mahima. They visited each other. It burned her to have Mahima share intimate moments. She wanted Mahima to burn in pain too.

She invited Mahima to her house for tea one evening. They entered the kitchen with a warm laugh. "Go ahead, you make tea. I am in a mood to be pampered," Rinku gave Mahima way. When her attention was turned, Rinku sneaked up and let Mahima's dupatta catch fire.

Feeling the unnatural heat, Mahima squealed and threw the dupatta with a stronger flame. She threw it mindlessly away from her. It fell on Rinku's kurta and her synthetic top burned faster, the flames reaching up to her face even before a shocked Mahima could help her new-found friend.

"It's a miracle that she survived and her organs are not damaged," the doctor seemed to have assured her family repeatedly.

"Beauty is only skin deep, Rinku, You are my best friend forever," Pratul went out of his way to assure her, sitting with her after every plastic surgery to reconstruct her face.

He waited, he promised her, for her to get back to her feet. And then he married Mahima and left for Canada. Way beyond her reach. Leaving her alone to deal with her scars.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Make a Difference

In the 1990s, hearing of the work done by a charitable organisation promoting computer education in village schools in one of the districts of Tamil Nadu, a European lady desired to see the place. A teacher herself, she sat with the girls during the class and could not but help notice the cramped seating arrangement.

After the class was over, the lady met the principal and asked him how he would spend the donation she made. He told her that he wanted computers for his school.

"What you need is more space for the girls," the lady told him and contributed the amount needed to provide more classrooms and benches for the girls.

A few years later, when meeting another school principal, she saw smoke billowing outside. She was told that food was being cooked for the children under 6 in the two anganwadis nearby. She went to investigate and found that the smoke was due to the firewood. Aware of the need for clean atmosphere for children to grow and develop in, she insisted that proper kitchen with gas stoves be arranged and donated the amount needed to make two kitchens.

The elderly gentleman who had represented the organisation and coordinated these efforts recalled these incidents when I met him recently. But even as he spoke, I was amazed at the lady's interest and insight. She probably made the same contribution she had intended initially, even more probably. But it is the thoughtfulness and the courage to express it which was thought-provoking. If each of us were to take greater care in our efforts to contributing to the society and follow up to see the impact, we will probably see better results, implemented faster.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ahead of Peers

Disruptive, evidently bored and with loads of attitude, the 13-14 year old boy was a past master in evading activities the rest in his noisy groups were willing to do. Finally, when I realised that it was futile involving him in any activity, and better in fact to let others keep doing their tasks and engage him in conversation (I am a wannabe psychologist too) he asked me quietly, "Ma'am, how did you get your books published?"

Startled, I turned to look at him closely. This was a workshop on writing for children, and though I wondered what I can teach kids of today, to talk of publishing even before writing seemed overly precocious. "Why do you ask?" I hedged.

"My friend and I have written a novel which is part fantasy, part mythology. One of our friend's mothers is a patenting agent and she has helped us patent it. We are trying to get it published."

I was silent and glad when a distraction caused us to break up the conversation. Patenting agent? I hadn't event heard the word till I had started working.

Then he showed me another novel he was writing based on the Wimpy series. I read through a few pages and could well understand why he would have found a workshop on writing a waste of time.

Not everybody had that standard in that class of 52, thankfully. But I wondered, what avenues did such children who were ahead of their age groups have? What coping mechanisms were they being given when they met with disappointments?

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Friends

One Earth: New Friends: An earthworm struggled on the gravelly road near my children's school. Once upon a time, I couldn't put enough distance between us....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Will Be, Will Be

Your right arm cannot become your left; your head cannot become the feet or vice versa, thus says Vasishta's Yoga.

No rocket science, that, we may well think. And yet, to remember it at just the moment when we need it the most - when something we desire does not bear fruition; when something we expect as inevitable proves evasive; when something we aspire for goes beyond our reach - that is the real test.

When the hand that must pull you up tells you to stop instead, when the person who is to open the door blocks the way, when the wind beneath your wings clips it instead... Will anger, ranting and raving be of any use? Will we overcome hurdles, pass through closed doors, fly on the strength of our emotions? 

If the hand stops, the door closes, the wing is clipped, is that the end, or do you find new ways, new strength, new purpose?

Maybe the roadblock is meant to divert you to a different purpose. Maybe your purpose was only to go thus far and no more. Maybe the hand pushes you down so that you may jump higher.

Some lines from 'Murder in the Cathedral' that I am trying to locate but have not: Your destiny turns so that the ultimate destiny be achieved. If we knew that, maybe we would remember the words from Yoga Vasishta always. But it is the obscurity, the mystery, the uncertainty that is like a rite of passage, a test by fire that can consume us like wood or strengthen us like steel.

When I think thus, I understand these verses from Bhagavad Geeta better - Do your duty, do not worry about the results. With no expectations, you are not affected by the consequences. And so, you take the next path that opens up, that will open up... 

And you will see it because anger did not blind you, disappointment did not make you dejected. Because you will know that it is part of the journey, a stopover to your final destination.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Moment of Glory

When my friend, my guide to sites that encouraged writing, mailed to me about a competition on a site where one of my novels was already serialised and another is currently running, I thought and almost dismissed the thought of sending in anything. But 'The Circle of Zero', written from a the point of view of a man, contrary to my usual obsession with women and their complicated lives, was lying idle, having been written in 2009/10. So why not, I thought and sent that, not really sure what to expect.

When the mail inviting me for the event came, I had to excuse myself as I was traveling that evening. Then I got a mail telling me I was a winner.

Now that changed everything and after much agonising, I decided to risk going there. Oh what a sweet surprise was in store for me!!! The first prize in Romance!!!!

Of course we were getting late as the event stretched beyond expectations, but when my name was called out and I walked up to receive the prize, it was as if my efforts had finally borne some fruit. Getting published by Pageturn was the first step, but this one was a recognition of a different sort and just gave hope in a new direction.

With hope comes a sense of responsibility - that I continue to write different things and that too, stuff worthy of note or at least consideration.

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