Are you ready for a journey?

“On the night of Christmas Eve, a boy is skeptical of the existence of Santa Claus. Struggling to fall asleep, he witnesses a steam locomotive arrive on the street, and goes outside to examine it. The conductor introduces the train as the Polar Express, bound for the North Pole. Initially reluctant, the boy jumps aboard as the train departs. The train arrives at the North Pole, where the conductor announces that one of the passengers will be chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas from Santa himself. Will the boy meet Santa Claus?”

This is the gist of the movie THE POLAR EXPRESS. This movie was played over and again by Danny. Whenever Mr. Danny saw this movie, he could only silently wipe a tear off his face and thank Mr. Jason whom he still regarded as his guardian angel. He recollected the life changing incident that happened around 10 years ago….

When Danny was between jobs, he was ridiculed by his friends and family. He was actually a very cheerful, active and determinant man till he broke his right leg femur bone and was unable to continue his profession as a sports instructor. He had not trained himself in any other domain and felt good-for- nothing. He tried his hand at various odd jobs but nothing turned satisfactory. He grew depressed and feared to live in a world of accusations and mockery.

On December 31st he had come to the platform of the nearest and the most remote railway station, carrying a very heavy luggage. It wasn’t any suitcase or a trolley bag. It was the heavy, grief-filled heart. Grief stayed on in his heart after kicking away hope and faith. He had decided to end everything.

As the train whistled, Danny moved near the edge of the platform. The roaring sound of the multitude wheels gave him a chill in the spine. He hesitated to move front, when suddenly, the train screeched to an unexpected halt. Danny didn’t expect the train to stop. He had checked the timings and the train was scheduled to stop only in its last station which was much farther.

A man got off the train. He had shinning grey hair that matched his well-trimmed beard. He had the stature and appearance of a retired Colonel who had never forgotten the discipline, that was injected in his veins to last for a lifetime. His dark blue tuxedo was creaseless and the gold buttons reflected the torch light and pierced Danny’s eyes. ‘I am Jason. I am the conductor of this train. Well you may understand better if I use the word ‘guard’. This is not the place where the train is scheduled to stop. Yet I have found it very necessary to give you a ride on this train. Let me help you Sir. Please take my hand.’

‘Hello.. I am Danny. Wh.. Why do you want to help me? I did not book my tickets. I don’t want your mercy. I don’t want to travel. Let me go. Why did you have to stop? I didn’t wave my hand. I don’t intend to travel any further. Please sir. Leave me alone’, cried Danny anguishly. Jason looked straight into Danny’s eyes and said, ‘Dear son, won’t you let an old man take you for a short ride. I am travelling alone and I have found it very difficult to travel in silence especially on New year’s Eve. I shall be grateful if you could keep me company till we reach our destination which is just a few more miles ahead.’

Danny could not refuse. He could sense truth in the guard’s words. He struggled to board the train. His leg refused to bend. Though Jason supported him, he had to strain his left leg and get onto the train.

Jason followed him and bolted the door of the carriage with a lock and slipped the key into his tuxedo. He did not want to blindly trust Danny and let him risk his life again. When Danny entered, he was shocked. Jason had lied. The train was half full with people of all age groups from all walks of life. There were old folks and young kids. There were middle aged people and new-born babies.

In an intimidated tone Danny shouted, ‘Who are these people? Why did you deceive me? Who are you? Do you want to rob me? Are you a thief? Did you waylay me? I have nothing with me. I am a pauper. The only set of clothes I own, is what I am covered with. My pockets are empty. Let me down old man.’

Jason smiled and replied with patience, ‘Danny please take a seat. I shall get you something to drink. You look exhausted. Why don’t you take the seat near the baby? I shall be back in a jiffy.’ Saying so, Jason disappeared behind the glass door.

Danny walked nervously. He expected the passengers to give him weird glances and pass comments. But they were in their own world. The kids came running to Danny with their toys and a tiny girl with a pink frock generously offered him a portion from her bar of chocolate. Danny couldn’t refuse the kid’s offer. When he accepted and ate the chocolate, the girl gave him the sweetest smile and asked him to come closer. When he almost reached up to her face the girl pecked on his cheek, blushed and ran away. He could not help smiling as he wiped the chocolate stain from his face.

This mesmerizing moment was interrupted by Jason who stood near him with a cup of hot coffee and cookies to nibble. Jason pointed out at the remaining chocolate stain on Danny’s face, chuckled and asked, ‘Did Zariah do that?’ Danny only nodded and drank his coffee. Jason took Danny around and introduced him to almost everyone. There were about 20 people in the carriage. As Jason went around, the people waved their hands and Danny kept acknowledging them with a courteous nod. There were around 6 men who were differently abled. A few women were visually impaired and infants were squealing with pain. One of the women rose and nursed the infants with medicine.

After reaching his seat, Jason spoke, ‘Danny I am sorry for spoiling your plan. I am sorry for extending your stay on this planet.’ Danny gazed at Jason with wide open eyes and tightly closed lips. ‘I knew your intentions, when I saw you from a distance. You were going to throw yourself beneath these ungrateful carriage wheels. Why do you want to waste your life? You are pretty young. You seem energetic.’

Danny got flustered. Instead of being grateful, he retorted. ‘What do you know about my life? I am not fit for anything. I am useless and not worth a penny. I am only fit to be buried or even crushed under these wheels.’

Jason looked at him and said, ‘Okay, so be it. As you are so insistent I would not like to spoil your plans any further. But before you feed the wheels of this railway carriage, let us fix a deal.’ Danny looked perplexed. Jason continued, ‘I would like to buy a few things that you own. Tell me a rate and I will pay you the exact amount; not a penny more, not a penny less.’ Danny screamed, ‘ARE YOU SHORT OF HEARING OLD MAN? I OWN NOTHING. I AM A PAUPER’

Jason stopped him with a mild gesture of his hand, ‘I want to know the cost of your eyes, your heart, your limbs and of course that beautiful brain which is so well preserved. I am sure you haven’t used it much. Don’t worry Danny I will pay you. Com’ on let us fix a rate. Don’t ruin them beneath the carriage wheels. Sell it to us and we shall make the best use of it.

You did see all these people. All of us are on a vacation. We work together in a resort with the help of the remaining part of our bodies. Give your eyes to the visually impaired, give your heart to Zariah. I shall give it to these people who will make better use of them. Nobody in this train is perfect, Zariah is a heart patient and her mother is a cancer survivor. We have our own disabilities. Just because we wear a smile on our face, it doesn’t mean we have no sorrow. We have learnt to smile with tears in our eyes.’ Saying so, Jason lifted the left side of his pant and revealed the prosthetic leg. He had lost his leg in a war.

Danny wasn’t ready for this shock. He got up without realising about his broken femur. He couldn’t balance himself. He lost balance, but little Zariah was near him and tried to support his leg with her tiny palm. She stained Danny’s pant with her chocolate filled hands. Seeing her concern and her selflessness, Danny couldn’t find words. He realised how selfish and self centered he had been. Even the baby girl tried to be helpful. He hugged the tiny tot and wept. He asked Jason, ‘What do you mean, sir? What is this deal? What should I do? Is this a trick or a riddle?’

Jason smiled and said, ‘Danny every person’s life is a riddle. All of us search for the answer around us but we fail to look into us. The solution for every problem and the answer for every question is embedded in us. You are not useless. You are not a pauper. Don’t you realize how precious you are, when you couldn’t fix a price for your invaluable organs? No one is poor, Danny. God has created all of us like a never ending and ever flowing Swiss Bank. You have to deposit hope and determination and enjoy the interest in the form of happiness.

The men you met have stories more miserable than yours. Help them. Make yourself useful for those who need you. Don’t put an end to yourself so soon.’ He said,

Danny broke down on Jason’s broad shoulders and apologized for being such a selfish person. He realized that “It is a sin to want to die.” (a line from the story, ‘The Last Leaf’ by O Henry) He had lost confidence in himself. He said, ‘Please help me sir. I will live. I am sorry for my irrational behavior.’ Jason thumped his back and said, ‘Now that is what I call being manly. Now go wash the chocolate off your face and your pant. You don’t need chocolates any more. Life is going to get sweeter with every NEW YEAR.’

Today Danny is the manager of the resort where his main work was to make people realize the truth that

Many times we get so scared of the darkness in our lives. We feel we are buried and good-for-nothing. We should realize that we have not been buried, we have just been sown and the glorious harvest is yet to come.

For every one of us, God sends a beautiful railway carriage with a genuine guard who extends a helping hand. Don’t hesitate to board the train. The destination is not what is important, it is the invaluable and the unforgettable journey that counts.

Haree the Potter – the wizard with no wands

In a village called Bastar there lived a potter named Haree Kishen. He was a very famous potter in that village for almost 3 decades. He loved his job and was very passionate about it. He made the strongest, sturdiest and everlasting pots for the villagers. For a few customers he also made them according to their choice of shape and size. He was well known amongst all the villagers as he was a man with a good character. Before he started the kneading of the mud he would pray to bhooma devi (Hindu Goddess representing Mother Earth) as he would have to stamp her and knead the mud for pots. 

His pots were perfect pieces of craftsmanship and durability. His hands were instruments of perfection. He had a very happy and contented family life. But now, as he was very old and left alone in his world by his late wife and very busy children, he spent most of his valuable time with the pots. He did not feel lonely as he even spoke with them! He tended to them as if they were his kids. He missed his family but never felt lonely as his profession was not only providing money it gave him peace of mind. 

One day there was a commotion near a temple on the adjacent street. Kishen walked slowly and asked one of the little boys, who was playing with a mud doll, “What is the matter bhaiya? What happened near the temple?” The boy replied,”Kishen kaka we have a new potter in Bastar. We thought he was your relative. He has good pots too. See, I bought this for 5 rupees from him.” 

Kishen was shocked. He slowly moved front and peered through the crowd. His eyes met with the eyes of the young man and his shock disappeared and a sense of excitement and delight filled his eyes. The young man couldn’t resist his excitement. He fell at Kishen’s feet and said, “Do you still recognise me guruji? I never expected you to feel so happy. I knew you resided here. I heard about your wife and decided to visit you and assist you. Before presenting myself in front of you, I wanted to test my abilities by trying to sell the pots that I made.” 

Kishen felt elated. He said, “Arjun never forget that you are capable of making better pots than mine. I can witness the quality of your pots by the way people have gathered around you to buy your pots. I am so proud of you, beta. Come let’s go home.”

Kishen and Arjun walked home with pride and happiness. That night Kishen suggested to Arjun that he could join him as an associate as he was growing older. “My sons don’t have any interest in pottery. I am so happy to find my naughtiest student turning out to be my associate. I feel so worthy. I feel successful that I have a talented person to take over this humble work of moulding pots”

Arjun was touched. With tears in his eyes, he recollected his childhood days when one day he accidentally ran into Haree Kishen’s pot shop, where the pots were arranged and broke one or two pots to an irreversible condition. That was when Kishen punished Arjun by asking him to make 6 pots with his own hands. Kishen taught him patiently and realized that Arjun was a quick learner. Arjun enjoyed the ‘punishment’ and continued to make 6 more pots. Both of them spoke till evening and Kishen asked Arjun to get back to his home and study well. Since then Arjun had been a frequent visitor till he had to move out of Bastar for personal reasons. 

Today, he had come back to meet his guruji for a noble cause. He wanted to pay a very valuable guru dakshina to his teacher by proving his abilities. He did not have the pride of being a more skilled potter. He was humble to learn more from his guruji as learning is a never ending process. Kishen was curious and asked Arjun, “Beta, why did you choose to come back to me? You could have joined as an assistant with any other potter. I am sure you must have met many better potters during the past few years.” 

Arjun just smiled and said, “Guruji, I never forget my teachers. The ones who taught me when I was 5 years old are as important as the teachers who taught me when I was 15 years old. Of course I never appreciated theory from the books. I learnt the art of living from my teachers. Every teacher has her own beautiful role to play. When we are like the fresh mud, without any shape or firmness, the primary school teachers are like the potters who knead our talents and capabilities and give a beautiful shape. They build the strong foundation on which we stand firmly and undeterred for the rest of our lives. 

The high school teachers indeed tune us and get us ready to face the challenging world, where we will have to learn to use the acquired knowledge and apply it in our work for a successful life. Without them I would not know what kind of hurdles lie ahead of me. They are the potters who decorate the pot, check the quality and make it beautiful and user friendly, so that the pots would be of great demand in the market. 

And you have been my best teacher who disciplined me so beautifully by way of your ‘creative’ punishment. If you had not punished me that day and if you had not taught me to make pots, I would have never realized the latent talent. You were so right when you said, “I am going to teach you a lesson Arjun”. And that was a lesson for a lifetime. You are my magician guruji and the beautiful spell which you have cast on me with your love and care has made my life magical.” My school teachers and you showed me various paths to tread. I chose the one which was suitable for me.

Haree Kishen was at a loss of words. All that he could do was, give a tight hug to the best student, whom he had moulded in his life. 

Not all magicians need magic wands to create magic,

You can create wonders with your bare hands and good logic.

The image of my nation is in my Imagination

The tall palm trees swayed in the air and the orange ball of fire was slowing rising from his waterbed. The air was pretty cool though it smelt briny. The sand felt cool and stuck to the feet as if they would cling on to me for the rest of my life. But every time the waves hit my feet, they bubbled, fizzed, ran under my heels and happily peeled away.

Children ran around picking shells and as far as the eye could reach there was no building. There was no traffic. No towers and no gadgets. The beach was a blissful place.

From a distance I could see a pair of beautiful red shoes which glittered like those of Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ. I wish I had one such pair, which would take me around the world; anywhere and everywhere!! They were sharply pointed and had considerable heels. There was a small silver bow which was getting partially drenched in the playful waves. The waves came running in full speed, hit the shoes and went away hurriedly as if the shoes may gain life and chase them.
I loved the beauty and thanked God that my eyes could see them and admire them.

Do you think I would have enjoyed all this if I was born blind? Will my imagination give me the same satisfaction? This was a thought that struck my mind when I met this little girl on the Trivandrum sands.

She was walking along the beach with no one near.
She seemed alone yet had no fear.
She stopped her game with the waves and the sand,
When one of her friends caught her by her hand.
There was excitement and happiness in her face
When the pat on her back turned to an embrace.
Her voice was competing with the sound of the waves.
She was talking with full excitement with a blush on her face.
She stopped with a bent head to hear the waves kissing the rocks
Which was mixed with screams of girls running with flying frocks
There was a smile on her face as she proceeded,
Her gestures were deep, which couldn’t be decoded.
When her feet touched the sands she turned around.
But lo! she banged her head on the merry-go-round.
Slipping into those red shoes, she walked along.
Her friend sang a song and she whistled along.
Her friend picked a rose whose petals flew in the breeze
A petal tickled her nose and gave her a sneeze.
She rubbed the soft petal against her soft face.
That was when I saw her pretty eyes which added to her grace.
They had the colour of the oceans and the bed of the sea.
How nice it would have been if they helped her let her see.
She tripped on a pram but she balanced herself.
And continued to stride confidently without anybody’s help.
“Hats off to you little girl, would you be my friend?
I would love to share your courage if you would kindly lend.
You opened my eyes and revealed the bitter truth.
We have good eyesight but our vision bears no fruit.
What’s the use of the eyes that can’t differentiate wrong from right?
Honestly, we live in the dark and you have a brighter insight.”

That day I realized that we exist in 2 worlds; the real and the surreal. The real life gives us limited happiness and the surreal or dreamlike world which we see through our insight gives immeasurable bliss.
With open eyes we are forced to see all that is in front of us but when we close our eyes we have the liberty to choose what we wish to see. Through imagination we can relive moments with those who have departed, have reunions with those from whom we have parted.
Let us all close our eyes and imagine a beautiful world and a peaceful nation. Let’s plan how to make it more loving, more empathetic without any cruelty; then open our eyes and strive hard to make all our visions come true.

Imagination is a utopia where all dreams come true, it is the best place to live for me and you.

You only live once

Look at the rains pouring down on Earth.

Its beauty, bliss and serenity has no equivalent worth.

It creates a magical feeling in every onlooker’s heart,

Which varies like the colours in a modern art.

To a child’s eye, the rain is an exciting sight;

To see the waters drizzling amidst the rainbow bright.

From a poet’s mind words of admiration would drain,

When he sees the flowers blush with the kiss of the rain.

For a pair of lovers, the rain is a symbol of love.

As they float in their happiness like a pair of doves.

To a pessimist’s eyes they are Nature’s tears of pain.

As he sees only destruction in every corner of a lane.

To a patient’s eye the rain is a bringer of relief,

As Nature showers on him a strong sense of belief.

A belief that life must go on with the highs and lows;

Whether it’s a breeze or a tempest, we have to go with the flow.

To the house constructor’s eyes, rains bring a sense of plight.

But to the farmer’s eye it is a welcoming delight.

The rain does not pour on us with intentions of any kind.

You will enjoy or hate it depending on what is in your mind.

When difficulties flood around us like the angry rain,

Just try to be optimistic and lessen everyone’s pain.

Stop being pessimistic and try to wipe away tears

We live only one life, be happy and say Cheers!

The Phoenix that never rose again

Mole phenyl veno?” (Do you want phenyl, Daughter?), was the first question asked by this old lady who is the protagonist of our story. Her voice was so loud and clear. I kept looking at her without any reaction. Not because she was beautiful. I was shocked because, that was the first time I ever saw an 80-year-old woman working as a sales representative. She was clad in complete spotless white. She stooped as she walked but she had that strength and will power to lift a 5 litre can of phenyl!! I was awestruck and immediately wondered if I would be able to even lift 2 kgs, if I lived up to her age.

I ran inside the house of the 5 floored apartment to inform my mother that a paati (old lady ref. as grandmother) had come to sell phenyl. I whispered to my mom, “Please buy at least 1 bottle. Paati seems really tired. She may be able to have at least a meal.” My Mom was an epitome of kindness. She saw paati and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. We understood that paati was scared to get into the lift and she had climbed up all the way. From that day I was her companion in the lift. If I wasn’t available, our watchman used to accompany her. 

Very soon, a random sales representative became very close to us. She called my mom by her name as it reminded her of her own daughter. She loved calling me Mole. Paati visited us regularly. Most importantly she chose to come on weekends so that she could see her Mole. We understood that paati had 2 daughters and a son who refused to take care of her. She was widowed when she was 35 years old. Paati’s brother had cheated her and got the little property that they had; transferred in his name. Paati lived in the small sum that was given by the MGR fund provided by the government and the money she made with the phenyl sales. Paati stayed in a small room and cooked her own food. 

Months rolled by and one day we realised paati did not come for 2 weekends. This worried us. Fortunately, Mom had noted a phone number which belonged to a shopkeeper who was paati’s neighbour. When asked he said, “Oh she is not well. She is in the GH. She met with an accident. As she was climbing onto the bus, the bus started and paati fell off the bus. She has 5 stitches on her head.”

This was a horrid news. We couldn’t wait to see paati. Unfortunately, we didn’t know her address. After 2 weeks when paati came to our doorstep, we had a sigh of relief. I remember crying when I saw the same smile on her puckered face. Her hair was shaved. She had recouped like a phoenix bird. “Do I look like a baby?”, was her first question. I said, “You are the oldest baby I have ever seen.” Mom had a good chat with her and we realized that her daughters did not bother to visit even once. Tears rolled down from paati’s cheeks for the first time. 

That was when we decided, never to leave paati alone. We were to shift to an independent house in a month. We requested paati to move in with us, but paati did not want to be a burden. Paati just said, “I have been rejected by my kith and kin. But God has given me a family again. I do not want this family to face any difficulty because of my ill luck.” Eventually paati agreed to stay in a room 2 streets away our house. It was a big relief. 

We gave her all the required provisions and paati kept coming home on weekends. My grandmother passed away when I was 10 years old. I got the love and affection of my grandmother from this God sent angel. For Vishu, she used to save 25 rupees with great difficulty and insist that I should keep it as a token of her love. Paati stopped working as a sales representative and lived peacefully. We enjoyed each other’s company. 

One Friday evening paati made a call from a nearby shop and requested us to meet her. She said that she felt a very deep urge to see us. Mom and I left immediately. When we reached her doorstep we saw paati on her cot. She got up and called me by her side and said, “Mole, be a good girl. Remember this paati forever. My blessings will be with you now and forever.” 

Seeing her cry my Mom asked her, “What happened Amme? Are you alright?” she felt her forehead and paati had mild fever. Mom said she would call for the doctor but paati said she would be leaving to her native the next day. She replied very emphatically. “I have called people from the Shankara Mutt. They will come and take me away. Don’t worry I had crocin. Lalitha, you also take care of your health. Be happy. You are lucky to have caring children. Remember me in your prayers.”

We were confused but we promised to visit her the next day. As we were leaving, paati hugged me tight and wept. I could not restrain my tears. The thought of missing paati had already weakened my emotions. The warm hug was enough to make me weep. We parted with tears. My mom and I felt something wasn’t right. 

The next morning at around 9 am we received a call. Paati’s neighbour had called. She said, “Please have the strength to listen to what I have to say. Paati is no more. At 5 am, when I went to buy milk, I saw smoke from a tree near paati’s house. I rushed to see if anyone had burnt leaves near paati’s house. But when I neared the tree, it was paati who was burning. She had stuffed her mouth with a cloth and poured the kerosene which was bought for her stove and self-immolated. Near her bedside I found 3 kerchiefs which had blood stains. She has had a tough night. I could hear her coughing. Next to her pillow I found her medical reports. She had developed Tuberculosis. I should have offered help but I didn’t imagine she was terminally ill. I am very sorry. Please don’t come. You will not be able to see. I have sent word for the people at the GH who will be here quite soon.”

We were devastated. Paati had turned to ashes. But this time the phoenix bird did not rise from its ashes. Paati had planned her end. She lived her last days as she wanted and died the way she chose. She had the will power to bear the hatred of her children. She had the compassion to shower on me and Mom. She preferred to die rather than being a burden for the people who loved her. May her soul always rest in peace.

Dear friends, there are so many parents who kill themselves like paati. Surprisingly, it never reaches the hawk eyes and the snake ears of the media. These deserted parents suffer silently behind closed doors. The ironical part is when they do not let down their children. Even during the worst times they would say, “Dont blame my child. He/she must be busy.”

Lifestyles have evolved, haven’t they? Youngsters are too busy attending to their priorities. Caring for parents has never been a part of their To-Do list. Old people are those who live their childhood again. They just need a fraction of your day. They need to know that they are cared. Even Shakespeare terms it as “Second childishness”. Sometimes I have heard old parents crying, who cannot reconcile themselves to the idea of living in old age homes.

But after witnessing the tragic life of paati , I am forced to feel that old age homes are the only safe places for such discarded parents; though such places should not be called as home for the aged. They are actually the home for the discarded; home for the neglected and home for the isolated.  

Do you think paati could have had a better life at an old age home? Her children had no time to collect her ashes too. She would have atleast received a good treatment. Atleast people would have been there near her during her last moments. She could have avoided the fall. She could have avoided the strain of self cooking and the mental pain of unbothered children. Most importantly, she wouldn’t have had such a bad death. Her children had no time for her. Not even a day!

Life gives such hard choices with such unpleasant options. Should the parents be desolated in old age homes and left to yearn or totally abandoned and left to burn?

Every person’s answer should be: Never have a choice. You belong to them. They belong to you. You are each other’s responsibility

When Silence Speaks, it will deafen you.

Time: 9 am

Curator: Hello everyone… Welcome to this exhibition named “Silence Speaks”. I will be your curator for this day. I understand you are the lucky few people who received an invite to this place.

Woman 1: Hello Ma’am. Oh. You look so much like our very old friend. Nice to see someone just like her. 

Curator: That sounds nice Ma’am. I wish she was amidst you now. Anyways, I shall take you around this beautiful gallery, where so many beautiful paintings have been put up. If you wish to buy them, you may do so very happily. 

Anyways there is a gift in the doorway. You may pick one when you leave and preserve it as a souvenir to remember this day for years to come. 

We have 4 sections in all. A few sections display murals and the rest are solo canvas paintings. The first, as you see is a beautiful mural depicting the tender look of a baby girl with its soft fingers trying to reach its mother’s cheek.

Woman 1: But oh!… the mother drops her baby. 

Curator: Watch closely Ma’am. There you see the protective arms of another lady who fondles the new born closer to her chest. 

Woman 1: Thank God. That is a relief. 

Man 1: Oh yes. The baby is seen in her cradle blessed by the angels above. I love this mural. It radiates the invaluable love of a mother. Is it for sale? 

Curator: Value for the invaluable??? I shall let you know sir. You may decide after seeing all the paintings. The next section is a solo canvas painting filled with the brightest colors. 

Woman 2: Hey look at the child’s face with sparkling eyes, dimpled cheeks, black curly hair and that radiating smile. It just throws buckets of joy into the on looker’s heart. This is awesome. May I buy this? 

Man 2: But wait…. Did you notice the wordings in the extreme right? It says “Dear happiness, RIP”. Hmmmmm…. Quite weird. What is the artist trying to convey?

Curator: Maybe her happiness ended in her childhood. We guess the message sir. 

Man 2: I don’t think it gives positive vibe. Not as much as the painting does. No worries dear. We shall buy another one. Let’s move on. 

Curator: I expected this response. Here comes another mural which paints the words of John Keats. Have you read his poem Ode on a Grecian Urn?

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave


Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Man 1: Gracious Lord!! You are so right. The girl will stay young forever, always trying to reach out to her lover. 

Woman 1: It is a pity.

Never will their souls unite. Never will they be separated even by the cruelest might. 

Curator: That sounded poetic Ma’am!!!

Man 2: I am sure the artist had a bitter love life. But see here people, it isn’t complete.

Woman 2: The woman sees a Cupid shooting an arrow towards her but… where did it go? Does this have a note anywhere? Oh yes. “Dear Love, why are we playing Hide and Seek?” 

Man 2: Undoubtedly this radiates sorrow. Beautiful to look, impressive enough to admire but not worth buying. I don’t like incomplete love stories. 

Curator: That sounds a bit of a harsh truth. Nobody in this world wishes to share sorrow. Let’s see the next one sir. 

Woman 2: The next painting is to our right, isn’t it? I hope I get to buy at least this one. 

Curator: Yes, Ma’am. Please be careful with the Queue manager stand. 

Woman 2: Oh look at this! A beautiful painting of a woman cutting her birthday cake. She is 50!! Unbelievable!! The lady looks young and cheerful.

Curator: Some people Age as wine, Ma’am. They become sweeter and richer with age. 

Man 2: This is a mural. Let’s see what’s next. Oh look at her in her lovely arm chair surrounded by almost all the books of this world. Every book is so clear. She has a handsome doggy near her chair. 

Woman 1: Literature from all corners of the world have not slipped the eyes of this old little bird. 

Curator: Poetic again Eh..!!!!  (to Woman 2) Ma’am you may buy this mural. 

Woman 2: Oh yes. Look at the words. “My pet dug really deep and exhumed my dead happiness.” Please let me know the rate. 

Curator: Sure Ma’am. There comes the last painting. 

Man 1: Hey.. Isn’t this incomplete? Why are the images so blur? This is filled with strokes and daubs. Where is the lady? 

Man 2: Do you recognize this lady? Her mother who held her close to her chest. Why is she here? The dog looks sad. 

Woman 2: These daubs look like clouds. Hey this is heaven. Look at the angels. They were near her cradle.

Curator: Awesome observation Ma’am!!!!

Woman 1: Didn’t our 50-year-old bird grow older? Hey… a scribble again. “The long-awaited reunion”. I think I shall buy this painting. Could you please tell us the cost of each painting?

Curator: Sure Ma’am. Could you please wait near the doorway? Maybe you could pick your gifts while I fetch the price list. 

Man 2: Madam, could you please tell us your name? We were so pre occupied and involved in seeing these paintings that we didn’t ask your name. 

Curator: My name is Holly. I shall be back everyone. Just give me a minute. 

Woman 1: Hey nice name. Our friend’s name right? The one who looks like you. She has always been very kind to us. We haven’t met her since our college days. She should be around 51 years right? She had sent me a letter. I haven’t replied yet. Let us meet her after we buy these paintings. 

Man 2: Sure. I remember I received one too. I should have replied. Shame on me. Don’t worry, we shall meet her. 

Man 1: Hey the gifts!! I have opened mine. All seem the same. 

Woman 2: 

A letter etched in wood!!!

Dear friends,

I am sure you will be happy to see the paintings that were out up. They are all MINE. I painted them with the colors of joy and sorrow. The canvas is my life and the paintings depict my life. I always relished being your friend. Suddenly you all became so much engrossed with your lives that you missed to hear the silence of your friend.

I had to fight the wind and cross the tempests. I sent word for you but none of you responded. I was taken with an incurable illness and was left to the company of my dear pup and my world of books. I longed for my mother’s love and her warmth which has been the only genuine and pure relationship I have ever had. The rest were passing clouds who took me for granted and handled me as a tissue paper.

When you read this I am sure you will regret for not keeping in touch. You were my very close friends whom I loved a lot and I wanted to see you all ONE LAST TIME and show you my paintings.

Books and paintings are always silent. Yet they speak volumes. They speak directly to your heart. So, I chose to show you my life as paintings. You may go back and see the easels. The paintings will not be the same. I am happy that I got an opportunity to make you all happy for this one last time. See you soon friends.

P.S: Take care of my pup if it still survives my loss.

Curator: Hello sir. May I help you? 

Man 1: Who are you? 

Curator: I am the curator Sir. Let me show you around. I am sorry for keeping you waiting. 

Woman 1: Our curator is Holly. Is there anyone called Holly? 

Curator: No Ma’am. I am the only person here. We start the exhibition at 10 am. We have 15 minutes more. I saw you waiting at the doorway. Let me open the door for you.

Woman 1: What !!! Are you opening the doors only now? So.. does it mean….

(ALL in unison):  Holly was with us all this while. 

Woman 1: Oh Dear, I knew it. I recognized her. O Holly.. Where are you? Please come back. Give us a chance to apologise. Hey .. the gift!! Just disappeared!!!

Curator: Shall we go? Sir .. Ma’am.. Hello.. What happened Sir? Whom are you talking to?

(They leave silently as Holly’s words from the letter had almost deafened them.)

A true heart beats, even after it is declared dead. True feelings will be heard even if it comes from the mouth of the dead. Love and truth can never be silenced.

And the award goes to…

The following story won Natalie the first prize in a creative writing competition held for children below 12 years. As soon as the results were announced, the story was displayed in the huge LED screen outside the campus. After reading it, every competitor was inquisitive to know more about the winner.

Dear friends, I thought you would also love to read it. We shall meet Natalie after you read the story which got her the award.

Seek and Ye shall find

This incident happened in the deep woods called Peace. The forest was dense and filled with vegetation. Birds from various corners of the world and flowers of multi hues made this forest their Utopia. There were leaves of various colours; violet, red, pink, orange and many more combinations which no human being could makeup with any number of colours in a palette. There was happiness everywhere amongst the creatures living in the woods. The sky was always magnificent with the clouds passing by and the happy sun shining all over them. It was like a canvas with an exotic painting entitled All things bright and beautiful.

These beautiful creations of God did not know the meaning for the word sorrow. One could hear the trees talking amongst themselves by swaying their branches, the leaves rustling their secrets, the insects buzzing along their music and the birds creating a bedlam of chirruping. The woods were lit by the sparkle from the waters that flowed amidst them.

This was accompanied by the pacific movement of the breeze and the tip toeing of the clouds. Of course they were scared of Fire who was always fierce and hardly spoke a word. He never harmed them but he was not very amiable. They were not very close to the black clouds too, who scared them and drenched them even on the coldest night. Yet they never felt sad. Each one understood the other and lived a very amicable life till one day…

… a group of four men came to the woods. These men were exhausted after a long journey. They were thirsty and drank enough water to last for two days. The trees looked at these men with sympathetic eyes and bent their boughs to provide a peaceful ambience. The men were so tired that they immediately dropped to sleep beneath the sweet smelling bower on the lap of Mother Nature.

After a few hours of sound sleep they woke up, had some food and then started talking. They did not know that these trees could hear them talking. Initially the trees thought it was unethical to eavesdrop but they couldn’t help hearing those voices as there was perfect silence in the dead of night.

The men were not cheerful anymore. One among them was lamenting that he had to leave his wife and child at home as his master did not allow him to shift his family to his new workplace. The other person was grieving over the loss of his wallet on the way. The third person could not withstand the continuous lamenting of these two men and stomped to the other part of the woods. The fourth person was silently observing these three and tried to explain that all these troubles would be short-lived. But the others turned deaf ears to him.

All these negative emotions seemed too new to the inhabitants of Peace. They wondered as to why these men did not utter a word of happiness. In fact, they got scared. They didn’t know that there could be something called unhappiness in this world. The entire night all the inhabitants heard the sorrowful tales of the four men and felt a difference in them.

Their heart which was always light; now seemed very heavy. It felt as if they had lost the strength to carry their heart. They felt a kind of stress within them. This feeling was so new, weird and scary to them and they wanted to get rid of it at the earliest.
The next day the men got up and resumed their journey. The trees and other inhabitants held an indaba about the new yet weird feeling which they had been experiencing since the previous night. They wanted to bring about a solution for the human beings in this world. They decided that they had to do something, which would create happiness, even if it did not last for a long time. They knew it was impossible to reach out to the entire world at the same time. So, they fixed the timing.

They spoke of various ways to make human beings happy. The flowers wanted to spread their beautiful colours and their sweet scent. The leaves wanted to please the eyes with their serene and pleasing colour. The sun said he would shine low and the wind said he would turn to a mild breeze. The water from the streams said they would freshen the air and sprinkle on the people. The sky said she would accommodate everyone when they wished to travel. Fire was waiting for his chance. They wondered in what way he could contribute to happiness!!!

At last he proposed his idea. The first place was chosen. It was their hometown. The sun lowered his brightness, the wind blew subtly, the rain poured from the dark clouds and Lo! These divine beings travelled across the sky carrying the colours contributed by all the elements and formed a beautiful bridge. The
Violet from the flowers followed by the new born colour called
Blue from the waters
Green from the plants
Yellow from the sunlight
Orange from the fire and
Red from the earth.

They brightened the place and the moment the human beings saw the bridge they called it a RAINBOW. The rainbow did not stay there forever. From that day till today whenever there is sorrow amongst human beings, these elements from Peace would join hands and create happiness, at least for a while and make people realize that nothing is permanent in this world. Neither sorrow nor happiness. Happiness lies within ourselves. If you wish to be happy, you have to open your eyes with hope and a positive mind, and seek the rainbow. If you wish to be sad, you will only see the dark gloomy clouds. Only if you see the rainbow with your eyes, you will be a rainbow to another person’s eye.

The End

Everyone rushed to see Natalie. When she was called to the stage she did not walk alone. She was accompanied by her mother who was her scribe. Natalie was a victim of childhood glaucoma. She was provided treatment but she lost her complete vision when she turned 11. Natalie was blind. The child who had authored this beautiful and colourful story could see only one colour. The colour of Darkness.
The judges were speechless. They handed over the medal and requested Natalie to share a few words. Natalie said,

“I thank God for this day. I sought my rainbow even among my darkest clouds. If I can, I am sure every one of you will. Thank you all.”

The Big Bang

It was raining. A terrible rain, which no one had witnessed before. The thunder was rumbling and the lightning pierced into the eyes of the onlookers. There was the continuous flow of the red waters around the place with the soldiers in red, marching around. They moved in complete uniformity. They were on continuous deployment. The chemical factory was totally malfunctioning and it had polluted the streets with fluids containing all chemicals which could remove life in an instant. The entire area had a foul smell and this set the perfect time for the BEGINNING OF THE END. 

The land of Hoo Main was ruled by a tyrant called Mr. Sens. Sens was helped by the members who called themselves The Justice League. They were hard working people who had toiled day and night for the welfare of Sens. They had witnessed glorifying days. They were happy and worked in harmony till Sens became more of a monster than a human being. They had tolerated enough. They fought against Sens. They warned him. They fought battles against him. But it was a futile effort. Tonight they decided to plan his Doomsday. They had gathered to conspire his END. They realized that if they did not revolt together they would never win the enemy.

These members of the Justice League worked using professional names. They did not want to reveal themselves that easily to the world. They were Mr Op, Mr Cog and Miss Scarlet.

They were great warriors born from simple living from simple backgrounds and were of the same age. They lived a happy life till their age of 8. There was peace everywhere. They were fed well, they were cared for and were treated with importance. But, as years rolled by they lost their importance. They were ill-treated. For the past 20 years they had been tortured by Sens who shook hands with an alien. This alien attacked the trio and all their friends with all kinds of weapons. These League members did not have weapons to fight them back and so they had become submissive and were enslaved by Sens and the alien. They had never used weapons before; until they turned 20. And tonight they decided it was NOW OR NEVER.

Mr Op was fed up of bearing with all the flashes and harmful rays thrown on him from all angles. He was exposed to those powerful laser lights for the entire day. He was burnt. Some days he was crushed. He yelled, to stop being tortured. He cried out in pain. The alien was so unsympathetic that he had almost scorched half of his physique. Mr. Op tried to shut down himself but he was forcefully exposed to those rays. They were worse than the radiation undergone for Chemotherapy. 

Mr Cog was equally angry and irritated. He had been such a strong person. He was made of circuits. He had the power to control the entire country so beautifully and safeguard his people and communicate with them; with the help of those circuits. He felt proud that he was equal to Wonder Woman, the daughter of Zeus who could protect people and defend herself with the power of lightning. He had been given the complete controlling authority. He used to make the necessary decisions, though he and Miss Scarlet did not agree with certain ideas and strategies. The alien tortured him too with waves of various frequencies. They mismatched with his circuits and blasted various parts of his body. They were like the shock waves given in the mental asylums to the patients. After every tremor he could not function for a while. He used to remain numb like a vegetable. 

Miss Scarlet could not forget the days of glory when she had all the soldiers marching in white and red maintaining peace. But today she was harassed. She could feel the burns. She could feel the acidity in her which she could not be cleaned by herself. She was starved. Food and water was never supplied to any of these three. When she saw herself in the mirror she could only see bruises on her entire body. She felt completely polluted in her heart. She could feel the strain to breathe as she was attacked by poisonous gases. She was choked and she knew she would not survive.  

Tonight they decided to create one huge Bang using all their powers. They decided to have No Mercy No Pain as their motto. They had announced to all the inhabitants of Hoo Main to strike against Sens and the alien. They decided to show their worth and importance with the element called FEAR. Mr.Cog was ready with all the circuits pinned together to create that one big bang which will penetrate through the land of Hoo Main. It will cause destruction and they may lose their lives but they had no choice. PEACE WAS NEVER AN OPTION ANYMORE. Miss Scarlet was ready with her troop to charge Sens from all directions. Her soldiers carried their weapons and positioned to destroy Sens. She knew it would be risky but these bangs were the only way to keep Sens, away from the alien, IF HE SURVIVED.

They all gathered and merged all their strength and produced that huge BANG which penetrated like the water current through the land of Hoo Main. It created a huge crater. Hoo main looked like a place tested with a nuclear bomb. Sens fell to the ground with a THUD and as he fell he could see the treacherous and disloyal alien escaping in his satellite, never to return again. The alien had made enough use of Sens. He ditched Sens. Sens had lost all his faculties and was useless. 

Mr.Op, Mr. Cog and Miss Scarlet were shattered due to the aftermath of the Bang. Sens looked around him and deeply apologized to the loyal members of his Justice League, whom he had taken for granted. They were such good friends. He did not realize their worth. He tortured them so much that they all turned against him. He closed his eyes never to open them again. The sun rose silently and shone on the still body of Sens with all the members of the Justice League shattered within him. 


Hoo Main – Our human body

Sens – human sense

The alien – Artificial Intelligence

Mr.Op – The human eye

Mr.Cog – The human Brain

Miss Scarlet – The human heart

Soldiers – RBC and WBC

The chemical factory – Liver

Inside every one of us, there is a beautiful Justice League. This Justice League will destroy you if you are going to give them nothing but INJUSTICE. Any power has got two roles. It can rule, it can corrupt. If you’re kind to your Justice League members, they will do justice. Else, they will show you who they are. Remember, they don’t mind getting destroyed in the process. So Beware friends!

Will the Genie get back into the bottle?

One beautiful raindrop slipped from the tip of the newly born bud and was just about to reach the earth, where it would disappear forever and ever. The slow descend of the water droplet was beautiful. My friend wanted to immortalize the life of that droplet. What would he do? He needed to capture the moment. He took out his mobile and here it is. It stays here forever immortalized to eternity!

Now that is the boon of the beautiful gadget he had in hand. It was handy. Just a pick from the pocket and a click of the button did the magic. 

Sadly, this beautiful gadget has turned into a weapon. We have turned this technically blessed tool into a cursed voodoo doll. We allow technology to take complete control over our behaviour and emotions just as a witch would control our actions and emotions. As goes the cliché we have become slaves to this gadget rather than being its master. 

The zoology texts are so innocent to say that we have completely evolved from the monkey. But much do I fear, a part of the ape still remains in us. We copy the activities of the world; we imitate anybody’s fashion. We stand like a body builder, pout like a cine celebrity and use all weird filters just to look like something we actually have never been and would never be. Isn’t this apism?

We are making ourselves vulnerable in the name of getting trendy. Gone are the days when we were instructed not to talk with strangers. This is a world where social platforms like the Facebook and Instagram are used to invite strangers. We stop talking with our loving and genuine family members who are right in front of us and try to connect with a strange lot of deceptive people!! And all this atrocity is beautifully wrapped with a gilded cover, tied with florals and ribbons and labelled as Socialization

This kind of socialization is worthless when it is tagged with an invisible danger sign. A big Danger Sign with the skull and bones which is hidden from our eyes. We are mesmerized and hallucinated by the bright light of these gadgets and all that happens – is out of our control. Little do we realize that we have become a product for these social platforms and are being sold to every other digital form of advertising. One careless click can turn a businessman to a beggar. And one innocent click by a girl can help a stranger to transport her from her house to a hospital bed in a nightmarish state. Don’t kick your safety cones from the road of your life. 

This may look funny, but isn’t it true? Aren’t we like Jerry who deliberately invites troubles and scampers around the house to save his life?

Technology, in the form of gadgets has become so persuasive, that we deliberately open the app, expose ourselves, put ourselves in hot boiling soup and run around the vicinity trying to save our skin.

We should cease to dance like puppets in the hands of Artificial intelligence and learn to lead our own peaceful lives which is free from the stress of digital demands, Management studies teach time management, money management and much more. We need to teach ourselves Technology management which involves the proper and safe use of technology. 

This dangerous situation has to be stopped and can be stopped with a simple yet challenging act of DIGITAL DETOX. All you have to do is be away from your gadgets and live a life in this real world. A digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices connected to the Internet, such as smartphones and computers. It is an opportunity to reduce stress and focus more on interaction with others. Disconnecting from our devices is good for our health and strengthens our connections with loved ones and our communities. Digital detox is a way to disconnect to reconnect.

Anything in this world needs a detox. The mind gets it through meditation, the polluted air, water and land gets detoxed in their own scientific ways. Our body gets detoxed when we exercise. This digital partner also requires a detox. Gadgets have become like a blankie for people of all ages. They feel secured when they have their gadget near their head, leave alone having it at their bed side! This has to stop. And the best way is to outsmart your smart gadgets. We are supposed to be more civilized and have reasoning capabilities. We should also have the control over our mind to keep the gadgets away at least for 4 hours in a day. 

Does your party table look this way? 

NO… Nowadays dining tables don’t look like tables where only food is served. It has something else also. There are more uninvited guests for the party!

Isn’t this true? When was the last time you had food without a gadget in front of you? Reunions are organised for quality time with kith and kin. But the reality is pathetic. We concentrate more on the pictures of the food than the taste of it. This can be stopped by placing your phones in a neat tray before you start a party. Most importantly the tray should be locked in by the host of the party! 

Don’t lose real time in the company of Artificial Intelligence. Digital detox retreats can be effective for families. The whole family should take a trip to a new and exciting place. And everyone must commit to staying unplugged all or most of the time. It might be for a day, a few days, a week, or more! This is a little challenging but helps us from deteriorating to being mentally challenged. 

Be away from gadgets as much as you can. Technology makes life easier. But many times travelling the longer path is safer than losing our way in the search the shortcuts. 

The genie called Artificial Intelligence is already let out of the bottle. To put the genie into the bottle is an impossible task. But to make the genie our obedient servant than being its fearful slave is purely in our hands. Let’s be smart masters than foolish slaves.

Back to school

Mr. Thomas entered the room with staggering steps. His spectacles slid till the tip of his nose which he pushed back with his quivering hand. A hand that had patted many shoulders, pointed many notorious brats and mentored many enthusiastic minds. It was the hand that had not spared the rod. He never believed in the concept of spare the rod and spoil the child. On the contrary, he believed in striking the iron when it was hot. According to him procrastination was injurious. He never delayed correcting a child who understood discipline only when taught in the military way. He asked his very disobedient students to run one lap in the wide playground with hands raised above the head. 

           He was the dynamic Psychology and Counselling teacher who also handled moral education for the primary school students. His clothes never lost the heat of the iron till he reached his school from his home, which was just a kilometer away. For 35 glorious years he had been the most loved and most respected teacher who was idolized by all.

           He had taught in that school and he stood testimony for the school’s gradual qualitative and quantitative development. He had come to this room which welcomed students with a board that said, 

He had come to his room to sit on his chair for the final time. He was 58 and was asked to retire. He wasn’t very willing, but when the physique isn’t as young as the mind, the physique gets whatever it demands. His physique demanded retirement. Due to the pandemic he could not even meet his students and bid farewell.

             The pandemic had restricted everyone from entering school. He sat on his wooden chair with a sigh. He wished to remain as sturdy as his chair which bore his weight along with the weight of his thoughts. He closed his eyes and with his mind’s eye he saw the class overflowing with the usual bedlam and the cocktail expressions on the faces of the ever lively student. He enjoyed this sight which he yearned to see throughout the restricted days. But suddenly they all disappeared! They all left in one go as if they had all planned to do so. 

             Mr. Thomas, almost fell off the chair as he frantically searched for his students. He did not realize it was just an illusion which peeped out of his sub conscious mind. As he kept calling out the few names which he felt hard to remember, a voice told him to stop. And he did. He stopped abruptly and looked around but found no body. Again the voice said, “Stop dear Thomas, it is futile. None of your students were here.” Mr. Thomas started sweating out of fear and asked, “Who are you? Where are you hiding? “

             Just then the blackboard opened its eyes and said, “I am your friend. I have been your closest friend and a dedicated student for the past 35 years. Every word that was written by you was etched in my heart before it was dusted. From those lessons I have learnt to understand how you feel today. 

             You may call me Mr. Board. Funnily, today I am truly bored. I know it hurts to see an empty class which has always been filled with loving kids. They may have been naughty; some might have been adamant but inside every child I could see a promising human being. The class used to echo with pleasantries, agreements, refusals and arguments. A few times there was chaos but amidst that chaos there was learning too. Now I feel so empty and I miss them all.” 

            Mr. Thomas didn’t feel weird that the board could speak. He was happy he found someone who felt the same. He could not control his tears. He let them flow. He said, “Yes dear friend, I miss them too. I wonder if other teachers are enjoying holding their classes with a gadget in front of them rather than a human being made of flesh and blood. I missed them so much during my last few classes. It felt so artificial, it felt so incomplete. Though the gadget was a medium for the classes, to me it was a barrier. I wish this doesn’t continue forever. My eyes are accustomed to seeing the children’s sparkling eyes which had the yearning to know more. My children learnt to cooperate. They learnt to adjust. Will this happen in online learning?”  

          Mr. Thomas poured out the misery from his heavy heart. “How will new students know each other? Hasn’t a school been the first place where children shook hands and shared their belongings? Hasn’t a school been the first place where the child learnt to fall and lend a hand to pick a friend up? The school has taught the child to understand separation. The school taught them the need for temporary separation from the comfortable house to another world which teaches and tests.” Mr. Thomas could not stop.

                 Mr. Board couldn’t see his friend so distressed. He said, “Don’t worry my friend. This shall also pass. Everything in this world happens for a reason. By now, children should have realized the importance of a school. They would have missed the peer group fun. They must have sensed the lack of competition. I am very sure that when kids get back to school with their normal routine, they will cherish every moment and treasure it with care. They will respect their friends, their teachers and every human being as they would have realized that there is no technology to replace a school. You taught your kids that nothing was permanent. Your kids will be back and I will take care of them. Do come and visit us with good health and smiles. Take care dear friend. It is time to say Adieu. ” 

              Saying so, Mr. Board closed his eyes and that was when Mr. Thomas was woken up by the security who had come to check the locks of all the rooms. Mr. Thomas felt embarrassed with his weak physique. Yet he hobbled his way out of the room with a lighter heart. He was sure he wasn’t leaving his students forever. He had surely etched his thoughts in their hearts just as he had etched in his dream friend’s heart. 

You may learn the definition of life online. But the practical classes are strictly offline.