Motu Uncle

The destiny of man is in his own soul.
Herodotus

“Ca ca carrot…”He stammered his eyes dull, he gazed at me with uncertainty. I was taken aback. A little uneasy, I stared at him as I stood at that corner bhaaji – vegetable stall. The stall stood right next to Motu Uncle’s small house, which he seemed to be managing today.
“Half Kg ma’am or is it one Kg of carrots? They seem quite fresh, perfect for Gajar Halwa! Will that do?” I heard a cheerful voice from behind me question, I was startled by her. I had not noticed her before. She seemed just like me, her attire and her style of speaking. She seemed just like another customer at the stall. Yet she was talking on behalf of Motu uncle.
Yes, half Kg. HALF KILOGRAM please,” I repeated to him slowly, looking back at her hesitantly.
“What’s wrong with him? And who are you?” I asked her.
The man seemed a shadow of his former self! I could barely recognize him. I tried to take it all in – the tiny stall, his clean yet disheveled clothes, his shrunk figure and above all his empty gaze. “He was always so full of life! Such a Jolly fun man! I just can’t believe this. I happened to be passing by and thought about visiting him, giving him a surprise. And I am the one surprised and not a pleasant one at that…” I rambled.
“I did not even know that he runs this stall now. What happened to his rickshaw? Is this your stall?” I asked her.
“Oh so you know him too! You know him from before?” She gave me a long stare squinting her eyes slightly, ignoring all my queries.
“Of course, Motu Uncle is my rickshaw-Walla kaka.
Suddenly she broke into a smile. “Bina, isn’t that you? Battery Bina? I almost did not recognize you without your battery oops glasses!”
I paused and then rushed to hug her.
“Kalpana? Kinetic Kalpana ?Is it really you? It’s been so long! Look at you!”
“Eat more ca ca carrot,” We heard him say. And we both turned to look at him, half smiling, remembering those days long gone by…

Oye Battery – how  did you get chasama – glasses? Eat more Carrot! Bas and bye-bye chasama.” Motu Uncle had teased me, when he had first seen me with that chasama. I had been in fifth grade then, the first one in our rickshaw rewarded with less than 20/20 vision. And he had continued teasing me all through those years, lecturing me about my eyes and carrots.
“You know whoever gets most marks in our rickshaw, gets Peru– Guava. And Battery Bina it is! She is our rickshaw sitara yet again!” He always announced with great gusto! And I was all smiles! No wonder I was unaffected by the bullies in school and later in college too – Motu uncle had prepared me totally! Yes he definitely played a big hand in preparing me to face those later years too. And he prepared so many others, all of us who travelled by Motu Uncle’s rickshaw sure were most lucky.
“Kinetic Kalpana did it again! Great goal! Milind don’t you dare boss over her now!” He threatened Milind, my rickshaw-mate with a grin.
And it was the same Motu uncle who wiped Milind’s tears when his father had to fly to England for one whole year.

That was our Motu uncle, he was our guide and our guardian all rolled in one. And much more! Always full of life, he was our tormentor yet our savior. I practically grew up in his auto rickshaw, as did most of the other kids – literally and figuratively. First I was amongst the little ones sitting at the back in the ‘balcony’ seat – behind all the kids where customers usually put their luggage, that’s when I was in nursery. And over the years I moved from the back to the front. Eventually I was the tai – big sister sitting on the main seat with some little kid on my lap travelling to school. I probably had more fun in his rickshaw, than in school. I probably learnt more in that yellow and black auto rickshaw than in school! What a ride we had back then!

Come hail or sunshine, Motu uncle was always there. He would pick us from school and leave us home every day during those school years. He was there when our parent’s could not make it for that one important hockey match, cheering us on. Of course we had to be prepared for all the shouting for all those fouls we had made during the match, later, on the ride back home. He was our monitor scolding us for unpolished shoes or missing name tags.  And he was there when that fat kid bullied us and ate our Tiffin. Of course he was not there when we were late for school, third time in a row. We sure had to follow the clock to be in his rickshaw!

He was our navigator and our cheer leader. Though uneducated himself he encouraged us to excel, to give our best at school. He rewarded us and teased us mercilessly. He helped build us for those life’s little battles, for those big challenges. And all with a dance and smile, only fun and laughter could enter his rickshaw, gloom left behind. In life we probably cross paths with so many. Yet there are but a handful, besides family, who remain in our hearts forever. This is particularly true during those budding years. Yes we do remember our best pals and think about that one champ or that little mousy girl in school who is now a CEO. Yet most adults just come and go, most teachers even.  But Motu uncle always remained with me, in my heart, forever.

But life happened. I got busy as did my other friends, I am sure. We all moved on, losing touch somewhere along the way as we progressed from student hood to parenthood. I had changed Cities, Countries even. Those years just slipped away. College, University, from a working girl I was soon a working mom. Those years had flown by in a blink. During the early years I was in touch with him and my rickshaw buddies mostly thanks to his family. We were always welcome to their one-room house especially on the first day of the Ganpati festival. Motu uncle himself served us the prasad – those mouth watering modaks. And he always had some tricks up his sleeves. Once our rickshaw buddy Shubham had even eaten eleven Modaks at a stretch on a bet! My mouth always longed for those yummy modaks every Ganpati festival, during those distant years. And each time I saw a little one enter her rickshaw with a skip; my heart would skip a beat. And whenever my little champ grinned back at me from his yellow school bus window, those days and those memories flooded back to me. And I couldn’t help but smile thinking of those wonder years, those wonder rides.

“Ca ca Carrot, ” I heard him stammer. His familiar yet distant voice brought me back to reality, brought me back to today.
I was in Pune only for a Short visit from California, as always. But this time I had made it a point to visit him. Bracing for yet another scolding for all those missed years and yearning for his blessings, I had come armed with chocolates. I had almost not come even today. Maybe I should have not come even today, I thought. My hopes were all shattered. I could not bear see our Motu Uncle in this state. This was not our Motu uncle, surely.

“Carrot, eyes good, carrot good!” He gave a toothless grin to a five year old passing by. And to the lad’s amazement Motu uncle juggled two carrots.
“Good carrots!” giggled the little kid, tugging at his mother’s hand, urging her to the stall.
Kalpana and I stepped back a bit to make way for the duo. And my heart lightened a little as the boy’s eyes lit up when Motu Uncle made a potato mountain just for him.

“What’s wrong with Motu Uncle? What happened? I don’t think he recognizes me at all. He is so different.” I turned back to Kalpana.
“Motu uncle had an accident years ago. I guess you are visiting after a long time Bina?” I nodded in response.
“He was hit on his head and…” She paused, bending to hand back a lemon which had rolled from the little kid’s hands as he had tried to juggle it just like Motu Uncle.
“They went through a lot, his family…” she continued. I stared back gloomily.
“Around three years ago, some of us and many of his friends from the Rickshaw panchayat we all chipped in. We all helped setup this vegetable stall. Mostly his wife is here and he just helps her. He is okay, just does not recall much and…”
I swallowed hard and turned my back. I could not help it.

“He has given us so much, hasn’t he Bina? In a way he was a father figure to us all. And you know what…” She continued with a twinkle “Motu Uncle has not changed a bit! Really!” I couldn’t help but gasp at those words. And my face surely betrayed my feelings.
“He has grayed a lot of course. Maybe he’s lost some weight and a little more. But look at him, isn’t he still a hero, the hero?” She continued ignoring my expression.
“ He is not bed ridden. He is not a vegetable but sells them instead. He is still a Champion especially all the little champs’ Champion! Just look! Just look at him and at that kid’s smile…”

I turned on her insistence. And as I turned I heard the young lad clapping. He surely seemed to be having a great time with the vegetables thanks to Motu uncle, surely enjoying them for once! Pointing at his mother’s fingers and back at the bhendi – lady finger, he was all smiles. Yes, Kalpana did not have to say more. The child’s radiant squeals and the loving expression on his mother’s face said it all. I could not help but nod in agreement, tears filled my eyes. Not sad tears, but happy tears. And as I gazed behind them at the vegetables – I was mesmerized by Motu Uncle’s antics with them. Motu uncle had made little Smiley faces using the vegetables. Tomato eyes, Carrot noses and cucumber mouths were all smiling back at me, cheering me up even winking at me! Yes Motu Uncle was still the same – still our inspiration, still our very much our Motivator.

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The familiar stranger

“You know, it was never mine, really. She never did give it to me, really. It was meant to be.” Aparna’s big brown eyes filled with tears as she confessed to her daughter, Meera.

“What? Who?” Meera grabbed her mother’s shoulder urgently, as the clock on the wall struck twelve – the midnight hour. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she couldn’t help but think about the prior events…

********

Early that morning…

The ringing of the phone broke the silence in the room. Meera woke up with a start, grabbing the phone off the hook.

“Good Morning, Madam. This is room service. Sorry to bother you but this is an emergency. There has been a break-in at the hotel. A few valuables are missing mostly those belonging to the hotel. So far none of our guests have reported anything. But we just want to make sure. This is most unusual madam and highly disturbing.”
She heard the voice at the end of the phone.

She blinked for a moment as she felt the piercing green eyes stare at her once again. She looked back into the face on the wall, a face so familiar, yet a face of a stranger.

“Ma’am, are you there? Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes I am fine. I’ll check and let you know.” She heard herself answer back.

Trying to clear her head she hurried to her suitcase. Many of her possessions were randomly scattered all around the room – her cell phone, her purse even her gold chain. But the one thing she valued the most, she had hidden carefully draped in the old black dress in her bag.

With trembling hands she opened the bag and started digging looking for the black dress. But she already knew, she had felt the loss the moment she had heard the manager’s words on the phone.

It was gone, the dress and her mother’s choker. Tears streamed down her face as she hunted everywhere for the intricately carved necklace. Maybe she had just misplaced it. It was a family heirloom passed on from mother to daughter, or daughter-in-law. It was one of a kind made of pure gold embellished with gemstones. It was priceless!

And then her eyes darted back to the picture on the wall, resting on the necklace. The shining red gemstones and the gold peacocks seemed to mock her, the resemblance was unnerving.

Tears streaming down her face she packed her bags. Before checking out she reported the loss to the police inspector, leaving her ma’s address and phone number for further contact. And with a heavy heart she headed back home.

She had no choice but to go back to the same house which she had fled merely a day ago. Ugly words had been exchanged then, threats even. Her ma had been totally against her going to Utharashi for the shoot. Meera had been puzzled by her ma’s behavior, disappointed even.

********

Meera’s mother Aparna had never stopped her before. In fact she had always encouraged her to achieve her dreams and to fly high. Meera’s father had died in a car crash when she had been just three. She had almost no memories of him. But his face was everywhere. In every room, her mother had hung his photograph. And she treasured every gift he had given her, every small trinket. Twenty years after his death her mother still cherished him. Her love for him had merely grown stronger with each passing year. Car racing had been her father’s passion. Winning the Keystone cup his ultimate goal, the same goal had cost him his life.

“Meera if you put one step on that train, you are dead to me!” Her mother had threatened her.
“But ma, I have to go. This is a once in a lifetime chance. It’s a shoot for the Gwalior group, no less. It’s just a matter of a few days. What’s wrong with that?”
“Everything!” Aparna had thundered.

And that night, she had crept out of bed. And she had taken the necklace from the safe. She had stolen the necklace. She had felt a strange force and she hadn’t been able to help herself. Well it did belong to her, rather would belong to her someday, anyway.

“Beta, it’s been a tradition in our family. Your great-great grandmother gave it to her daughter and then…”
Yes, it would belong to her someday too. It didn’t matter.

The moment she had stepped off the train at Utharashi she had felt a shiver run down her spine. It was pretty warm there but yet she was shivering. She felt a sense of déjà vu. She had never been there. But yet…

The hotel, a former palace converted to a five star hotel had been breathtaking. She had been mesmerized by the intricate carvings and elegant landscape, especially by the charming fountain in the middle of the courtyard.

“It was our Maharani’s favorite. She passed away ten years ago, right after donating everything to the government.”
The elderly porter had informed her with a faraway look. The porter had been a former employee of the Maharani. Staring at her strangely, he had led her to her room.
“Ma’am this is the blue room, another of our Maharani’s joys.” He had stated gazing at the large portrait on the wall. And then Meera had felt those eyes the first time…

Captivated, she had stared at the elegant woman on the wall. The simple yet regal hairstyle, the beautiful saree and above all those pitch green eyes, had reminded her of someone. And then she looked at the necklace, she had been stunned! It was the same as the one she had stolen from her mother. But…

Her trail of thoughts had been interrupted by the phone. She had to get ready for the shoot. It was the campaign coordinator on the line. Every minute was precious; it was a costly affair. And the rest of the day had simply flown by. After an early dinner with the rest of the crew, she had returned back to her room to lie down.

And yet again she had had felt a force, this time, beckoning her to the fountain in the courtyard…

Almost in a daze she had walked up to it. There was a woman standing there with her back towards her. And when she had turned, Meera had stared at her shocked. It was the woman in the portrait. It was the same face. And the same green eyes.

“I have been waiting. It’s been a long wait.” The woman had whispered.
And Meera had fainted.

Next, she was awakened by the manager’s call about the robbery.

How she had got back to her room, she did not know. Or did she leave it at all?
Maybe it had all just been her overactive imagination. Maybe it had just been a dream after all.

 

********

Tears streaming down her face she had admitted to her mother about the necklace. But her mother’s words had shaken her.

“Meera you have to know the truth. History does repeat itself. History comes back to haunt.” Her ma had said gripping her hand.

“Just like you, your father had run away from home once. He had run away from it all to pursue his passion – car racing. His family had been furious, especially his mother. She had disowned him completely, totally shattering him.

We had tried to seek her blessings before our wedding but we had to turn back in humiliation. After your birth, despite your father’s anger, I had phoned her yet again. But she had continued being stubborn.

Five years later – two year’s after your father’s death, she had called me but this time I had refused to visit her. I had merely followed your father’s last wishes. In the end, for him only you and I were family, the only family he ever needed. He had left us sufficient money to get by and he just didn’t want us to suffer further at the hands of his relatives. He had asked me to forget everything. He had begged me to tell you nothing, so that you’d have a clean slate, a new beginning.

Just before your father had left his childhood home, he had stolen the necklace from his mother, the family heirloom for his future wife. That was all he had taken. That and his mother’s peace of mind!

“Meera, your grandmother was the Maharani of Utharashi. Maybe she was just waiting there for you. Maybe she was just waiting there for the necklace, her necklace.
You have her eyes, you know…”

 

 

He believed in me

 

“My grandfather gave me the greatest gift, he believed in me!” said my new boss, my childhood buddy.

It was early January. We were all a little anxious, a little keyed up. We were awaiting our new chief. Our last VP of IT had just stepped down, rather been asked to step down. After a series of intensive interviews and dialogues with numerous candidates, the board had unanimously voted on Mr. Pankaj Joshi to take his place. Rumored to be a go-getter and a doer, I’d come across his name a couple of times in ‘IT Today’ and ‘Computer World’. I heard that he was about my age, was looking forward to meeting him.

“Mr Kulkarni, could you please come to my office,” a call from the President.
A little surprised and apprehensive, I hurried to the elevator.

”Please come in,” I heard our president’s response, when I knocked on his door.

“Hello Mr. Kulkarni, Mr. Joshi, our new VP. I believe you know each other already.” I came face to face with my childhood pal, my buddy Pankya. I was definitely stunned to see that our class jester as my new chief!

“Anand, glad to see you again! My god, it’s been so long, at least a good twenty, twenty-five years!” Beaming we shook hands. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about our common friends and contacts. And then we moved into the conference room for a formal meeting with the rest of the company members.

“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination. This determination will certainly take us places. And as Henry Ford once said, coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. May we achieve all the success and take this company to an unthinkable echelon,” on this note Pankaj ended his introductory speech. I was amazed! Was this really Pankya, the most mischievous boy in our class, the trouble-maker?

********

“Pankaj Joshi, behave yourself! Into the dustbin!” shouted Mrs Mishra, our Math teacher. “At this rate twenty years down the lane you’ll be cleaning dustbins! You should pick a page from your brother’s book!” And Pankaj spent the Math period standing in the dustbin, his punishment for pulling Tapan’s hair. This was nothing new. Pankaj was our class prankster, ever the mischief-maker; he always had new tricks up his sleeves.

I remember the time when Pankaj had put stink bombs in the teacher’s desk. The whole class had to spend the rest of the day in the library, as our classroom was uninhabitable thanks to the smell! Another trick I remember was Pankaj putting super glue on the tap in the teacher’s bathroom! Our poor history teacher was the victim. It was the talk of the school for months! And then there was the perfect trick, it was a custom for the entire school to gather in the assembly hall every morning for prayers and for Principal’s address. Somehow Pankaj had managed to get twenty small alarm clocks from somewhere. We crept inside our assembly hall early that morning, before the first bell. We set them at 30 second intervals and placed them randomly. You can imagine the chaos during the assembly! Our prayer session that morning is still etched in my memory!

Pankaj’s elder brother Prashant, our senior was the exact opposite. The football champ, our school prefect, our school teachers always sang his praises. One of the most popular boys in our school, he was an all-rounder. I would have been so proud if I had a brother like Prashant. But frankly, I don’t ever recall seeing Pankaj and Prashant together. Not that I’d ever seen them fight or something but they didn’t seem to be the best of friends either. We were all studying at the Mountainview High school in Panchgani.

Oh I still remember those glorious schooldays. The football matches, the debates, inter-house quiz competitions. If only I could turn the clock! I was on the swimming team as was Pankaj. The only days-scholar in the class, I would have definitely felt left out, if it hadn’t been for Pankaj. Impish Pankaj was my best pal, my buddy. Some weekends he even came over to stay at my house, of course with Father D’souza’s permission.

I have that day, stamped in my memory when Pankaj’s father yanked him out of school. That was the day when Pankaj was almost expelled. It was actually a pretty childish trick. We had placed a couple of banana skins outside our staff room door. Of course the aim was to see our teachers slip and fall. We didn’t see any harm in it! But our vice principal, our second casualty, had a rather nasty fall and had to be hospitalized for it! When asked to own up, Pankaj took all the blame for the tomfoolery.

“You should be ashamed of yourself! Look at your brother; you are a total disgrace to the family, a complete failure!” I remember Pankaj’s father roaring at him.
Thanks to Pankaj’s behavior he was called to meet the Principal that day, taking time out of his busy schedule. Pankaj’s father a renowned cardiologist was known to be a self-starter and an ambitious man. His mother was also a much sought pediatrician. This kind of behavior from their son was unacceptable.

That was the last I saw of Pankaj. There were rumors that Pankaj was sent to live with his grandfather in Pune.

********

“My grandfather gave me the greatest gift, he believed in me!” said Pankaj.
It was Friday. Pankaj and I were sharing drinks. It was then that I had asked him about the metamorphosis.

“That day my father was really furious,” said Pankaj. He continued, “according to him I was a disgrace to the family. In my father’s words, I didn’t deserve any of the privileges. And I was deported to my grandfather’s. As always, my mother supported my dad cent percent.”

And that was the turning point in Pankaj’s life. His grandfather lived alone near Parvati hill, in Pune. Just matriculate, he was a strict disciplarian . Pankaj was admitted to the English medium school nearby. Every morning he had to get up early, and then he went for a walk on Parvati with his grandfather, followed by prayers and some studies. After school he was allowed to play with the neighborhood boys and then it was homework time. His grandfather always sat by him when he did his homework.

“He made me recite the poems aloud, quite often twice or thrice, so that I could understand their real meaning. He made me reflect on every word, on every stanza,” said Pankaj, his eyes clouding thinking about those precious moments. “I started falling in love with the words; I started getting lost in the world of books! Math which had been drudgery became an adventure. The numbers and equations puzzles I couldn’t wait to solve. I hated Hindi the most, but he pretended sometimes that he didn’t understand and I had to read the same lines over and over again.”

Of course it didn’t happen overnight. Pankaj had tried some of the same tricks in his new school. But in the end, his grandfather’s perseverance and love prevailed. Initially it had been a trying time for both of them; eventually peace prevailed in the household. Besides studies, his grandfather exposed him to a whole new world. On weekends and during school vacations they’d go on small expeditions to the nearby killas and hills. His grandfather would tell him all about their history and the old culture. They even went star-gazing with IUCAA on Singhgarh. Over time the dark horse was transformed into a star!

His father had wanted him to come back and join the boarding. Stubbornly Pankaj had refused. He completed his schooling and later Engineering at COEP staying with his old grandpa. With his grandfather’s blessings he got admission in IIT. He felt most fortunate that his grandfather had lived to see him get his first job. Despite protests from the old man, he had quit his job to take care of his granddad, during his last few days.

“If I had the kind of advantages you had, I would have achieved so much more. You don’t know how lucky you are!” had shouted the successful doctor at his son that day. But neither the wealth nor the status had helped. It had been love and faith that had made Pankaj what he was today.

—————————————————————————————–

Quote from Jim Valvano :
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

 

Life’s little Steps

[Printed : Blogprint – Penguin Publication]

“Sweetheart, could you please drop in at the post-office for some stamps today? We need to mail those invitations by tomorrow. It’s already pretty late. Please, you know how your mother is about these things. Besides it’s just round the corner from your office.” Yes a call from high-command, my wife, and a dash to the post-office imperative.

I was quite annoyed. Did she think I was her personal assistant? Or maybe she thought I was superman. I barely had half an hour lunch break and she expected me to run errands for her during that time besides stuff whatever I could into my mouth too! Grumbling, I rushed to the post-office at noon. It was better to walk than to drive, I decided.

I had barely set foot inside the parking lot of the post-office when I heard a loud honk. I turned to look. There was a bright red car exactly behind me.

“Hello, do you think you have the whole day?” shrieked Mr. Loud from behind the wheel. I ignored him. He continued honking the car’s horn, the car radio blaring ‘Main hoon Don’, in full volume.  Giving him the look , I rushed into the post-office.

There was a woman holding a little boy, almost blocking the entrance.
“Excuse me!” I exclaimed loudly.
She hurriedly stepped aside. I raced in to join the shortest queue; hurried to counter number seven.
There were already at least a dozen people ahead of me.
“Here goes my lunch break.” I mumbled silently cursing my wife yet again.
Irritated I looked around.
The man standing just ahead of me was jabbering non-stop into his cell-phone.

“Yeah, yeah for god’s sake don’t you understand plain English? I want those documents by 4:00pm today and that’s final.” I heard him roar.

“Mister keep it low. This is a public place you know. You are almost screaming into my ears.” Shouted back Miss Dainty standing directly ahead of him, all dolled-up pink and crimson.
Mr. Cell-phone ignored her and continued his vital conversation on the phone.

The heat, the humidity was getting to all of us. I glared at the worthless fan croaking overhead. It was going to be quite a wait from the looks of it. The tone was certainly depressing in the dimly-lit room. From somewhere in the background, probably from the post-master’s room, I could hear the cricket commentary filtering out ….”And now we have lost the seventh wicket at one fifty two, there seems to be no end in sight…victory is….”

Agitated, trying to gain control, I slowly started counting under my breath…”Zero, one, two, three, four…”
I had reached fifty-six when I heard someone whisper into my ears.

“Oh to be in love again!” startled I turned back.
It was Mrs. Dreamer, the nice old woman at the bakery next-door.
“Oh look at the two love-birds!” She exclaimed.
I glanced in the direction she was pointing to.

I noticed the young denim-clad Romeo-Juliet gazing into each other’s eyes exchanging silly smiles. They were oblivious to everything and everybody, totally lost in their own little universe. Rolling my eyes, I turned back. “Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine…” I continued.

“Waah waah,” this time a baby’s loud wailing interrupted my count.

The lady with her little boy had joined the line. And behind her I could see Mr. Loud, the honker. I glowered at him, yet again, slightly distracted by the baby’s shriek.

“Waah waah,” continued the little boy.
“Waah Waaah,” his cry getting louder and louder with each passing moment.
“Shhhhhhhhhh,” hissed Mr. Cell-phone, but of course he continued jabbering into the mobile device.
“Shhhhhhhhhh,” hissed Miss Dainty, glaring at him and now also glaring at the baby.
“Cutie Pie be quiet, Sweetie. Shh.” The young anguished mother tried to calm her child.
“Waaaah,” wailed the boy paying no heed to his mother’s distress.
“Why don’t you take him outside, he’s disturbing everybody!” commanded Mr. Loud. She tried to ignore him and the rest of the bunch.
“Is he hungry, did he eat something?” asked Mrs. Dreamer, caressing the little one’s cheek.
“Waaaaah” he rewarded her with an even louder wail.
The mother nodded trying to calm him, grateful for that one sympathetic face.
“Waaaaah Waaaaaah.”

Amidst all this noise and confusion the post-master yelled,
“Please will the rest of this line at counter seven join the one at the third counter? This counter is closed for lunch now.”
“This is terrible!” exclaimed Miss Dainty, who was almost at the head of the line now.
“Public Servants, my Foot!” That had to be Mr. Cell-phone.

Protesting and cribbing, we all moved to line three, our new Prime Minister staring at us all from the photograph on the wall right in front of us.

Tempers had reached peak now. Even Romeo and Juliet were quarreling, Juliet was definitely pouting.

“……Ninety-seven,Ninety-eight, Ninety-nine…” I continued.
And before I could say hundred, amidst all the chaos and annoyance, I heard laughter…

Amazed I turned around…

Old Mrs. Dreamer was clapping loudly all smiles.
And the young mother almost in tears was smiling and laughing too!
The wailing had stopped and the little boy was on the floor, standing.
“Oh my god, he took his first step! He just took his first step!” proclaimed the proud mother.
“Right here in the post-office he took his first step!” She said hugging her little boy to her chest and kissing him.
And then Mr. Loud started clapping.
“Once more, once more” Cheered Mrs. Dreamer, as the mother placed her little one on the floor yet again.
“Once more,” joined in Mr. Cell-phone, all poised with his camera phone to take a snap, he had actually interrupted his conversation for this little miracle.
Romeo and Juliet were holding hands again. Miss Dainty was smiling too.
And tears welled up in the young mother’s eyes yet again.

“Once more, once more,” I started chanting too. And the young charmer awarded us with one tiny little step. And yet another one…

And as I watched the boy, I couldn’t help but think about my daughter, all sixteen and practically grown-up. I had missed her first step, but my eyes clouded as I recollected my wife’s animated face as she had described it all. I smiled. I thanked god for his little wonders. I felt a sense of peace and calm. And I looked around…

There were tears and there was laughter as the little one took one step and yet another step and yet another. We all looked at each other in glee and amazement. Just then a young girl, dressed in a blue and white school uniform, who had also joined the line, started clapping. And so did us all. We all joined in. We were all beaming. We were a team; a virtual bond had formed between us…

… all shared the joy of Life’s little miracle…Life’s first steps…

————————————–

*** ‘Main hoon Don’ – Hindi Song (Rough Translation : I am Don)

 

Random Reflection: The Magic of Enid Blyton

Random Reflection: The Magic of Enid Blyton

The air is sprinkled with magic! It’s a charming spring day.
The chirping birds, the dazzling butterflies and the sweet fragrance in the air fill me with bliss and harmony. And there I see her, by the side of the lake; lost…She is totally lost in the book she holds. She is far away. She is but ten years old. I catch a glimpse of the book, of the cover…I am as if possessed…

And with her I am transported to the enchanted wood…atop the magical faraway tree…

Hey, have you visited the tree too? Have you visited Silky and the Saucepan Man? Have you visited the ‘Land of Birthdays’? Were you drenched by Dame Washalot’s tumbling water? Hey were you transported there by the wishing chair along with Molly and Peter. Oops am I getting my stories all mixed up? But am sure this is exactly what Enid Blyton would have wanted. This is her magic…transporting the reader to land of imagination and dreams…

Probably the first ‘story’ book, I got my grubby hands on was Noddy. Oh it was fun time in Toyland. It was fun playing with Big Ears! It was awesome riding in Noddy’s cute car. And who can forget the terrible twosome, Sly and Gobble?

And as years flew by, I outgrew Toyland. My new fascination was St Clare’s and Mallory towers. Oh who can forget the midnight parties with the twins at St Clare’s? It was fantastic cheering for Darrell while she played what was that game again…the one with a net? And yes who can forget the naughtiest girl of them all, Miss Elizabeth Allen?

Enid Blyton’s books had it all…thrill, adventure, fun, mystery…what more did a little child need? Remember the tree house? Remember the Secret Seven meetings? Oh how I loved George, yes sweet old fiery George of the Famous Five. And if this was not enough I would join the Five-findouters…it sure was fun out-witting old Clear-Orf!

For fun and laughter, I would visit Jimmy at the Circus…and Lilliput and Lotta too. And who can forget Barney and Miranda the monkey?The Rat-a-Tat Mystery…one of my favorite…

Gosh, there are so many many more books which I enjoyed like the Blue book, the tales about the family at Red-roofs…the list goes on and on…I sure was mesmerized by Enid Blyton’s magic back then. In fact I still am…

I read on wiki that Enid Blyton’s total book publication is probably around 800 titles, not including decades of magazine writing. And that at one point in her career she regularly produced 10,000 words a day. Amazing isn’t it? Makes you wonder…

Were you touched by Enid Blyton’s magic too?
Did her books enchant you too? Left you spell-bound?
I can see that the little girl is touched by her book too…touched by the magic this enchanting spring day…i hope she’s done with the book soon…hope she lets me borrow it…

The Child in me…

ABC…

Children’s tales based on proverbs:

A friend in need is a friend indeed!
B
etter late than never!
Cut your coat according to your cloth!

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  Monty the monkey
A friend in need is a friend indeed!

Would you like to meet Monty the monkey and his friends Jumbo, Bunty and Blackie?

Once upon a time in Buddhama Priya forest, lived Monty the monkey with his bunch of friends. He thought he was the most beautiful monkey in the whole wide world, the fairest of them all. He was so proud of himself! Every morning he would look at the mirror and pat himself with his sweeping long tail.
“Hey monkey, you look so pretty today!” He would exclaim, smiling broadly at his reflection!

“Hey monkey, you look so pretty today!”Everybody would exclaim, especially his two friends Bunty Bunny and Jumbo Elephant. “You are the best!”  They would shout!
Simple little Blackie Crow who loved monkey would smile too. “Monkey, you are the best! Can I play with you too?” She would ask. But foolish little monkey would always say no. He didn’t want to play with Dark Blackie with his loud Crackling voice. He would rather play with big fella Jumbo and pretty Bunty!

One day Monty was playing basketball in the school ground along with his other classmates. Suddenly he heard shouting,
“Run, run,” he heard. It was their teacher, “There is a fire! Run all…”
All the little animals ran for dear life! But Poor Monty, he realized that his tail was stuck in the basket ball net! “Help, help” our friend Monty monkey shouted. “Help Jumbo, help Bunty.”
But his friends Jumbo and Bunty paid no heed. They just ran away!
“Help Help ,” he shouted yet again, but nobody could hear him above the noise…

Suddenly he heard something. He turned around to Blackie at his side, trying to free his tail with his beak. Monty then remembered all those times he had run away from Blackie, had avoided playing with him. He felt so ashamed. He had tears in his eyes as he saw Blackie hard at work ignoring the fire just inches away.
“Blackie, thank you Blackie. Please help!” He cried. But Blackie’s beak was just not sharp enough to shred the net.
“CAW CAW,” he started cawing loudly then. “CAW CAW, CAW CAW”
At first nobody could hear him. They were so scared. Then they saw Mr Raven, their Principal flying towards them signaling the fire-fighter-birds. At last someone had come to their rescue thanks to Blackie’s loud Cawing!

“I am so sorry I have been so mean to you. Will you be my best friend?” Monty whispered as fighter-birds flew to their side.

A friend in need is a friend indeed!

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Flora the Fairy

Better late than never!

Hey, have you heard about Flora the fairy? Have you heard about river Sparkle?

Flora the fairy lived on the banks of river Sparkle? She was the happiest little fairy of them all! She was the laziest little fairy of them all.
“Flora, you got to learn to use your magic wand,” her mamma would tell her.
“Flora, just say abracadra, lipsie doo and hey presto you can wish for whatever you want,” her sisters would tell her. But Flora was too lazy to do that.
“Mamma maybe tomorrow,” she would say.
“Sis, you can do it for me, please sis.” She would beg her big sister.

One night there was a big storm. Miss Lightening shone as never before. Mr. Thunder rumbled with all his might. It poured cats and dogs. River Sparkle started to rise. And in a matter of minutes, the banks were flooded. The fairies got scared, their wings were all wet. They could not fly. They started waving their wands. They started magically transporting themselves far far away from the water onto the mountain tops. And in hurry, her family totally forgot about lazy Flora who was still fast asleep!

When the water reached Flora’s nose, she woke up with a start.
“Mama,” she shouted “Mama, where are you?”
“Oh Flora, I can hear you,” her mother replied, “I am here on the mountaintop to the right. Flora you have got to wave your wand so that you can be transported to the mountains. Your wings are all wet; you won’t be able to fly.”
“Mama, I can’t do it, you got to help me” she cried.
“Flora this time you got to do it on your own, because of the storm my powers are weak. You are too far away for me to help. You have got to do it yourself.”
“Mama I can’t!” She cried, her lips trembling.
“Flora, you can do it , we know you can,” Shouted her sisters.
“But mother, i have never ever done it!”
“Better late than never, Sweetie! I know you can…” Her mother shouted loudly
“Flora you got to try, this time you have to…” the fairies all cheered in unison.

Trembling, shivering with cold she picked up the wand atlast and she waved.
“Abracadabra lipsie do ..” she whispered. But nothing happened. “Abracadabra lipsie do la do boo,” she shouted loudly and tightly closed her eyes.
“Flora you can open your eyes now. You’ve done it!” Suddenly she heard her mother whispering into her ears. Flora opened her eyes. Yes, she was now on the mountain top in her mother’s arms. Yes, she had done it!
Her mother hugged her tightly.
“Yes Flora, you did it! Better late than never indeed”, her sisters all surrounded cheering and hugging her.

Better late than never!

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 Sarja and Raja

Cut your coat according to your cloth

Now, let’s visit Sarja and Raja, the bullocks…

In the tiny little village of Bhimeshwar in Maharashtra lived a farmer named Vinayak. Vinayak had two bullocks Sarja and Raja. He loved his bullocks very much and took great care of them. And the bullocks also loved him and worked hard for him, ploughing his fields. Vinayak’s neighbour was Sitaram who was a very ambitious man.

One day Sarja said to Raja, “You always praise our master very much. But look at his neighbor Sitaram. His farm is as small as our master’s but he lives in such a grand house, in such great style. His wife wears the most beautiful clothes; his children have the most wonderful toys.”
Raja replied, “Our master is the best. He knows what he is doing.”
Two months later Sarja said to Raja, “Our neighboring bullocks Biku and Niku are so lucky. Their master Sitaram just bought four more bullocks. Now they won’t have to work so hard.”
Raja replied, “I still think our master is the best.”
A week later, Sarja complained again to Raja “Biku just told me that Sitaram bought more land. Now his farm will be larger than our master’s farm.”
Raja replied yet again, “Our master is the best. He knows what he is doing.”

Six months later, Raja and Sarja woke up with a start. They could hear some noises. They could see a black police car with flashing red lights. Sitaram was being taking away by the police. Biku and Niku were crying because they would be auctioned soon. Their master had borrowed so much money! That is how he had been able to live so lavishly in his big house and big farm. All on borrowed money! This time Sarja said to Raja,
”You are right. Our master is the very best. He knows what he is doing!”

Cut your coat according to your cloth

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All Work and no Play

I just heard that my neighbor had a heart attack this morning. He is just thirty nine, having two gorgeous children and a loving wife.

 “We work almost twelve hours everyday, sometimes even weekends!” I remember him boasting just a few days back. Is this really a fact to be proud of? Is this what we should be doing? Well, is this what society in general is striving for? All work and no play?

 A quote from the American poet Carl Sandburg,” Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Why are we letting our bosses spend it, rather than spending in on our family and friends?

 The other day I was visiting my childhood friend. “He is earning in lakhs,” my friend had stated .She was talking about her husband. “Today at the age of thirty we have our own 3BHK apartment, a live-in servant, a luxurious car! What else do we need?”

 “Time to enjoy this luxury,” quipped her grandmother. “Sure Sameer is earning lakhs today, but is he enjoying all this extravagance even for a minute? He is chained to that computer. He comes home almost at midnight. Often he takes conference calls even after that. Do you even remember when he last played with the kids?”

 Outsourcing has definitely helped us. But has it really? Where do we stop? We are working late nights at odd hours, using odd accents, trying to match the working hours of our affluent client countries.

 “Yesterday, I went home at seven thirty and even my watchman was shocked. Saab, did you have half day, he asked?” reported Shahid chuckling. But is this really a joke?

 Family life is in ruins. Personal life almost non-existent! Divorce is on the rise, as is suicide. Backaches, BP problems even heart-attacks are syndromes which even thirty-year olds suffer today. Hypertension, depression, the list is endless. Shouldn’t we wake up before it is too late?

 Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises stated, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” Shouldn’t we all strive for this balance instead of entering the rat race? Aren’t we focusing on the wrong ball?

 Frankly all work and no play appear to be a wide-reaching phenomenon. Currently, I am on a project in the U.S. Before coming here, I was under the impression that people out here take life much easier. But not quite! Sixty-hour weeks, juggling two jobs is common. Two weeks vacation, a novelty! Of course you do get the dollars!

 The other day, I was having lunch with my boss Mark, an American and a colleague Frieda, from Germany. “Hey Mark, I just read in Time magazine that the average lunch time in U.S. has decreased by five minutes to thirty-one minutes. Also this year, an average American will leave four days on the table, even out of the meager two-week vacation! What’s your take in this?” asked Frieda.

 “Of course we don’t take such long vacations and don’t believe in working such fewer hours like you guys!” he retorted. “That is why we are the world’s most accomplished nation!”

 Is it true? Broken homes, single parents, wild teenagers, is this how success is defined? Another colleague, Maggie who is thriving professionally, is a single parent. “My daughter was all grown up right from the age of three, she’s been looking after herself from that age!” she declared, when a junior worker complained that she couldn’t put in extra hours, as she had to take care of her young kids. Is this what we want too? Kids all grown up at age three?

 According to a study by the Family and Work Institute in US, 78% of families (in 2002) are comprised of dual-income earners.  Only 33% of fathers are the sole wage earners today, versus 51% in 1977. Dual income, working mothers and corresponding problems is an entirely different topic. But not only are both the adults in the family working, they are both putting in many more hours. We have been moving away from large families to nuclear families. Dual income has become a necessity. Obesity, depression, hypertension; are all epidemics in the states. So are teenage pregnancies and childhood trauma. Do we really want to follow in their footsteps?

 I heard from Frieda my German colleague, in Europe on average they have six to eight weeks of vacation. Three years of maternity leave (unpaid) is common, so is a couple of months of paternity leave. Isn’t this a better route? We would benefit both personally and socially. This is not a political discussion; this is not at all about Europe or America. But it is about the number of hours we are working as against relaxing with our family and friends. The other day, I read a book ‘The Seven-Day Weekend’. It is by Ricardo Semler about his highly profitable Latin American company Semco. His non conventional approach about work is quite appealing and motivating. Longer hours do not necessarily increase productivity. They have quite the opposite effect.

 As Bill Gates said “Having kids has been a fantastic thing for me. It’s meant that I’m a little more balanced. In my twenties I worked massively, hardly took vacation at all. Now, I, with the help of my wife, I’m always making sure I’ve got a good balance of how I spend my time.” Isn’t it time we did the same too?
The news about my neighbor has made me pause for a moment from my humdrum. I think it is time to review the situation, isn’t it?

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http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=706982#PaperDownload

http://familiesandwork.org/3w/testimony.html

http://www.woopidoo.com/business_quotes/family-quotes.htm

http://quotations.about.com/cs/inspirationquotes/a/Family1.htm

 

Random Reflection: A Few Good Words

“And when I said thank you to not only to the dhobi but also the bhaji-walla, the vegetable guy, they were taken aback, just stared back. And you can imagine my sister’s reaction too.” Giggled my neighbor, Smita.
Smita and I were chatting about her trip. She was sharing her experiences; those precious treasured moments on her trip back home to Pune.

Laugh and giggle we did. But somehow her words keep coming back to me.
“Good morning”
“Hi”
“Hello”
“How do you do?”
Greetings from perfect strangers! Greetings exchanged almost every morning, now a part of life, a way of life…

My first day in US, I was stunned when someone I’d never ever laid my eyes on, greeted me with a warm smile and a big hello at the elevator door. I sure was surprised, concerned even…
And as the days became months and months years…am getting quite used to it.

Sorry,Please, Thank you,Hello, Good morning, Excuse me, How do you do?……These words and many more I learned at School and from my parents. Basic manners probably, but somehow  these words just not on the tip of my tongue. Maybe as a child I used them much more frequently, but as a grown-up maybe a sorry or thank you once in a while. Our languages encode etiquette; we even have different pronouns for each person according to gender, age and so on. But some simple words, these few words are somehow just not used as frequently

There were certainly some things I was amazed to find when I came to the US. My image of the US was totally different in some respects; politeness, courtesy included. Opening doors, pulling chairs, making way for handicapped; definitely some things I’d just read in books only, never thought I’d encounter them here, regularly. Yes these are very much a part of everyday life for many.

Agreed we live in a world of cut-throat competition, large populace. When one is somehow squeezing into the bus, there is no time or energy for words like ‘excuse me’ or ‘sorry’. But believe me, these words do matter, do count. And they come cheap too; however they are priceless.

I remember years back; when I lost my job, upset I was taking a walk in the park, in Redwood City. All kinds of thoughts, all kinds of emotions were swirling inside me. I was sitting on a bench worried. An old lady, a foreigner to me, passing by stopped for a minute.
‘Are you okay?’ She asked. I merely nodded.
‘Have a good day, child. Take care.’ She bid me as she went her way. Superficial perhaps; a few words, just a few good words perhaps; but they were a balm to my soul that day.

And right now as I alight from the bus after wishing the bus-driver, ‘thank you for the ride’, I can’t help but think about my old rickshaw-walla. Our rickshaw-walla , Kadam Kaka drove my sister and me to school for years. And I don’t remember even one time wishing him thank you explicitly or bidding him good day. The thoughts and feelings were always there, infact he was like family…but today I can’t help but think about the missing words…

And there are three important words I almost missed too…

‘I love you’, these three words are perhaps the most abused, the most misused by youngsters today. But when a little girl hugs her granny and says these words, when a young woman says these words to her distant Sweetheart and when an ailing parent says these words to his grown-up son…they are so soothing…surely they are invaluable …

Just these few good words…