Involve to evolve

One evening when I entered my balcony on the 4th floor, I could hear a goat bleating loudly. The goat was running helplessly around the empty ground. Some “intelligent, sensible” human being had thrown an Amazon parcel plastic cover with the bill inside. The innocent goat put its head into the cover to chew the paper. Unfortunately the goat’s head got stuck with the adhesive in the corner of the cover. The goat kept struggling. Its fellow companions had gone far away. This naughty one must have strayed far away.

A street dog came running and tried helping the goat. But did not dare to go near an angry goat. That was when I saw a man coming out of his house. I was relieved. I knew he would help the goat. Instead, he called his wife to see it and she in turn called her child. The three of them just stood looking at the troubled goat. This was so irritating.
Even the dog tried to pull the cover with his mouth but the goat retaliated. When I was just about to leave to help the goat, a boy came cycling from the opposite direction.

He was a random passerby. He parked his cycle and bravely went to the terribly agitated goat. He made a peculiar clicking sound with his tongue for which the goat responded. It slowed down and the boy immediately pulled out the bag, crushed it and threw it into the nearby dustbin. The dog went back to its position in the corner of the street and the goat ran as fast as it could to join the trip of goats.

To write about the man and his family would be futile. But I wondered if the child had a notebook to make an entry of this good deed.

The moment I witnessed this I was reminded of my favourite class teacher from the 8th grade. Her name was Mrs.Shantha who handled my favourite subject, English. I admired her for various reasons. She was always well groomed and entered our class with a sweet smile. One special reason for which I still remember her everyday, is the habit she instilled in the minds of 45 students of our class.

One day we had her period and it was the last one. We did have a tempestuous day as our Math1 and Math2 teachers had borrowed our Library period and OA (Outside Activity) period to complete the portions.

We were mentally drained yet we greeted her with a smile. Mrs.Shantha walked into our classroom without her English textbook or even a piece of chalk. We were relieved. I was excited. If she did not carry her textbook it meant learning something outside the book which was always more interesting for all of us as teenagers.

Mrs.Shantha was not without any book. She carried a small notebook of 192 pages which was covered with a gift wrapper. I closed my English books, cleared my table, packed my bag and sat erect. I was happy we weren’t going to write anything. Mrs.Shantha noticed me and said, “All of you please take out a sheet of paper.” She smiled when I had to reopen my bag. With enough embarrassment for the day, I took out a paper from my bag and waited for her next instruction.

“We are nearing the end of the day at school. Let us learn something to freshen your mind. Today morning all of you must have woken up at least at 7AM. It is around 2.30PM. Write one good deed you did from morning till now. Do not write a lie as I will ask you to narrate the entire incident.”, she said.

Mrs.Shantha was everybody’s favourite teacher and nobody dared to deceive her. A few remained motionless, a few kept tapping their pens on the paper. A few wrote one short sentence and sat with their heads held high ready to announce their deed. I wrote my good deed and wanted to read it to her.

During the lunch interval, I had helped the school librarian to arrange the books in the comic section. We had a mini library inside every classroom. (I wanted to glance at the tinkle comics and so I voluntarily helped. But it turned out to be helpful at the end of the day)

After 5 minutes Mrs.Shantha said, “Does anyone want to write another deed? A few classmates and I raised our hands. She said, “Then let me give you more time. List out all the good deeds you did today.” She came near our desks, read what we wrote and appreciated them either with a ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ or even a pat on the shoulder. We felt so good. Within 15 minutes Mrs.Shantha succeeded in making us feel so good.

After we completed, she showed us her notebook and said, “This is the notebook which I maintained when I was your age. My class teacher Mrs Pinto told me to make a list. She was my favourite teacher. In order to see a smile across her face, I had made it a habit to do at least one good deed a day. Initially, I did a good deed just to write in the notebook but later it turned out to be a habit. It became like a muscle memory.

“Mrs Pinto told us, ‘Adolescence will be challenging, bringing with it moments of elation and depression. You may feel you are useless. When your days are blue just open this book and read the list. You will feel worthy and believe me you will never feel you are useless. No adolescent is useless. He or she is just used less. Make yourself useful and realize your worth.’ ”

Mrs. Shantha continued, “Till I was in her class I wrote in my notebook. But after that I made it a point to do at least one good deed a day. In the same way I want all of you to follow the magic acronym ARK – meaning Act of Random Kindness. I quote Mrs.Pinto’s words, Adolescence will be challenging. So gear up and prepare yourself to prove your worth. As said by our People’s President Dr. APJ ABDUL KALAM

The world may say teenagers and the youth are useless who do not understand the seriousness of life. Prove them wrong by your actions. Do good deeds. Lend your mind heart and brains for the wellness of your environment. You people have the power. It is just latent. You are not useless you are just used less. Both by yourselves and the world. You need not bring an instant evolution. Start small and achieve big.”

With this awesome message, Mrs Shantha ended the class for the day but a beautiful thought began its journey in all the 40 lives.

We often say actions speak louder than words but sometimes it is vital to word our actions and elevate our worth.
Do one good deed a day and enjoy the purpose of living everyday.

Unboxing the grievance box – 2

The anonymous call was made by Surekha’s own son, Sarfaraaz. He, along with his three very close friends, Dr. Digvijay; the forensic pathologist, Kamaljeeeth; the detective and Gaurav the maali, had conspired against Dilip and Surekha. Sarfaraaz got into his car, closed his eyes and recollected that fateful day.

(8 years ago)

“Sarfaraaz, come here. Don’t run around the thorny bushes. Come and have your breakfast. It is almost ten o clock”, cried Surekha to her 15 year old son, from the living room. Dilip was busy in his bedroom packing his suitcase for a trip to the US. “What do you want from the US?”, asked Dilip. “Could you please get me a Marvel action figure and a Mini camera – 1080P HD with wireless WiFi remote Monitor? Shaalu loves Marvel action figures. We could play with them.”, said Sarfaraaz. “I can get toys for you but not for the gardener’s daughter. Know your limits son.”, scowled Dilip. “This is all your fault, Surekha. Teach your son to choose his friends. By the way, what are you going to do with this camera? Who told you about this?”, asked Dilip in an anxious tone.

“Well, that is something Kamaljeeth was talking about. He is my dearest friend who is a senior studying in my school. His wish is to become a detective. Kamaljeeth read about this to me last week. We found it really interesting.”, said Sarfaraaz. He wasn’t lying. This was evident from his immediate and straightforward answer. If there was one thing which Sarfaraaz couldn’t tolerate, it was lies.

Sarfaraaz went to the garden where Shaalu was helping her dad. He told her, “I have told my daddy to get a Marvel action figure. Let him buy it and then we can play with it in his absence.” Saying so, he ran away to play a match with Digvijay and Kamaljeeth. Gaurav was happy to see that his ten year old daughter, Shaalu had got a good friend after all. Shaalu was not a very healthy girl. She was fragile from birth. She had a weak heart and so remained at home helping her dad.

Digvijay was always fond of science and wished to become a forensic pathologist. Digvijay and Kamaljeeth spent most of their time watching detective serials and loved reading crime novels. Sarfaraz was not a nerd. He was always in his own world but cherished the friendship of the other two. He empathised with Shaalu and always looked out for her.

When Dilip came back after two weeks he handed over the gifts to Sarfaraaz and said, “Play with the boys. You need not call anyone else home.” Sarfaraaz just shook his head and ran away. He had a good time with the boys scrutinizing the instruction manual of the mini camera. He had already planned to gift the action figure to Shaalu. He asked Shaalu to come to the storeroom and see the action figure. It was a one fourth scale action figure of Doctor Strange. Sarfaraaz did not tell her the name of the Marvel hero. He said, “Dad has bought the action figure. I will not tell you who has come home. Here, take this key and open the store room and open the box which is covered with the red wrapper. Don’t make any noise. If dad sees you there he will kill me. I do not have another key please don’t lose this key.”

At first Shaalu was scared. “Will you be there?”, she asked. He replied, “No, I will be going on a 2 day trip with Digvijay and his family. I will not be long gone. But I want you to see it before dad arrives today itself.” Shaalu hesitated again but after much coaxing she agreed to just unwrap and see the figure. “Won’t sir see me?”, asked the worried girl. “No, I heard him talking with my mom. He will not be back till night. You come at around 6 PM. Dad would be back only by 8 PM.” Sarfaraaz shouted a loud ‘bye’ and left Shaalu’s humble home.

Shaalu informed her father and left for the house at 6 PM. Gaurav was scared but couldn’t stop his daughter from enjoying the thrilling moment. He was also confident that Dilip would return only at 8PM. Shaalu unlocked the door and entered the storeroom which was scantily lit. She placed the key carefully in the pocket of her long skirt. She tiptoed and searched for the red wrappered box. After ten minutes she saw it near the box cot which was pushed against the wall in the far end of the store room. She was very excited. She could feel the vibration of her heart beat when she carefully peeled the cellophane tapes from the gift wrapper.

As soon as she opened it her eyes sparkled with happiness. She was so happy to see her favourite Marvel hero Doctor Strange wearing the Cloak of Levitation. Suddenly she heard footsteps and she felt something different and “Thuddd!” came a blow on her back. It was Dilip standing right behind her with ferocious eyes. He roared in her ears, “How dare you steal my son’s gift, you wretched girl?” He slapped her right across her face.

Shaalu fell down like a fragile tired leaf that falls off the tree in autumn. Surekha came running from the kitchen when she heard the sound of her husband, echoing from the store room. She rushed to Shaalu and looked up at Dilip with startled eyes. Shaalu was dead. The girl could not bear the shock and the blow. “What have you done? What should we do now?”,cried Surekha. “Wait, wait did you check her properly?”, asked Dilip with a frightened tone. “Yes, I did. Shaaalu has a weak heart. She is no more.”, said Surekha with tears flowing down her face.

“Stop your melodrama.”, was the cold reply from the murderous Dilip. “I can deal with this. We have to hide this. You said she was weak. Don’t worry we shall hide her inside the cot over here. Don’t open the store room till I tell you to. I shall contact the inspector and get this case closed as soon as possible. Forget about anything that happened here.”

Dilip and Surekha washed their faces and resumed their work (as if a face wash could wash off the sins that were still sticking on to every cell of their body). Shaalu’s corpse was put inside the box cot and pushed to the dark end. After returning from the trip, Sarfaraaz searched for Shaalu. He saw that the box was not fully opened. He asked Gaurav about Shaalu. Gaurav already seemed worried after searching for his daughter for almost two and a half days. When Sarfaraaz asked his mom, she said with a calm face, “I don’t know dear, maybe she went to the fields. All of us have been searching for her. I hope she is fine wherever she goes. The day you left with Digvijay I saw her entering the house and leaving in around 5 minutes. Let us pray dear. She will be fine.”

Gaurav was very anxious and kept searching day and night. Sarfaraaz insisted that his parents inform the police and search for the lost child. Dilip informed the police, who had been out of station at the time of the incident. This inspector was his very close friend.

Sarfaraaz kept crying and slept with a tearstained face. The next day he got up hearing the sound of a man dressed in Khaki clothes. He knew it was the police and silently overheard the conversation. He recognised the police as his father’s friend. “We shall search everywhere around the house but we have to search inside the house too. It is compulsory.”, said the inspector in a dramatic firm tone.

Sarfaraaz felt relieved when he knew that his father had taken genuine efforts. Nothing was found when they searched outside the house. When they searched inside, the police brought out the body of the little girl from the store room. The inspector said, “We found her inside the box cot. She must have done something playful and it is a tragedy that it had to end up this way.” The stench from the corpse had already filled the room.

Sarfaraaz was shocked and ran to Shaalu when he saw her. He didn’t understand what had happened. His parents pulled him away but as he moved near her skirt he felt the key in her pocket. He also noticed the dark purple fingermarks on her face and understood that something was wrong. He requested his mom, “Please let me see her one more time.” He went near her and slowly pulled out the key. He knew the police were lying. Suddenly he remembered something.

Gaurav was heart broken. The rites and rituals were done. The case was closed without any further enquiries. A false report was prepared stating that the girl accidentally fell inside the box which closed behind her and latched up due to a faulty latch. She was claustrophobic and suffered a heart attack due to immense struggle. And nobody was responsible for her death.

Sarfaraaz woke up with a jerk when his friends knocked on the car door. He got out and asked, “Do you have the evidence?” Detective Kamaljeeth took out the small camera and placed it in Sarfaraaz’s hands.

8 years ago, on that fateful day, Sarfaraaz did not want to miss seeing the happiness in Shaalu’s face when she opened her gift. In order to see it, he had placed the camera above the loft of the storeroom. The entire incident was recorded. He understood how mercilessly his Shaalu had been killed. Though an accident, his parents were cold hearted to frame a false story and escape from the clutches of the law. He saw all the cruelty that had happened to his Shaalu 8years ago.

The tiny camera was overlooked by the police as Dilip had already informed the inspector where he had hidden the dead body. Sarfaraaz was shocked and disgusted with his family. He knew he was too weak to oppose his rich dad and patiently waited till his friends chose their careers and were in a state to help him. Gaurav the maali was also aware of the incident. It took around 8 years for them to chalk a proper plan.

Little did Sarfaraaz’s parents know that he had become a mercenary. Detective Kamaljeeth and Dr. Digvijay supported him as they could not bear the tragedy met by Shaalu. Sarfaraaz kidnapped his father when he was on the way to the airport. He showed him the video and got his confession. He got out of the car and mercilessly got his father killed in his absence. He made arrangements with his friends to deliver the box cot and placed the store room key on his father’s dead body as a reminder of guilt for his mother. He deliberately stayed with Dr. Digvijay to prove his alibi.

“The time has come to push the lady behind bars”, he said. Sarfaraaz went home with his friends accompanied by Gaurav. “What happened ma? Why do you look worried? Okay, Where is the key, ma?”,asked Sarfaraaz. “I don’t know about any key”, said Surekha with a disturbed face. Sarfaraaz played the video to his mother and asked her for the store room key. Surekha was speechless and she sat on the nearest chair with her head bent low. She refused to open her mouth. The evidence was taken to Inspector Vijaypath who was a close friend of Detective Kamaljeeth and Surekha was thrown behind bars.

Sarfaraaz walked out of the house silently. He carried only the action figure with him. Doctor Strange is a hero who has the capability to travel backwards to the past. Sarfaraaz wished he could do that and inform Shaalu that her death was avenged. It was the only way he could unbox the grief which he boxed in for 8 long years.

Unboxing the grievance box

“Hello, oh yes tell me. What happened? Did you consider my request?”, asked Surekha to the sales executive of the Raanka Furniture Mart. Her son, Sarfaraaz was one of the many shareholders there. She thought she could take advantage of her son’s authority but in vain. Surekha wanted the delivery of the box cot to be postponed. “Okay then, I shall wait and receive the order. At least ask the delivery agent to make a call before he arrives at my doorstep.” 

Her husband Mr.Dilip had suddenly planned a one day business tour. She wanted her husband to be present when the cot arrived. It was a surprise birthday gift for Mr Dilip. She requested a postponement but could not succeed. Immediately she called her son and informed him to be present in the house to receive the delivery as she had to attend a kitty party. She was reluctant to miss it as it was hosted by the richest woman in the ladies club group. 

“Don’t worry ma. I shall take care of everything. I shall see to it that the present is delivered safely. I shall also get the workers to place the cot in your room. I am working with Dr. Digvijay for a campaign. Leave the key near the pot. I shall ask Gaurav maali to open the door for the delivery boys”, said Sarfaraaz. 

“Gaurav maali? How can you trust a gardener? Is he trustworthy?”, yelled Surekha. “Oh ma, please stop this attitude of yours. Always remember that rich people are poor in character and poor people are rich in character. I shall ask my rich friend Kamaljeeth to be there with Gaurav maali” Sarfaraaz hated the mean nature of his parents. They never regarded poor people as reliable human beings. Surekha was not interested in further arguments and said, “Do what you want. Whatever remains in the house after the robbery, will be your future inheritance.” 

Sarfaraaz got the arrangements done with Kamaljeeth and Gaurav, the old gardener, whom he addressed as maali. The cot was placed in his parents’ room. The key was replaced near the pot and Surekha returned home only past midnight. She was unsteady due to the effect of the booze from the party. The driver opened the door and let her inside her house. The last thing she remembered was locking her front door and collapsing on the sofa in the living room. 

The next morning she was awoken by the doorbell, rang by Sarfaraaz. Only when she saw her son, she remembered about the cot and went to her bedroom to find a beautiful box cot carved all over. I was waiting for her with the softest mattresses and the fluffiest pillows. She was lured by the softness and slept till noon. 

When she woke up at around 1pm, she had a severe headache. She washed herself and had lunch. When she returned to her room after lunch, she smelled something bad. She ignored it for a few hours but as the hours passed, the stench grew more unbearable. She checked in and around the room and also scrutinised the garden area. She called her husband to ask about whom she could call for help. 

Dilip had not reached home. He was supposed to arrive that day but did not inform the reason for his delay. Surekha called him again and again to his mobile but  he did not pick her call. She then decided to disinfect her room. The bad odor was spreading throughout the house. Maybe a rodent had sneaked into her bedroom and must have died in an unreachable corner. Finally she called the professional rodent extermination service to fumigate her house. 

The workers did a great job. Every corner of the house was fumigated. They could not find any dead creature. The stench remained. Surekha felt helpless. She went to her room to call her husband for a solution. It was then that she realised that the source of the stench was her bedroom. She tried to sniff and trace the origin. It was her cot. She removed the mattress and pillows and opened the box cot. Inside she found the corpse of her husband. He was in the same attire as he had left two days ago. 

She could not believe her eyes. She yelled loudly and sat down with her hands on her chest as if she was trying to control the speed of her heartbeat. Gaurav and the driver rushed into the house and covered their noses with their hands when they reached the bedroom. They tied their noses with kerchiefs and lifted the lifeless body of Dilip from the box cot.

As they lifted the corpse, a key rolled down from Dilip’s hands. Surekha lifted the key and was more shocked to see it. She recognised the key. A gush of memories hit her mind. She immediately hid the key inside her wardrobe. Fear had already replaced grief. She stopped crying and called the family advocate. Her mind was not ready to mourn. It had too many other thoughts.

Gaurav called Sarfaraaz and informed all that had happened. Sarfaraaz was busy with Dr. Digvijay who was a forensic pathologist. On receiving the news both of them reached home along with Inspector Vijaypath and Detective Kamaljeeth. “How did all this happen? Who saw him first? How did you people remain silent for 2 days. Did anyone see any stranger in the vicinity?” These were the questions shot by the inspector to Surekha and Sarfaraaz. Surekha answered all the questions with a weird attitude and faked confidence. It seemed as if she wanted all this to get over very soon as she had something more important to worry about. 

Sarfaraaz had an alibi. He was with Dr Digvijay. Sarfaraaz was completely clueless of what had happened. The inspector discussed the case with his officials and the case was handed over to Detective Kamaljeeth as a special one as the rich Dilip held an important position in the society. 

Surekha was relieved to know that the inspector showed no signs of suspecting her. She seemed to know something but could not understand how her husband’s body ended up inside the brand new box cot. She could not doubt Gaurav as Kamaljeeth was with him. The funeral was done in a simple way as Surekha did not want to attract too much attention and make it obvious for the enemies lurking outside her house who might even try killing her. 

After two days Surekha received a call. A gruff voice asked her, “So, Mrs. Surekha, how does it feel to see your beloved one in a box? Are you able to sleep well at night? Oh yes, you have enough money, isn’t it? Try paying as much as you want to acquire at least an hour’s sleep. You shall not die as easily as your husband. The void created by the absence of a loved one is impossible to bear. That is the best poison which will torture you to death.”

Surekha shuddered and cut the call. She did not inform even Sarfaraaz about the threat call. She tried tracing the call with the inspector’s help but even Inspector Vijaypath couldn’t trace the call. 

The caller put the phone down and chuckled. He wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by three other people. He shook hands with them and said, “I knew it. Her silence says it all. She has fallen in our trap. This time she is not going to escape.” The group agreed with him unanimously. One of them was a young man wearing a white coat, the other wore a black trench coat and the third one seemed older than the other three. “Yes Sarfaraaz, she seems dead scared. Let us move carefully”, said Kamaljeeth. “Come and collect the fake forensic report from me tomorrow morning”, said Dr Digvijay. They bade goodbye and left the place. 

(To be continued) 

Letters with a message

A bee came buzzing to my gorgeous garden

Busily collecting honey for his master’s maiden.

Cosmos, goldenrods and sunflowers were visited by him.

Dutifully he worked, filling my garden with his hymn.

Every corner of the palace amidst the carpets of colorful flowers, 

Filled itself with a sublime scent, testing my nasal powers.

Gems of great value wouldn’t radiate a glow so bright; 

Hues of my flower beds were as if blent from the rainbow sky.

I always dreamt to live my life in a lovely palace like this;

Jubilant colours around me and a mind filled with bliss.

Kindness should be the emperor glorious in his reign.

Love should be the empress ruling everyone’s heart and brain. 

Months and days should pass with lovable precious memories.

Never should a heart cry because of grief or worries.

On such a beautiful land I would construct my beautiful mansion.

Perfect in all ways to live with any generation.

Queer people will be trained to be kind and intelligent.

Rational thinking will be mandatory along with being prudent.

Success doesn’t come to people without dreams and expectations

Try to make one dream true and be proud of  your own creation.

Unicorns and dragons needn’t be mythical like Pegasus or the phoenix bird.

Vain are the people who aren’t creative, always moving with the herd.

Why don’t we think with a broader, creative and positive mind? 

X‘ needn’t always mean wrong it also means multiply.

Year after year, dont sit and count your age as the number grows higher

Zip up your worries, open your minds and live life as you desire.

How I wish English alphabet had more letters than just from A to Zee

Words are truly not enough when your dreams keep overflowing like the sea.

My First Kill

Life is full of surprises, some are good and some are sad.
Some give me goosebumps, some give tears; but this one makes me feel bad.
It was an incident which was least anticipated
I had no preparations, it wasn’t premeditated.

This happened one dark night; when I went to bed
I heard a sound, a movement so close to my head.
I could feel someone sneaking behind and that’s when I grew alert.
I was totally unarmed. I knew he was bad and would surely hurt.

It was too dark for me to locate his position.
Peering in the darkness needs good training and sensation.
The orchestra of the crickets and the croaking toads,
Only added to the frustration of losing my sleep in loads.

I headed stealthily towards the sound of the intruder
And threw a blow on it, but realised I banged a window shutter.
It was then that I remembered the sightless Japanese zatoichi,
Who wields his katana with deadly accuracy.

I concentrated deeply in the direction of the sound
And bang! I hit him and this time it was loud.
In the chaos I had created, my mom woke up with a fright
Just to see my bloodstained hands and eyes filled with pride.

“Ma.. I killed him. I killed that nasty fellow
Who was happily singing songs, right next to my pillow.
How dare he disturb my sleep and prick me all the time.
I would have never hurt him if he had kept quiet and not crossed his line.”

My mom gave me one long look, which reflected words of anger.
I was sure it meant “No more disturbing or else you’ll be in danger”.
This tiny miscreant is but blessed by God as a symbol of His vanity.
He is created with a fragile body but with loads and loads of immunity.

When you and I get sick and suffer being infected,
He drinks our blood even then, yet doesn’t get affected!
Whatever may be the intensity of the virus or bacteria in our body.
This fellow takes his share and lives a life so healthy!

I really feel jealous of this tiny little creature.
How I wish we were like him and have a healthy future.
I knew it was futile to think so much in the dead of the night.
I had another day to start and started to set things right.

I flipped the dirty dead body and washed my hands like a professional mercenary.
This was my life’s very first kill but wasn’t punished by any jury.
Of course I felt bad for killing a being, which could have deserved mercy.
But sometimes life gives you very few choices and we pick the one that’s easy.

An Angel upon Earth – 2

Maria did not understand what was happening. First she thought she hadn’t heard Jasmine properly. She asked her again, “Whom are you meeting at the park? Jasmine said, “Hey don’t you remember Minerva. My only friend. We meet everyday and we have such a good time. I feel rejuvenated in her company.” Jasmine kept quiet. She just said, “Take care and have a nice time, sis.”

Minerva had faced a very tragic end. As she was a lepidopterist she collected butterflies from all spots. That day, she was after a butterfly which wasn’t there in her collection. People may consider it foolishness but when the mind is obsessed about getting something, every danger is clouded from our sensible reasonable mind. Minerva climbed on top of a tree. She caught the butterfly and placed it into the bottle but her leg slipped and she landed on the heap of rubbish which was burning with blazing flames on the other side of the fence. Minerva was engulfed in the horrific fire. All that was recovered was Minerva’s ashes. The funeral was done in a hurry as the heartbroken parents were in no state to organize a grand funeral and grieve when they could not see their daughter for one last time.

Maria couldn’t risk disappointing Jasmine again telling her anything shocking and unacceptable. Jasmine had just started recovering from her trauma. Jasmine was terribly depressed and violent. In her abnormal state of mind, she had bent around 4 to 5 iron rods. She had developed an inferiority complex and had also turned insecure. She kept blabbering at night, “I have lost everything in my life. What is the purpose of my living any more? No man is going to accept me as his wife. I will only be misused by evil minded men.”

She developed insomnia and kept talking to herself. She said she heard voices and had to put an end to her miserable life. Twenty two years was an age too early to lose all hope in life. Jasmine was treated with antidepressant medicines which kept her mind calm and she slept for most part of the day. But her fear and inferiority complex kept her verbally violent. So Maria had no plans of breaking Jasmine’s newly found fragile chord of happiness. She decided to first clarify by stalking Jasmine.

She immediately followed Jasmine to the park. She saw Jasmine sitting on the park bench and talking as if someone was sitting near her and listening with interest. Fortunately this bench was not in a very obvious or prominent place in the park, it was one near the demolished restrooms, a place rarely visited by anyone. Jasmine seemed so happy. Her gestures were so lively and her face gleamed with happiness. Her body language was as if she could see her mate near her. This sight gave a shiver down Maria’s spine. Her mind was flooded with a series of questions. “Was she talking with a ghost??? Were ghosts real? What has to be done now? Should they consult a priest? How will they inform Jasmine that Minerva was not real?”

Maria left the park and informed her mom. Mom was as perplexed as Maria. They knew this gave overwhelming happiness to Jasmine but it could not be done at the cost of making Jasmine totally abnormal. All of us know the way the world looks at people who have a weak mental balance. Even if they are not helped in any way, they are tainted and tantalized in all ways possible. Maria and her mom could not afford to see the world looking at Jasmine as a weird person. She might become a laughing stock and lose the little respect and sympathy the world had for her.

Immediately an appointment was fixed with a priest and a doctor. The priest confirmed nothing unusual. The psychiatrist revealed the truth that Jasmine was suffering from schizophrenia. Now, that made complete sense to both of them. Jasmine was never informed about Minerva’s death. And so, her traumatic mind, which was hunting for an understanding and reliable soul had this delusion of Minerva being with her.

The doctor made it very clear to the duo, “Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly. The exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment and altered brain chemistry and structure may play a role. Jasmine’s reason is the fateful operation. The fear in her mind has moulded into this. Schizophrenia is characterised by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganised speech or behaviour and decreased participation in daily activities.”

Maria was relieved that at least they had discovered her poor sister’s problem which could have a solution. Though she was a student of psychology, she asked, “Can we cure her, doctor?” The doctor was a very honest and practical man who did not believe in giving false hopes. Whatever was the problem, was stated to the patient’s close ones in a cut and right manner. He said, “No dear. Science has not come up with the magic potion to completely cure schizophrenia.Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications, psychotherapy and coordinated speciality care services.

The most important part of Jasmine’s treatment will depend on the way you all treat her. Be kind with her and never inform her that her friend is no more. It will only snap the thin thread of purpose and confidence which is keeping Jasmine alive, away from any kind of suicidal tendencies.Let her live in that world and as years pass by the medicines will get her mind calmer and by then you should get her closer to you. She should get the same confidence and closeness in you. Only then she will be ready to accept that Minerva is no more and she will accept you as another person on whose shoulder she would be able to rest her head and cry. Let her continue studying. She need not leave town but let ehr engage her mind in something that she loves. She is like a fragile glass doll. Please handle her with care.”

Maria thanked the doctor profusely and stepped out of the clinic as if she had just one purpose in her life. She decided to be with Jasmine and cure her. She also thanked Minerva, the angel who had stepped on earth in her sister’s thoughts, just to save her sister’s life. Minerva believed in the myth that butterflies have rebirth. Maybe she chose to be reborn in her best friend’s mind just to give her a purpose to live and allow her to retrieve her lost hope in life.

Jasmine walked back home and looked at her watch. “Oh, it’s already late. See you Maria. I shall be back soon. Minerva must be waiting for me. I shall show her the dolls I made last night” This time Maria smiled and said, “Enjoy sis. Please take care. I will be waiting for you.”

When your heart is filled with true and deep love, it isn’t impossible to see the person who has physically left earth. They need not return as ghosts. You need not be schizophrenic. You just have to close your eyes and see them lovingly smiling back at you forever and ever.

An Angel upon Earth

Maria had just returned from a funeral in their neighborhood. She was in no mood to talk with anybody. The weeping sound of the heartbroken mother and the little girls of the vicinity was ringing in her ears. She had a quick wash and opened her laptop to continue with her assignment. Maria was a sophomore in a reputed college. She was pursuing a graduation in psychology. When she accidentally glanced at the calendar, she realized it was Jasmine’s birthday. Jasmine was Maria’s elder sister, who had graduated with flying colours and was anxiously waiting for a call from Wales university. 

Maria was always lively as a squirrel. Jasmine was the quieter one. She was a nemophilist. Most of her leisure time was spent amidst trees and flowering plants. She admired their beauty and instead of clicking photos she took out her drawing note and sketched the flowers with just a few color pencils. Jasmine made very few friends. Her closest and only friend was Minerva, who was also her classmate in college. They had planned to join the same university for their higher studies. 

Minerva was also a girl who had immense aesthetic sense. Minerva was a lepidopterist and enjoyed collecting butterflies. She believed in the myth that butterflies symbolize resurrection, change, renewal and bring new hope.    

Glass injection vials, beads and shells were Jasmine’s best friends. If Wealth Out of Waste required a CEO, Jasmine was the right choice. Everything that was thrown as a waste; right from feathers to rags and from pebbles to ointment tube caps; were used as raw materials for her dolls. 

She made shell dolls with lovely frilled frocks, tall temples with injection vials and dolls out of beads of various colours. Creativity was in her every breath. 

Maria quickly brushed away all her sombre thoughts of the funeral and made arrangements for Jasmine’s birthday who had gone to the temple. Mom informed Maria that Jasmine had also planned to get groceries on her way back. 

After two hours, Maria grew restless. The temple and the grocery store were quite near. Even if there was a crowd, two hours was too long. Maria sensed there must be something wrong. She decided to find out and went to the grocery store. She was disturbed to see a crowd in front of the store. She ran with just one prayer in her mind. “Nothing should have happened to Jasmine.”

When she inquired, she heard what she didn’t want to hear. The lady assistant said, “I am new to this shop. I joined last week. Jasmine madam had terrible pain in her lower abdomen. It was so bad that she couldn’t stand or walk. In fact, she held the shop counter as she fell down. We called an ambulance and I tried asking her the details. But madam fainted.” 

Maria was already sweating badly. This was the worst that could happen to her dear sister. Jasmine was horrified by hospitals and doctors. She couldn’t imagine her alone in a ward. Maria made a call and informed her mom and rushed to the hospital. 

Jasmine was admitted in the casualty ward. Fortunately, she was still unconscious. She was administered saline along with Tramadol allowing her to sleep like a baby. Seeing her sister in such a pitiful state, Maria could not control her tears. Maria rushed to the man in a white coat presuming he was the duty doctor. The doctor inquired about Jasmine’s health history and also if she was allergic to any particular drug.

After the formalities were done Jasmine was allocated a room. An emergency abdominal scan was done. Thanks to the online payment technology, Maria did not have to wait for any financial support. Maria insisted on being present with her sister during the scan, but the radiologist was very firm. She said, “Only patients are allowed. Exposure to the rays isn’t good for anyone. It is an unavoidable factor for us. Why do you want to throw an open invitation to the risks of getting carcinoma?” I will handle your sister with care. Wait outside. It is for your own good.”

Maria waited outside the room impatiently. It was the longest wait of her life. Though she was a very optimistic girl, Maria could not stop thinking of worse options. She tried to stop her mind from getting too pessimistic. When Jasmine was brought out from the scan room she was shifted to her own room and asked to avoid unnecessary movement. Their mom had reached the hospital with swollen eyes. Maria tried to console her mom but in vain. Mom stayed with Jasmine, while Maria waited outside in the waiting area. 

After a while, Maria was called in and a report was handed over. She was called by an assistant from the gynaecology department. Maria took her mom with her as she did not seem to have the courage to face the terrifying situation. The doctor informed them that Jasmine had a chocolate cyst. Both mother and daughter were puzzled. “Doctor, what does this mean?”, asked Maria. The doctor said, ” A Chocolate cyst is a noncancerous, fluid-filled cyst that typically forms deep within the ovaries. They get their name from their brown, tar-like appearance, looking something like melted chocolate. Has your daughter complained of frequent stomach aches and lower abdominal pain?” 

Maria said, “I just asked her today. She said that for the past three to four months she had pain but it subsided in a week.” 

The doctor replied in a very pensive tone. “Your daughter hasn’t been too honest. She must have had terrible pain for almost 5 to 6 months. Both her ovaries are terribly affected and only a hysterectomy can save her from cancer. The cyst is spreading pretty quickly. We should get it done at the earliest.” Without leaving any choice, the surgery was done and a cloud of pathos enveloped their lives. 

Jasmine was always found brooding silently. Maria and mom had no words to console her too. Jasmine had a very bleak future. Marriage was out of question and for a girl of 22 it was too much of a tragedy. 

One day Jasmine went for a walk. When she returned, Maria noticed that Jasmine looked more cheerful than before. Jasmine took out her books and searched for the university application. She dusted all her dolls and started filling all her paintings into  a new file. Maria was silent. This enthusiasm and happiness continued for a week. Jasmine used to go out for a walk with a tense mind but return with a smile and remain happy for the rest of the day. The curious though happy Maria asked her if she had found a new friend who made her cheerful. 

Jasmine said, “Hey no, not a new one. I met Minerva. We have not met since my operation. Everyday she comes to the park. We spend a lot of time together. I asked her to come home but she insisted on meeting in the park. Our plan for our higher studies is still on. Okay see you sis, I have to go.”

Maria was shell shocked. This was simply impossible. The funeral which she attended on Jasmine’s birthday was Minerva’s funeral. Jasmine wasn’t informed as she had left the house to the temple very early that morning. 

(To be continued)  

Shedding the serpent’s skin

Latika was waiting near the portico impatiently. She had been standing there for the past 15mins. Jyotsna was nervous and petrified. She was sitting on her cot behind the locked door nervously biting her nails till there was nothing more to bite. Her quivering lips and hands synchronised with her palpitated heartbeat. This was the 100th time Jyotsna was rehearsing this ill fated day. She had lived over the moments again and again as if she was stuck in a time loop.

This day was not an intended one when she topped in her studies with a university gold medal. She expected life to be a smooth ground where she and success would walk hand in hand. But success was on a short break and all the forthcoming incidents in her life led her to this black marked day.

“What are you doing inside?”,shouted the enraged mom. “Done ma, I am coming”, came the immediate reply. Finally both mother and daughter got into the car and pulled up near a huge building made up of red and brown bricks. Though violence is red and law is supposed to be indifferent to color or creed, the protectors of law who are called barristers keep themselves composed in their black and white attire. Many such people were striding past the mom and daughter. One of them gestured from afar informing the mom that they got the 11 o’clock slot. The time was 10 am.

Latika could sense her daughter’s discomfort. She knew Jyotsna had skipped her breakfast and decided to lighten the situation. She said, “When I spoke to Geetha aunty she told me there was a shop near this court which sells good bhel puri. Shall we go there?” Jyotsna was shocked. She didn’t expect this to happen. It was not in any of the scenes which she has rehearsed before. She nodded her head reluctantly and said, “Is it okay if we go there now, today? What will people say if they see us?”

Latika smiled and said, ”Jyotsna the world has better work than to find out if you are inside the court biting your nails or outside the court chewing the tasty groundnut and puffed rice. Stop worrying about what the world would say. Certain decisions in life have to be made for your own good. Of course you should see that no one is harmed in the process. You don’t need anybody’s permission to do something good and harmless. Stop overthinking and come with me.”

Both of them went inside and ordered a plate of normal bhel puri and a dry one. Jyotsna wondered why her mom had chosen a dry one. She remained quiet as she was hungry and was in no mood to talk. When Latika received her plate she handed it over to Jyotsna.

“I don’t want the dry one, ma. I like the wet better”, said Jyotsna. “As if I don’t know. Try this one today. Maybe just a spoon”, retorted her mom, though in a soft tone. Jyotsna picked a spoon from the table and tried to scoop one spoonful of the bhel. The dry puffed rice kept flying away. The groundnuts also kept rolling away. Jyotsna tried for around 4 times and got irritated. The fifth time she took a huge scoop and without bothering about the tumbling nuts and puffed rice filled her mouth with what remained in the spoon. She could get almost what she wanted.

She smiled at her mom who was silently observing her daughter’s determined tries. Latika said, “Finally, you had to let go of those nuts and puffed rice which refused to stay on the spoon, right?” Jyotsna realised that something grave had been cooking in her mom’s mind and readied her mind for an open talk. She said, “Yes mom. You are right. They refused to remain. I had to let them go. If not I wouldn’t have been able to eat even 1 spoon of it.”

Latika said, “Dear Jyotsna, today that is exactly what you are going to do inside the court. You are going to let go of that person who refused to stay in your life. You must be aware of the way a serpent sheds its skin and rejuvenates. You ought to do the same. Shed your past and live your life.

You made various attempts to live with him. But somehow he never made an equal try. I know it isn’t very easy to take this step but it is an essential one. If you don’t, you will never get the taste of your remaining life. Life is not always about waiting for the right opportunity. Sometimes it is about recognizing the latent opportunity and living life wisely. You have suffered enough. It is high time you brush off your past and look ahead for a better and brighter future with a lighter heart.”

They finished their bhel in silence. When they stepped out, Jyotsna hugged her mom. “Thank you ma, you are the best mom in the whole world. With you by my side I can cross any kind of hurdle.”

Latika held her daughter’s hand and said,”Many times in life we view our problems through a magnifying glass. Even if the problem is trivial our mind is tempted to enlarge it. The mind refuses to look at things positively. It prefers to lament, seek sympathy and slowly get immersed into silence and darkness. Brooding is pointless, Jyotsna.

Instead, try to view the impending happiness of your future with binoculars. Try to view it clearly and get closer to that happiness with hope. That is exactly what I want you to do today. Life is never a bed of roses. Mishaps are unavoidable. Come out of it quickly and stride bravely for a more peaceful life.

You may have days when your mind will regress and pay a visit to our dirty past. Just like the tongue which loves paying multitude visits to that particular tooth which is already suffering from a cavity or a root canal treatment. Have you experienced it? During good times, your tongue is indifferent to its 32 teeth. It doesn’t bother going near them much. But it never forgets to pay an unnecessary visit only when the painful tooth is not supposed to be touched, which is so so annoying.”, saying this Latika laughed with Jyotsna nodding her head in approval. “Similarly, our mind loves to make a courtesy call to our past. Only you can prevent that. Be firm and take control of your mind. Now come, let’s go and get things sorted out.”

If you are not a master of your emotions, you will definitely have to be a slave to the consequences. Slavery of any kind is futile and hazardous. Try to abolish it and enjoy life, being joyous .

The best climb

Poonam and Pratap were very close childhood friends. They were from different parts of Delhi. They studied in the same school and luckily ended up in the same college. They were working in reputed companies and still found time for their favourite sport, which was trekking. Both loved travelling. They had been to various places; to mountains, riversides and also to the Thar desert.

Most times they were in a team of 10 people. They also enjoyed it when it was just both of them. Poonam felt quite secured when Pratap was around. They looked out for each other every time, anywhere. Both the parents understood the purity in their friendship. Of course there were some people who said unnecessary things. But Pratap and Poonam were clear in their minds and it was very evident in the way they carried themselves.

After a gap of around two years, they suddenly planned to go to Shimla and enjoy a week. Poonam had initiated this trip out of the blue. She insisted on just the two of them for the trip. Pratap made all the bookings. He called her and gave a long lecture about the arrangements he had made. He said, “Shimla is full of thickly populated pine trees and small rivulets, placid mountains, lakes and green alpine meadows. And the possibilities for a wide range of adventure activities is enormous. There is skiing, heliskiing and ice-skating. We can go camping and fishing. All we have to do is make up our mind and select our own activity. No special training is required. Equipment, training and instructors are available. And the best part of all is, this comes at a very low cost.”

“God, you sound like an agent from”, said Poonam. “I know Shimla is great. I shall be there in a week’s time. You better not carry too many things with you. If you do, I will happily drop them at every station the train stops”, she giggled as she cut the call and let out a heavy sigh.

After a week they reached the station and boarded the train. They were blessed to get good window seats. Usually Poonam would not stop bantering. Her cheerful nature was what made their trip enjoyable. That day Pratap found something missing. The usual mirth was absent. Poonam hardly spoke, except for a word or two. Whenever he asked her anything, she would answer with monosyllabic words with her eyes still looking at the mobile screen. She could have spared the window seat to the child in their compartment, as her eyes were glued to her mobile. She was indifferent to the beautiful scenery around her. With a frown on her face, she kept texting.

“Viewing Shimla through the mobile eh?”, asked Pratap. What happened, Poonam? You don’t seem alright.” Poonam just smiled and said, “Nothing re, I am alright.” After reaching the resort Poonam behaved in the same queer manner. Pratap gave her some time and decided to confront her, if she behaved the same way again the following day.

The next day they trekked together. They clicked various pictures and had a quick snack. After a while Poonam moved to a corner, under a tree and took out her mobile. She was quite obsessed with her mobile and did not pay heed to what Pratap said or did. He also noticed that she was upset. When he asked her about the next plan, she gave him an irrelevant reply. This had never happened before. They were all ears for each other’s talk and they always enjoyed their company with undivided attention.

He said, “Poonam could you please put that mobile aside and tell me what is happening? You have been acting so differently for the past 2 days. Your behaviour towards me is so indifferent and please know that you are hurting me. I am not used to being avoided. We aren’t moving from here unless you tell me your problem.”

Poonam blinked as if she was caught red handed. She was waiting for this moment but did not expect it so soon. She started with a sigh, “I am done, Pratap. I am fed up with my life and all its incidents. Why do people get friendly with me, get all my help and attention and finally prioritize someone else? Why should I always be the rejected one? I am genuine and sincere with all my friends. Except you, none of the people I have met have given that feeling back to me. Pratap, I feel people are just playing with my emotions and using me. How many times should I face deception?” Saying so, Poonam wept. “This is exactly what I do all the time. Those who rejected me enjoy life. But I, like a fool, sit and cry in a quicksand of memories. I don’t understand why I keep crying.”

Pratap was dumbstruck. He didn’t imagine Poonam was going through so many problems. She was upset and had kept it away from him!!! He waited till she composed and asked, “I am sorry that I was unaware of all this. But Poonam, what are you doing now? Did I disturb your conversation with a friend? Why are you trying to reach out to a person who is not even in front of you when you are in the company of one good friend. I am here for you. Right in front of you. Why don’t you enjoy the time with me? Live in the moment, my friend. Don’t you realize that I will also feel avoided and belittled? You could have called me up any day and told me about this.

Okay wait… is this why you wanted to travel with me? You wanted to let out your pain, didn’t you? Thank God we made this trip. Poonam, don’t feel bad. If you want to cry please cry. It is totally okay. There is no harm in letting out your pain and negativity in the form of tears. Why do you think our body has 75 percent water and 25 percent blood?” He chuckled and noticed a mild smile on Poonam’s face. “Let the water out when the bloody heart is in pain. Don’t pretend to be happy. That is a double edged knife. Toxic positivity is wrong. Don’t be scared to cry. Feel the pain and throw it out. Only then the wounds will heal and your mind will grow stronger.

You know that working out is always painful. Though the sores are painful, they only lead to the development and fitness of the individual. In life you cannot develop without pain. You will feel the sore before you develop. Deal with the pain valiantly and grow out of the pain victoriously.

And as far as your past friends are concerned, no person is born to fulfill somebody else’s expectations, Poonam. Each person will live for himself or herself. You expect too much from everyone. Where there is expectation, there will also be frustration. Just be realistic when you expect. Continue your friendship with those who are good to you and those who value you. Let go of those people who treat you as a form of entertainment. They will know your worth when you leave them. Don’t be a beggar, Poonam.”

Poonam wiped her tears and said, “You are right. Why should I beg for care? I have given enough care to everyone. Now onwards I shall never yearn for care. Man, what will I do without a friend like you? You are my saviour.”

Pratap immediately said, “This is where you go wrong, Poonam. Do not let anyone control your emotions. The worst weakness in you is that you surrender your weaknesses very easily. You should hold the whip hand. Nobody else, not even me.”

Poonam took her phone and deleted the contact details of the people who ditched her. Looking at Pratap she said, “Huh, there it goes. Now I feel lighter. Why the hell did I wait for so long?” Pratap gave a friendly tap on her head and said, “ It is better late than never. Come let’s have lunch. I may faint any time.”

Getting emotional isn’t a mistake, without them we are mere statues.
Just don’t let them eat away the happiness in you and let people use you like a box of tissues.

The Aspiring Globetrotter Part 2

Zacharias looked around. The Father got up from his chair and said, “Child, why don’t you answer the question? You spoke so well. We are all very happy to know that you have at last come out of your shell and have stopped being an introvert. We trust you Zacharias. Go ahead. Don’t get petrified by the preposterous comments made by Simon.” 

Zacharias held the microphone with a tighter grip and said, “Respected Father, I have a confession to make. Simon was not wrong. He was absolutely right. Neither did I go out of station nor did I meet people. I request the entire crowd to accept my heartfelt apologies.”

(There was an immediate gasping expression from the crowd as if Zacharias had committed the deadliest of crimes. They were quite inquisitive to know how their Father would react to this. Zacharias looked at the Father whose face had become quite pensive. Yet he bade Zacharias to continue with a nod of his head.)

“I am basically from a family, who cannot afford a trip even to the nearest country. I also have my responsibilities as a son, who shares the financial burden. During the winter holidays, I helped Uncle Samuel in his bookstore. It was a lending library. When we had scant customers, I took advantage of the situation and read a good number of books. Uncle Samuel was kind enough to recommend the best classics and novels, which could save the boredom of a bookstore, which is supposed to be filled with silent books. I would say books are silent because they are filled with knowledge. When I received the topic, I saw the board of our school library and thus came up with this idea.”

(Zacharias noticed a smile on the faces of his teachers and their Father. He also noticed a frown in the disappointed face of Simon, the bully.)

“The places I mentioned, were from the books I read and the characters of those stories, were the people I met. The experience that I felt while reading these books is inexplicable. Manette the French doctor and his daughter Lucie are from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two cities, the detective is none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes who lives in 221 B Baker street and finally the 5-year-old girl is Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. I am sorry if I have made a mistake. I thank all of you for being a patient audience. I am…”

The Father got up from his chair and applauded. He did not want to hear any more apologies from the little boy. Immediately the entire crowd got up and Zacharias received a standing ovation. He said, “Though it might seem quite dramatic I am sure Zacharias deserves this applause for his wonderful speech about how important and useful book reading is. In fact, I wish all the students cultivate the hobby of reading books. Books give anyone the best company. They are so faithful and more reliable than human beings. When you read books there will surely be a change of perspective in the way you see life. Exposure to the world is best received when you read travel books. Many times the despondent find the solutions to life’s problems, when they read the life sketches of successful people. 

Every book teaches us a genuine lesson of not to judge it by its cover. It enables you to live in the moment. Just as Zacharias lived with the characters from his stories I am sure all of you will enjoy a similar experience. When you read a book, you hold the lives of so many people. Finally, I would like to quote George R R Martin and wish you all remember it for a lifetime. ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.’ I am very proud of you Zacharias. You have given us a very valuable message to start the New year with.”

Everyone applauded again and this time it was with more happiness. 

Zacharias had tears in his eyes and when he got off the stage the first person who congratulated and apologised to him was Simon. 

Books are truly the best teleporters. They can take you to the farthest and the tiniest corner of this world.

Make it a hobby and relish the experience of being a globetrotter. 

You will surely forget the meaning of being bored.